Why Be a Hindu: The Advantages of the Vedic Path

Why Be A Hindu:

The Advantages of

 the Vedic Path

Written as a short guide to promote and preserve the genuine purpose, values and understanding of Hinduism, the Vedic spiritual process. 

Stephen Knapp

This is a free “e-book,” or electronic booklet. It is published as an “e-book” on the internet to more appropriately reach as many people as possible, and enable anyone to read it and pass it along in as many ways as necessary. You can read it on the internet on my website, or direct other people to do the same, or download it onto a floppy disk, park it on your computer hard drive for later use, email it to others, or print it out to send to friends, or re-typeset it as you see fit and print it in booklets for distribution. It does not matter. I am giving permission to anyone to use it in anyway you want, providing the content remains the same. Anyone who has this booklet can reproduce it in any form you want, as many times you want. In this way, it is a tool you can use for your own inspiration or to send to others, as well as to send to the media or those who need further understanding of what is Hinduism and the Vedic culture, and the advantages that this spiritual path has to offer.

Copies of this booklet can also be acquired as a Microsoft Word document, an Ascii Dos Text file, or an Acrobat Reader .pdf file. I can email it to you. Simply request it by email at:   Srinandan@aol.com.

Stephen Knapp

ISBN: 1-930627-03-3

Published by: THE WORLD RELIEF NETWORK, P. O. Box 15082, Detroit, Michigan, 48215-0082  USA     Email: Srinandan@aol.com

This e-book is found at: http:// http://www.stephen-knapp.com

The website listed above contains much more information about Stephen’s spiritual work, his books and The World Relief Network. You will also find many additional articles on numerous and important topics that he has written, as well as many photographs of festivals and the holy places of India taken during Stephen’s travels, and links to additional websites for more information and resources.

Other books by Stephen Knapp include:

THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF THE VEDAS * THE UNIVERSAL PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT * THE VEDIC PROPHECIES: A NEW LOOK INTO THE FUTURE * HOW THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED AND OUR PURPOSE IN IT * TOWARD WORLD PEACE: SEEING THE UNITY BETWEEN US ALL * FACING DEATH: WELCOMING THE AFTERLIFE * PROOF OF VEDIC CULTURE’S GLOBAL EXISTENCE * THE KEY TO REAL HAPPINESS * DESTINED FOR INFINITY * THE HEART OF HINDUISM * THE POWER OF THE DHARMA * REINCARNATION AND KARMA: HOW THEY REALLY AFFECT US * CRIMES AGAINST INDIA: AND THE NEED TO PROTECT ITS ANCIENT VEDIC TRADITIONS

 

Preface

This book is my response to the fact that sometimes I get a little concerned, as I was when I took my latest tour of India (June, 2001), when I see the efforts of those who try to demean and unnecessarily promote serious misunderstandings about Hinduism, the Vedic culture. This often times is done in the attempt to convince others of the greatness of some of the minority religions there. This is something that is increasingly going on in India. It is also increasing in other parts of the world in what is called “Hindu bashing.” I have also witnessed young Hindus who have moved to the West and sometimes exhibit confusion or disregard in their attitude toward their own culture, some of which is a result of the Western attitudes and misunderstandings toward Hinduism. So this booklet is written in response to that confusion, trouble, and the unnecessary campaigns for conversion. All of this is merely due to a lack of a clear understanding of Vedic culture and what it offers. So I wanted to bring out some simple yet important points, in the form of this booklet, that I thought people should consider in their view of the Vedic spiritual path.

One point to understand while reading this book is that the name Hinduism is, basically, a relatively modern term for the ancient Vedic spiritual path. So when I say “Hindu,” I mean the Vedic philosophy, otherwise known as Sanatana-Dharma, and someone who is following that direction. I know there are many distinctions and specific schools of thought within the umbrella term of “Hinduism.” However, I am writing this for a wide and general audience. So I am using the term in a liberal and collective way to include all people who follow the Vedic process or portions of it.

Hinduism, or Vedic culture, is not merely a religion. It is a spiritual path and way of life. Quite honestly, nothing compares with it. And I know. I grew up in the West as a Christian, studying the Bible from cover to cover due to my own curiosity. However, when I was about 19 years old, I still had many questions that were not and could not be answered within the Christian philosophy. So, I made great studies of the various religions and civilizations throughout the world, finally finding the Vedic culture as perhaps the most profound tradition of all. It is one that offers more insights into life and the purpose of it, especially the spiritual aspects, than any other culture one can find today. In this way, I found the kind of answers I needed in the Vedic literature, especially in the Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavat Purana and others. Only then did things of this world begin to make sense to me. I went on studying the Vedic philosophy and spiritual science and became an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and was given the spiritual name of Sri Nandanandana dasa. I have continued practicing and studying the principles of Vedic philosophy ever since, as well as researching other religions of the world.

So what’s so great about Vedic culture and its philosophy? This booklet describes some of the elementary details that differentiates Hinduism, the Vedic path, over all others. And I am glad to share this with my fellow human beings who are open-minded enough to consider the various avenues that can help us understand more about our spiritual identities and the purpose of life. This is not an attempt to say that the Vedic path is better than anything else for everyone, but there are distinct advantages worth considering from which a person can benefit. These are just a few of them. 

 

Why Be A Hindu:

The Advantages of the Vedic Path

Points of Consideration

1. WHAT DOES HINDUISM STAND FOR?

Hinduism is, basically, the modern name for the Vedic way of life, especially the spiritual path usually associated with India. Previously, those who followed the Vedic system were also called Aryans. It is often considered that the Vedic Aryans were a race of people. However, Aryan actually means a standard of living, an ideal. It was the Sanskrit speaking people of thousands of years ago that gave the word arya to signify a gentleman, an ideal person, someone on the path of purity. It was a term meant for those who were on the cutting edge of social evolution. Another way of interpreting the word aryan is that ar also means white or clear. Ya refers to God. Ya also refers to Yadu, or Krishna. Thus, aryan means those who have, or are developing, a clear path or a clear consciousness toward God.

In this way, we can understand that Aryanism, Vedic culture, or modern Hinduism, is a way of life. It is not a race of people or merely a sectarian creed or religion. It belongs to no particular country or race. It is a path that upholds a code of conduct which values peace and happiness and justice for all. Thus, it is a path open for all who want to be trained to be happy with simple living and high thinking, while engaged in proper conduct, a moral life, and selfless service to humanity and God. Therefore, anyone who wants to live in such a manner may be called an Aryan, a member or follower of the Vedic culture, no matter from which race or country a person may come.

So what does it mean to follow this Vedic Aryan path? It generally means to learn the ways of a spiritually progressed person. This includes understanding one’s spiritual identity, knowing that he or she is not the temporary body but is spirit soul, that there is karma or reactions for one’s activities, and rebirth in another life after death in which one reaps the reward or punishment for his or her own good or evil thoughts, words, and deeds. By having a solid understanding of such spiritual knowledge, there is automatically a respect for all others regardless of race, sex, position, or species. This brings a moral and peaceful social behavior in everybody toward everyone. By having respect for everyone’s spiritual identity, this also brings an innate happiness in us all. We can understand that we are only visiting this planet for a short time, and that we are all in this together. In other words, my contribution to your well-being, especially spiritual well-being, will be an automatic contribution to my own existence. In this way, society at large is in a state of constant improvement. Thus, together we all work toward attaining a clean mind and a pure heart. That is the goal of the Vedic Aryan way of life, and all those who seriously follow it.

Not everyone, however, wants to reach this stage of life or follow this path. That is why the Vedic system installs rules for moral behavior and regulatory sacraments and practices beginning from the prenatal stage all the way through death. Of course, many of these moralistic rules are also quite common in other forms of religion and behavior. However, anybody who is unwilling to follow such rules for a balanced moral standard is dubbed a non-Aryan, which simply indicates one who is not so civilized. Such a person is not on the spiritual path of life, regardless of what other standards or principles of etiquette he may follow. So a person who lacks spiritual tendencies and acts on the bodily platform of existence, willing to do whatever he likes, or who thinks he is a white body, or a black body, or from this country or that, and who holds loyalty only to that conception and shows it by criticizing everyone who is not like him, is a non-Aryan. He is one who works against the standards of Hinduism, even he if calls himself a Hindu, or anything else for that matter. In this way, we can see the need to return to the Vedic standards of life through authentic spiritual education.

Therefore, the Sanskrit word Aryan means a way of life that aims at the elevation of everyone in society to a higher level of consciousness, as we find in the broadest foundation within Hinduism. It means to assist ourselves through a disciplined and godly life to understand the purpose of our existence as well as to become a spiritually realized person. It means to recognize the divinity in each of us. It means to perceive the divine energy that permeates the creation, knowing that we and all others are but manifestations of the Divine, the same Supreme Creator, Father of all. It also means that we help every other individual soul understand this, because by helping others we help ourselves. That itself is a natural state of being when we can perceive God as the Supersoul, Paramatma, within everyone. All of this is encouraged by, and increases, a natural faith in an all-pervading Supreme Being. Such faith and focus on the Supreme can elevate us to return to our real spiritual home after death, that one infinite and eternal existence, which is one of the most important goals of the Vedic lifestyle. Once we are relieved of the body, or the bodily concept of life, then there is no longer any question as to what and who we really are. Offering this opportunity to society for reaching that level of understanding is one of the most important purposes of the Vedic path. This is the essence of what Hinduism stands for. Now let’s consider the following points as to the advantages of the Vedic path.
2. HINDUISM IS THE OLDEST LIVING CULTURE IN THE WORLD.

Look around. Do you find any other culture that has lasted as long as the Hindu or Vedic culture? Do you see any other culture that after no less than 5,000 years, if not much longer, is still thriving and dynamic, practicing many of the same traditions as it did from thousands of years ago? Sure, you have other old cultures, like the Egyptian, the Inca, Maya, Aztec, all of which go back about 5,000 years, but none of these are still living cultures. They are all gone, leaving us but remnants and artifacts to figure out what really was their culture.

For the Vedic civilization, it is not something that we really need to decipher from old remnants. The traditions and practices that you presently see have been going on for many thousands of years. Its history is well documented in the Puranas, much of which even historians have not researched as well as they should. Through such study it is obvious that the Vedic society has a prehistoric origin. While most of the “living” cultures that we find today, and the most popular religions, are a modern creation in the sense that they have only come about within the past 1400, 2000, and 2500 years with the advent of the Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist religions. However, the Vedic culture goes back much farther. Many scholars have noted the antiquity of the Vedic civilization. For example, in his Discourse on Sanskrit and Its Literature, given at the College of France, Professor Bournouf states, “We will study India with its philosophy and its myths, its literature, its laws and its language. Nay it is more than India, it is a page of the origin of the world that we will attempt to decipher.”

In this same line of thinking, Mr. Thornton, in his book History of British India, observed, “The Hindus are indisputably entitled to rank among the most ancient of existing nations, as well as among those most early and most rapidly civilized. . . ere yet the Pyramids looked down upon the Valley of the Nile. . . when Greece and Italy, these cradles of modern civilization, housed only the tenants of the wilderness, India was the seat of wealth and grandeur.”

The well-known German philosopher Augustus Schlegel in his book, Wisdom of the Ancient Indians, noted in regard to the divine origin of Vedic civilization, “It cannot be denied that the early Indians possessed a knowledge of the God. All their writings are replete with sentiments and expressions, noble, clear, severely grand, as deeply conceived in any human language in which men have spoken of their God. . .”

Max Mueller further remarked in his India–What It Can Teach Us (Page 21), “Historical records (of the Hindus) extend in some respects so far beyond all records and have been preserved to us in such perfect and legible documents, that we can learn from them lessons which we can learn nowhere else and supply missing links.”

On the antiquity of the Vedic society, we can respect the number of philosophies, outlooks on life, and developments in understanding our purpose in this world that has been imbibed and dealt with during the course of its existence. Through all of this, it has formed a commentary and code on all aspects of life and its value, the likes of which can hardly be found in any other culture today. Thus, with age comes wisdom. And the nature and depth of the Vedic wisdom can hardly be compared with anything else that is presently available. Anyone who has taken a serious look at it will agree. It is universally applicable to all.

3. THE VEDIC LITERATURE IS THE OLDEST AND MOST COMPLETE SCRIPTURES FOUND ANYWHERE.

It is agreed by any scholar of history or religion that the earliest spiritual writings that can be found are the Vedic samhitas, such as the Rig-veda. In History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (page 557), Max Mueller observed, “In the Rig-veda we shall have before us more real antiquity than in all the inscriptions of Egypt or Ninevah. . . the Veda is the oldest book in existence. . .”

In the same book (page 63) Max Mueller also noted, “The Veda has a two-fold interest: It belongs to the history of the world and to the history of India. In the history of the world the Veda fills a gap which no literary work in any other language could fill. It carries us back to times of which we have no records anywhere.”

The Rig-veda, as old and profound as it, nonetheless, represents only a portion of Vedic thought and wisdom. It was further expanded and explained in numerous other portions of Vedic literature. The whole library of ancient Vedic texts covers a wide range of contemplation, experience and learning in regard to an extraordinarily diverse number of topics.

To explain briefly, we first find the most ancient four Vedic samhitas, namely the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. Then there is the Brahmanas, treatises explaining the techniques of the rituals in the Vedas, and the Aranyakas, further explanations for those renunciants who live in the forest. After this we find hundreds of Upanishads, the foremost of which are 108, out of which eleven are the most famous, such as the Katha, Mundaka, Brihadaranyaka, Shvetashvatara, Prashna, Chandogya, and others. These continue to elaborate on the Vedic spiritual truths. The Vedanta Sutras are also codes that contain the essence of spiritual truths that require fuller explanations by a spiritual teacher.

Beyond these are the Itihasas, or the histories, which are contained in such large volumes as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, of which the famous Bhagavad-gita is a chapter. These contain not only an immense library of stories and moral principles, but some of the loftiest spiritual teachings that anyone can find. Furthermore, they can act as guidebooks for one’s life, as well as explain the step by step processes for achieving one’s own spiritual enlightenment. This is also true of the Puranas, out of which there are 18 greater or Maha Puranas and another 18 lesser or Upa Puranas. There are also many regional or Sthala Puranas. All of these give many stories of the past histories of the world, and even the universe, as well essential spiritual teachings that are universal in nature that everyone could benefit by studying.

We also find additional Sutras, books of codes that explain such things as rules for householders, as in the Griha-Sutras, or codes of duty and other topics. The Vedangas contain the auxiliary sciences, such as phonetics, grammar, astronomy, etc. Then there are the Upavedas, or lesser Vedas, which deal with the arts and sciences such as dancing and music (Gandharva-veda), holistic health (Ayur-veda), or the art of war, and even architecture. Beyond this there are thousands more books that are the books of great spiritual masters and Vedic teachers that are commentaries on the original Vedic texts. All of these are in pursuance of the Vedic path.

In this way, within the Vedic scripture, one can find music, dance, art, biographies on great saints and personalities, and stories that contain every level of emotion. They also exhibit lessons of truth, etiquette, philosophy, and examples of how others have lived and attained the heights of spiritual consciousness and freedom from further material birth.

The most important books for spiritual instruction, as most everyone will agree, are the Bhagavad-gita and Srila Vyasadeva’s own commentary on the Vedic texts, the Bhagavat Purana. He was the original author of the essential Vedic scriptures. These will bring anyone to various levels of spiritual knowledge, the likes of which surpass conventional religious principles. The Bhagavat Purana brought out everything that Vyasadeva neglected to explain in his previous writings. Therefore, anyone who studies Vedic knowledge should not neglect reading the Bhagavat Purana, also called the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Through this short review of the Vedic texts, one can get an idea of how thorough and comprehensive is this science. These scriptures reveal the form of God, His personality, the loving nature of God, His greatness, mercy and compassion like no other scripture available. It also shows the unique paths to God in ways that are far more detailed and beyond anything that other scriptures present. Everyone, no matter whether they are religionists, philosophers, politicians, artists, celebrities, or renounced swamis, will appreciate and benefit from the continued study of this most ancient, sacred, and most complete of all spiritual literature. Therefore, those who are devoted Hindus and practitioners of the Vedic system never give up the reading and study of the Vedic literature, knowing that newer and loftier levels of understanding and perceptions into the secrets of life are awaiting them.

Naturally, there is wisdom and understanding available through all of the great books and religions. But to fathom the vast depths of Vedic knowledge is to flow through such a grand gallery of realizations and levels of consciousness that a person can merely get a glimpse of the innumerable considerations that have been made within the development of the Vedic lifestyle regarding all aspects of life. It has been said that the Vedic scripture remains ever fresh with newer and newer realizations, insights and wisdom. Thus, it could be advised that a person can spend a lifetime reading and studying the Vedic scripture and never end in finding newer and higher levels of understanding.
4. THE VEDIC PATH HAS A MOST DEVELOPED AND COMPLETE SPIRITUAL PHILOSOPHY.

As we can see from the previous description of the Vedic scripture, the Vedic philosophy is the most extensive you can find anywhere. It covers so many aspects of life, both material and spiritual, that it is more comprehensive than any other philosophy or lifestyle that you can find. So many viewpoints on life, the material manifestation, God, and our spiritual nature have already been thoroughly considered and thought out that there is little, if anything, that the Vedic philosophy has not already dealt with and spoke about. Everything is there, more of which than most people are aware. Because of this it has attracted thinkers and philosophers from all over the world and from all points in time. The West in particular has, and still does, look to India for the loftiest spiritual knowledge, and for what the churches or synagogues have not delivered. This may include practical spiritual guidance in self-discovery, an integrated world view, spiritual and emotional fulfillment, and even true mystical or spiritual experiences. The spiritual processes that are explained in the Vedic teachings go far beyond the conventional idea, as presented by most religions, that people should merely have faith and pray to God for forgiveness of their sins in order to be delivered to heaven. Naturally, we all have to be humble before God. That is what is encouraged and developed. This is especially in the loving devotional path, wherein a person can purify his or her consciousness through the spiritual practices that are fully explained in the Vedic teachings, even though this takes time and serious dedication and sincerity.

The point is that the Vedic process does not discourage one from having his or her own spiritual realizations, which are often minimized, neglected or even criticized in other religions, which often teaches that the church alone is what maintains your connection with God. But in the Vedic system it is taught that we are all spiritual and loving parts of God, and automatically have a relationship with Him. Therefore, such experiences are considered a proof that the process is successful at helping one elevate his or her consciousness. One’s consciousness resonates at various frequencies, depending on the level of one’s thoughts, words, and actions, as well as the images and sounds that one absorbs through contact with objects and activities. By learning how to undergo the proper training, one can include the practices that will bring one’s consciousness to a level in which one can perceive that which is spiritual. The more spiritual you become, the more you can perceive that which is spiritual. The whole idea is to bring one to perceive his or her spiritual identity and relationship with God. Thus, it must be a scientific process, used under the guidance of a spiritual master, for it to be successful. If the process is not complete, or if the student is not serious, then of course the results will not be as expected. Yet, if the proper spiritual process is explained correctly, and the student is sincere in his or her efforts, the effects will be there. This is why for thousands of years philosophers and spiritual seekers from around the world have come to India, or have been influenced by the Vedic system: It gives practical results when properly performed.
5. THE VEDIC LITERATURE OFFERS MORE INFORMATION ON THE SCIENCE OF LIFE AFTER DEATH, KARMA AND REINCARNATION.

Sure, all religions indicate there is life after death. However, they normally offer only the most basic understanding that if you are good and a believer, maybe you will go to heaven. And if you are predominantly bad, you will go to hell. But only the Vedic philosophy offers detailed information on how exactly this works, and how we create our future with every thought, word and deed. And how that future may not only be in a heavenly world or on a hellish planet, but how it can be another life similar to what we are experiencing now on this earthly globe.

After all, we can look around this planet Earth and see that some people live a nice heavenly existence. They may live in beautiful weather and landscapes, in pleasant surroundings, and in a lovely house, with plenty of money, etc. While someone else may live in a country torn by war, with famine and drought all around, dealing with disease and poverty, and so on. Or we can see that even within the same family, someone may be born and become educated, wealthy and accomplished, while a sister or brother may be born blind, deformed, uneducated, and grow to have a hellish life filled with difficulty. Why is there such a difference? The fundamental religions may give only basic answers, like it is the will of God. Yet the Vedic knowledge can go into great details to explain how such occurrences are arranged by nature to provide the necessary facilities for each individual to have what he or she desires and deserves according to their past actions, words and consciousness.
6. THE VEDIC PHILOSOPHY OFFERS A MOST COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF GOD AND THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSION.

In all of the religious books one can gather, you will find nowhere else but in the Vedic texts such a complete description of the Supreme Being and the spiritual dimension. Nowhere else is the understanding given that God is an impersonal force (the Brahman effulgence, in which God displays His potency of existence/eternality), as well as Paramatma, the localized incarnation known as the Supersoul in everyone’s heart (in which God displays His potency of existence and knowledge), and, ultimately, Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality who creates this world and overlooks all things (in which God displays His potencies of existence, knowledge and pleasure pastimes). Nowhere else is there offered such a complete understanding of all aspects of God, from His impersonal characteristics to His individual and supreme nature.

Nowhere else can you find such details of God’s personality, what He looks like, how He lives and sports with His friends, or that He even DOES have friends and sports with them. Nowhere else can you find that God has devotees who play the parts of parents and relatives, but in a perfect spiritual family. Nowhere else but in the Vedic texts, especially in the likes of the Bhagavat and Vishnu Puranas or Mahabharata, can you see how God takes care of His friends and devotees, how He reveals Himself, how He engages in the most loving pastimes with those who love Him most, or even that you CAN engage in loving pastimes with God. Nowhere else is it explained how God, through His causeless mercy, descends into this world to exhibit His pastimes in order to give us a chance to learn how to become attracted to Him.

Furthermore, nowhere else are there such elaborate explanations of the spiritual world and what goes on there, or how we can truly enter that region, and what the areas are that surround the cosmic creation. Also, nowhere else can you find such detailed descriptions of how the universe was created. Often you will find in a scripture a simple allegory for people to believe that gives only the slightest ideas of how the worlds were created. But in the Vedic literature, there are complex explanations of how and when things took place in order to manifest the universe as we see it now. [My book, “How the Universe was Created,” gives these details.]

For these reasons, anyone of any religion can study the Vedic scripture to add to whatever spiritual understanding they already have. Or if they don’t have any spiritual understanding, then you just found the mother lode, the main vein of spiritual knowledge of which all others are but portions.
7. HINDUISM AND THE VEDIC LITERATURE HAS MANY DIRECT WORDS AND INSTRUCTIONS FROM GOD.

The Vedic literature is filled with stories and conversations of instruction, and many of those instructions are given directly by God or one of His many incarnations. Other spiritual paths may provide a few commandments that are said to be given by God, or books given by His representatives or prophets. And these certainly can be helpful for the guidance of mankind. However, no where else but in the Vedic scripture do we find such a collection of direct instructions given by Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu, or the Lord’s other forms that direct us in explicit methods of reaching spiritual realizations and perfection.

No where else can you find such lofty and spiritual advice as that related in books like the Bhagavad-gita, or the Bhagavat Purana and other numerous Vedic texts. No culture or religion has anything that compares, or that go far beyond basic moralistic rules to provide the higher principles of direct spiritual realization. These instructions are a scientific process in which the results are assured to cleanse our minds and purify our hearts, if we sincerely follow the formula. Therein lies the doorway through which we can perceive our own spiritual identity and then the numerous aspects of the Absolute Truth.
8. THE VEDIC PATH OFFERS THE MOST LOVING AND BEAUTIFUL FORMS OF GOD.

Not only does the Vedic literature describe the innumerable aspects of God, but also relates the knowledge of the numerous incarnations and forms of God. In these incarnations He performs innumerable pastimes for multiple purposes. Out of all these, which are completely spiritual in nature, we find such beautiful attributes and forms as Lakshmi and Vishnu, or Sita and Rama, and Sri Sri Radha and Krishna as the most sublime. In fact, the forms of Radha and Krishna have been described at length for Their superb qualities and features of incomparable beauty. Plus, the depth of Lord Krishna’s loving nature and pastimes with His closest associates is like none found elsewhere. There is no other culture or spiritual path that has any such knowledge of God, or that can present such loving and beautiful forms of God who displays such deep and nectar-like pastimes and personality. Therefore, the Vedic process offers the deepest insights into the most confidential forms and loving disposition of the Supreme Lord. These pastimes often cannot be understood by those who view the Supreme as an angry and jealous God, as some religions do. They do not know the more sublime nature of spiritual relations with the Supreme because there is no information about it found elsewhere.
9. THE VEDIC CULTURE HAS SOME OF THE GREATEST SPIRITUAL TEACHERS AND MASTERS THAT YOU CAN FIND.

In any of the authorized sampradayas, or lines of disciplic succession, you can find greatly learned and fully realized spiritual masters. These lines of gurus and disciples include the Brahma, Sri, Shiva or Kumara sampradayas. In these lines, the highest levels of spiritual knowledge has been carefully handed down from person to person, guru to disciple. Therein we have received the blessings and elaborate instructions from such teachers, as well as witnessed their lifestyle and numerous miracles, as some people would call them. The histories and biographies of such saints and teachers show their ability to affect others, and provide examples of how some have entered directly into the spiritual dimension, or even communed with God on a regular basis.

They are the living proof that the Vedic system and spiritual methodology works for anyone who takes it seriously. Whether one is reaching toward attaining the highest levels of love of God, or simply for moksha, liberation, and higher levels of spiritual understanding, the great sages and teachers of the Vedic path have shown how it is indeed possible. They have not only taught by example of what is possible when one attains spiritual perfection in this life, but some have left vast written instructions on how we can do the same. All we have to do is follow in their footsteps.
10. VEDIC CULTURE OFFERS A MOST DIRECT PATH TO PERSONAL SPIRITUAL REALIZATIONS AND ENLIGHTENMENT.

The Vedic process, Sanatana-Dharma, directly teaches what is the spirit soul and what are your spiritual nature and position. Such teachings are easily found in the Bhagavad-gita and other important Vedic scripture. It then provides the system which engages you in the activities that awaken your perception of this. The key is that it prepares your consciousness, through various practices, to operate on higher levels of reality, and ultimately on the spiritual strata. This increases your awareness and allows for the ability to perceive the higher planes of existence that pervade this multidimensional universe. In this way, the more spiritual you become, the more you can detect that which is spiritual. Through this means of continual development, spiritual life no longer remains a mystery, but becomes a reality to experience. This is why Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that this spiritual knowledge of the Vedic system is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets, and the perfection of religion because it gives direct perception of the Self, the soul, by realization. It is eternal and joyfully performed.
11. BECAUSE HINDUISM IS ONE OF THE MOST EXPRESSIVE PATHS, IT IS ALSO ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONALLY FULFILLING.

There are some religions that make no hesitation about stifling music and other forms of art because they think that it is too sensual. Others simply may not utilize much of it except in songs. However, the ancient Vedic path incorporates many forms of self-expression. The idea is that it can be used in the service of the Supreme, and, thus, becomes a means for focusing one’s attention and consciousness on God. Thus, it becomes a spiritual energy and a tool for expressing and raising one’s devotion to the Lord.

Prayer for example, has been an integral part of the Vedic system since time immemorial. The Vedic literature is full of devotional and descriptive mantras, verses and prayers. These are not only utilized in one’s daily devotions and meditations, but they are also incorporated into devotional songs. There are all kinds of music within the Vedic culture. Anyone who even begins to listen to the Indian style of music will quickly notice that it is quite different from other forms and is a complete science by itself. Not only are there numerous forms of instruments, but also very different styles of music and devotional songs that are used in worship, dance, drama, or in ceremonies.

There are also numerous forms of expressive ritual and ceremony. Many of these are conducted inside the temples, and many are performed outside or in the open allowing for all to participate. Some are only performed by priests while people watch with great enthusiasm.

Many of these ceremonies have also been moved to include dance. Such dances often utilize old movements and expressions that have been passed down through many generations, while others are based on the artist’s own interpretation of an ancient legend. There are also numerous plays and dramas that involve the stories of the Lord, as taken from the ancient Puranic legends. These are prominently performed over holidays or during festivals. Such plays and dance also use many forms of make up, costumes, and ornaments to better present the emotions, characters, and general performance of the drama. Some of these use a few actors, while others use large acting troupes. There are also numerous festivals in Vedic culture. These vary in expression according to locality, or upon which of God’s forms the festival focuses.

Much can also be said about the art work that is found within Vedic culture. There are not only ornaments, jewelry, but also a wide variety of painting styles that are used in the worship and display of the forms and pastimes of the Lord. Painting and sculpture are like sciences unto themselves in the way such artists are trained. Nonetheless, any artist has full opportunity to express his or her devotion to God through this art. Thus, such art and expression becomes a means for one’s personal spiritual insights, realizations and enlightenment.

In this way, there are numerous forms of expression that are used in Hinduism, making it one of the most emotionally rewarding and expressive spiritual paths that you can find.
12. HINDUISM, VEDIC CULTURE, OFFERS A SCIENTIFIC WAY OF LIFE, FROM DIET, LIFESTYLE, DAILY SCHEDULE, ETC.

With all the topics that are covered in the Vedic scripture, it provides the means for a most well-rounded and balanced lifestyle, both materially and spiritually. For example, in regard to meditation, it recommends that the best time to do so is in the early morning during the brahma-muhurta hour, which is just before sunrise. Why? Because this is best since it is before the business and noise of the day begins. It is just after getting rest, arising during the time when satya-guna, the mode of goodness, is prominent, and before the mind is disturbed by so many thoughts of the day.

Regarding diet, it is recommended that you eat your biggest meal while the fire of digestion is at is peak, which is usually around noon or shortly thereafter. This is also when the sun is at its highest. This helps relieve one from indigestion and associated diseases.

Diet is also further divided not only by different foods at certain times of the day, but also by whether the food is in the mode of goodness (sattvic), passion (rajasic), or darkness (tamasic). Foods in goodness are vegetarian (fruits and vegetables) that promote health, peace of mind, happiness, and enlightenment. Rajasic foods are often based on taste and can be spicy. These lead to mental agitation, passion, and disease. Tamasic foods include those that are old, often of little taste, stale, of little nutritional value, and can lead to delusion, laziness and sleep. So simply by the study of food one can direct the diet toward a happier and more peaceful life.

In regard to the way to divide one’s existence, there are four ashramas of life. We are students in the first part of our life, called the brahmachari ashrama for men. In the second part of our life most people are married householders, called the grihasta-ashrama. After we have associated with our wife and had children that have grown and married, then it is time to take up the retired order of life, the vanaprastha-ashrama, and begin to relieve ourselves of the responsibilities of married life. Then when we are ready, usually before we are too old, it is suggested that we take up the renounced order of life, sannyasa-ashrama, so that we can devote ourselves completely to reaching God after death. In this way, by following these ashramas, or orders of life, we not only have a fulfilling material existence, but also reach spiritual perfection so as to not waste this valuable form of human life.

These are just a few examples of how the Vedic recommended lifestyle and science is meant to help one live a balanced existence for happiness and progress both materially and spiritually.
13. ANYONE IN ANY POSITION CAN BE A HINDU AND PRACTICE AND BENEFIT FROM THE VEDIC TEACHINGS.

It does not matter whether one is in a high class or low class position, wealthy or poor, educated or uneducated, old or young, man or woman, anyone can plug into some portion of the Vedic teachings and participate. This will benefit one in any number of ways. If one wants to be healthier, happier, more peaceful, more enlightened spiritually, a person can find that the Vedic path can do this.

It also does not matter whether one is Indian or a Westerner born outside India, one can still adopt the Vedic teachings or incorporate them into his or her life for so many benefits. There are no limitations in the Vedic teachings regarding who can join in. All that is required is sincerity. Sincerity is the essence of purity. With that one’s progress is assured.

Sanatana-Dharma means the eternal nature of the soul. Each and every being is a soul, so this includes everyone. Thus, each person is entitled to participate in this universal process regardless of whatever their temporary position is at present, and make genuine spiritual progress.
14. THE VEDIC PATH VIEWS ALL RELIGIONS AS TRUTH, OR PORTIONS OF THE ONE TRUTH, AND WAYS OF SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT.

There is no discrimination toward other religions in Hinduism. Hinduism views all authentic religions with a potential to raise the consciousness of its followers to a higher level of understanding God, themselves, and humanity. This is merely one of the beautiful aspects of Hinduism; that it provides the greatest latitude of diversity in the ways of understanding God. That is why you can mix Hindus with anyone, and they can peacefully coexist, just as you presently have Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and others all living together peacefully. But as soon as you mix those of other religions who are dogmatic in their views, there is trouble. The reason is that there is no room for diversity of thought in such people. They think that in the eyes of God no one else is saved. They think they must “save” everyone by making everyone else just like them. And the way that is done is by converting all others to their own dogmatic beliefs. Thus, they give no credence or understanding toward any religion but their own.

The world could be a peaceful place if it were not for the constant attempt by various groups to control and convert. It is on this account that there have been so many years of bloodshed, slaughter and torture to force others to be of only one religion. Such religions cause themselves not to be united with God, but to stand separated from God for not providing the way to see the spiritual nature and Divinity in all beings. Such religions actually create disharmony between man and God because of forcing their followers to focus on our superficial differences rather than our deeper unity and commonality as beings of one common God.

In this way, Sanatana-Dharma is not a religion that stands separate from others. It is not that Hinduism or Vedic culture opposes other spiritual paths. But it represents and provides the means through which anyone can attain the highest spiritual understanding possible. It helps one understand who and what we really are, above and beyond all the superficialities that are often found in the fundamental and materialistic religions. Therefore, once again, anyone, no matter what religion or culture one may be, can still use the Vedic path to increase his or her overall understanding of him or herself, the universe, and God, and awaken our natural spiritual love for one and all.
15. HINDUISM, VEDIC CULTURE, DOES NOT PRESENT GOD AS A HINDU, MUSLIM, CHRISTIAN, OR SIKH GOD.

Since Vedic culture is universal in nature, it does not present a God in a regional theme, or belonging to a “chosen” people. Nor do we find God in the Vedic understanding to prefer a certain people. What you do find is a God who is loving to one and all, and especially to His devotees. What we find is a God who rewards one’s love with love, according to their surrender and loving mood, regardless of region, race, or even species.

It is this sort of God who is truly universal, and not subject to regional ties or local constrictions, but who extends Himself to one and all. It is this kind of God who is found in any and all religions, the understanding of Whom is limited only by the lack of knowledge within any particular religion or people. If all such people could expand their awareness of the greatness of God, then surely such mature persons would see the same God everywhere, in all religions. This fullness of awareness would lead to God as we know Him as described in the Vedic scripture.
16. THIS IS WHY HINDUS, THE FOLLOWERS OF THE VEDIC PATH, CAN LIVE PEACEFULLY WITH THOSE OF OTHER RELIGIONS.

Since Hindus in general, and those with a mature understanding of God as mentioned in the previous point, are more aware of the many different aspects of God, and see the same God in all religions, there is no friction between them and those of other distinct faiths. They can live peacefully with others without the need to feel that everyone else is doomed to hell, or must be converted to be “saved.” Hindus recognize the same God though worshiped in many ways. Thus, what is the difficulty? There is no problem. This is true of sincere worshipers of any religion. A sincere and mature Christian can easily get along with a sincere Hindu, who can easily get along with a sincere and mature Muslim, who can get along with a sincere Sikh, Buddhist, and so on.

This is quite different from those fundamental people who label God according to their faith, or who become defensive when apparent differences arise. This is what causes superficial distinctions and designations that grow into religious differences that for a spiritually mature person do not exist. It is only a lack of spiritual and Godly awareness and understanding that keep people pointing fingers at each other and from cooperating and respecting each other. A true religionist can easily recognize another’s devotion to God without getting caught up in what may seem to be external differences. It is the essence of spiritual life that matters. That is our focus.
17. HINDUISM HAS NO CONCEPT OF JIHAD, HOLY WARS, CRUSADES, OR MARTYRDOM ON ITS BEHALF.

Unlike other religions that tend to be extremists or exceptionally dogmatic in its views, Hinduism, or Vedic culture, has no concepts that relate to being a martyr, as found in Christianity, or the Islamic jihad. These are not ideas that make much sense to the Hindu. Why? Because for Hindus spiritual life is not about fighting others for the supremacy of one religion over another. Hinduism treats all religions with respect because it has its own sense of security and strength in its approach to God, which is the hallmark of a mature spiritual path. Religion and any spiritual process is to help an individual better understand who he is and what is his or her relation to God, and what is his purpose in the universe. If a person is truly trying to progress in this way, then of what purpose is there in participating in a holy war, or to die becoming a martyr for a cause fighting against another religion? This is not the purpose of any spiritual path. This is why there is not much discussion in the Vedic literature to demean other religions, nor is there any campaign against any so-called “false gods” as you find in the more rigid or dogmatic religions.

The reason for this is not that Hinduism is not interested in “saving” people. The reason is that the Vedic culture allows anyone the freedom to undergo whatever may be necessary for their own spiritual development and particular realizations. The Vedic literature, if studied to its fullest depths, supplies all a person needs in order to understand the highest levels of spiritual Truth. Nonetheless, if a person still has different avenues to investigate in spiritual matters, the Vedic culture allows that person to do so, even if the person may risk undergoing a slow process to the highest levels of spiritual realizations. This is a personal choice for everyone. Therefore, forceful conversions or tyrannical religious rule or competition amongst religions make no sense to the Hindu. What makes sense is the freedom for each individual to reach an appreciation of everyone being a spiritual being, all going back to God, but at their own pace. Nonetheless, the Vedic spiritual teachers always try to encourage everyone toward the best use of their time and energies in their spiritual pursuits. That is how people are guided in the Vedic culture, as opposed to forceful conversions or dogmatic regulations.

Religions that view other spiritual paths as competitors will never understand the Vedic path, which is more open. They will only hold on to their fear that makes them think that only their way is the right way, and all other paths lead to hell, as if they need some reassurance that they are correct. Hinduism does not have such fear of being wrong. Followers of the Vedic path acquire their own spiritual realizations that assure them of their own progress. That is the sign of real spiritual advancement when the change of consciousness is directly perceived. That is the difference between the Vedic path and the more fundamental and fear-based religions that depend on mere blind faith in the process, without experiencing any perceptive results in one’s change of awareness and consciousness.

For Christianity, only when they accept the value of other religions, and the right of others to follow the creeds and processes of their choice, can the universal love as taught by Jesus Christ truly illuminate from their churches and pulpits. Then they can get along with those of other religions without the condemnation that all others are going to hell. After all, no truly loving God will cast His children into an eternal hell without the chance of correcting themselves. Therefore, the Vedic culture offers a deeper understanding of the true loving nature of God than the religions that are merely based on fear of God.
18. FOLLOWERS OF VEDIC PHILOSOPHY DO NOT TARGET OTHERS FOR CONVERSION.

Hindus do not take it upon themselves to convert others to Hinduism. They never target a certain religion or faith to be subject to their criticism or attempts to be converted to Hinduism. They feel that the focus of any spiritual path should be on God, not on making or accumulating converts like some network marketing scheme that counts profits in terms of the quantity of followers it has. The effort should be in giving high quality spiritual education and, thus, by purity, inspire others to go toward God. Therefore, they have no motive to spread hate or lies or discord amongst any other community or religion. On the other hand, it is seen that Christians often view Hindus as pagans or heathens, meaning, in essence, that they are Godless and doomed to hell, and must accept God in the form of Christianity in order to be “saved.” Muslims also view Hindus as idolaters or polytheists, and thus damned per the descriptions of the Koran, or so they say. Yet, Hindus are free from any such doctrine or attitude toward Islam or Christianity. Nonetheless, when Hindus begin to react to this constant criticism of their religion by such dogmatists, it is primarily an angry backlash and a defense of their culture rather than an attempt to start friction or trouble with those of other faiths. After all, how long can Hindus continue to be as tolerant as they have been toward those of other religions who are so aggressive in their attempts to make converts and who take advantage of this tolerant attitude? It should be expected that sooner or later Hindus will no longer tolerate this never ending bombardment of propaganda against Hinduism that is used to sway more people toward misunderstanding what Hinduism or Vedic culture is in an effort to make converts.

We should point out that real Hinduism, Vedic culture, is a most broad-minded and gentle way of life, and is not interested in campaigning for making converts. It is not part of the Hindu values to indulge in violence. Hinduism lets anyone choose the path they wish to take. However, we will find more and more cases where Hindus will speak out and react against the deliberate use of lies and demeaning propaganda that is used to spread strong misunderstandings of what the Vedic path really is. If missionaries of other religions are purposely creating harm to Hinduism, then the Hindus have the right to protect themselves and their culture. In India we find that such tensions often take place in the tribal areas more than in the urban areas where access to legal ramifications is easier, and where there is greater scrutiny of public pressure. Ultimately, there would be peace among all religions in India and elsewhere if there was not the constant attempt by certain faiths who continually campaign to convert others to their way of worship.
19. HINDUISM ACCEPTS THAT EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE ONE’S OWN PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT OR SALVATION.

An example of this is the Kumbha Mela festival, which recently took place in Allahabad in January, 2001. There were more than 71 million people attending through its duration, and 5,000 different ashramas or schools of philosophy at the festival, all with similarities with one another, yet with particular distinctions as well. Yet, they all got along and cooperated and respected each other in their participation of this holy festival. You cannot find such a huge gathering amongst those of any other religion.

There are different sects in Islam, and many different denominations in Christianity, all with their differences and criticisms of each other. So much so that wars between two major sects in Christianity (Catholics and Protestants) have been killing each other for hundreds of years. They are highly critical of each other and also get upset when one makes converts from the other side, even though both are Christian paths. However, you will never find this within the ranks and genuine schools of Vedic culture.
20. HINDUISM OFFERS A UNIVERSAL GOD AND CONSCIOUSNESS, BEYOND A MERE LOCAL TRADITION.

Often you find a religion based on the history, background and needs or development of a regional people. But in the Vedic culture we find a universal history not only involving the people of India, but other areas of the world, as well as other planets and different dimensions of the universe. Thus the spiritual teachings that the Vedic philosophy provides are universal, for all living beings.

The Vedic path is not based on blind faith in a regional understanding of God, or the history of a particular people. It is based on the understanding that Vedic philosophy is a part of the natural laws that exist throughout the creation. Thus, they are universal laws and principles that are applicable to all. By following these natural principles, as outlined in the ancient Vedic texts, one can acquire a higher level of understanding and consciousness in which a person can directly perceive the spiritual nature of everyone and all that exists. Through this means, a person can perceive his or her own spiritual identity, and one’s unity with all of creation. Therefore, the Vedic philosophy is a universal approach.

The Vedic doctrine also is beyond merely using and basing its outlook on locality. It is not merely Indian. Even though many of the events, such as those found in the Mahabharata and the Puranas, took place in India, and numerous Vedic personalities and incarnations of God had pastimes in India or live there, many of it’s concerns spread outside India, and even to other planets. However, the teachings and philosophy are based on the science of the soul, which includes us all. Therefore, this knowledge of the soul is not limited to a particular region or locality. It is universal.

This also goes with knowledge of God. The Vedic outlook explains that God is not God for a particular region or area. Or that the people of a certain area must conform to a particular code of conduct or worship. God is not a Jewish God who chooses a special people to be His own. You will not find that in the Vedic tradition. In the Vedic texts you will find God who is a loving God, concerned with everyone, and not just humans, but those on other planets, those existing in the bodies of other species, even those in other universes. It doesn’t matter where you are, or in what body you exist. God is concerned for you and wants you to know that, which is why He appears in this world and sends so many messengers all over the universe.

Furthermore, Hinduism is not based solely on one personality or teacher. It is not like Catholicism which has one pope who is said to be the sole authority over all other Catholics who must obey the dictates of this one man. Hinduism can and does accept the teachings of numerous spiritual guides. Even if a person is initiated by a particular spiritual teacher or guru, it is often seen that the disciples, once having clearly understood the teachings of their own master, may also consider the teachings of other advanced devotees or masters in their sampradaya, or disciplic line of authorities. In fact, it is recommended that to be sure of following the spiritual path correctly, any instructions should be compared to a system of checks and balances. These are guru (the spiritual master), sadhu (other spiritual authorities), and Shastra (the instructions in the Vedic texts). If these all line up with the same instruction, then there is no problem. If any one of them differs, then it should be investigated as to the reason why. If something is off track or not correct, then it should be adjusted. This is how one can always be sure that he or she is following the proper spiritual methods without going too far the wrong way, or without being misguided by a guru who may not be as pure or advanced as people may think. Thus, the Vedic system again provides a means for assuring yourself of the authority and potency of the method and teacher you accept.
21. HINDUISM PROMOTES SEEING GOD IN ALL LIVING BEINGS.

Without a doubt, the Vedic scripture provides descriptions and narrations meant to help one increase his or her awareness of God in all beings. Anyone who studies the essential Vedic texts will soon see a difference in his or her recognition of how God is within everyone, accompanying the jivatma (individual soul) as the paramatma (Supersoul). You will never find anywhere else the information on the Supersoul as we find in the Vedic texts. This information helps us see the Divinity within all living beings and how everyone is a part of the Supreme in spiritual quality. Such an awareness and perception will naturally increase our respect and concern for all living creatures. We will realize that all life is sacred. We will more clearly understand how our love for God will be exhibited by how much we care and cooperate with others.
22. IN HINDUISM YOU CAN ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS YOU WANT WITHOUT BEING CONSIDERED A BLASPHEMER OR A DOUBTING PERSON.

This is something that many of us do not think about. However, in some religions you cannot even ask too many questions without your own faith being called into consideration. In some religions, if you ask too many questions it is thought to be challenging, which means that you doubt the religion. While in Hinduism you can ask all the questions you want because it is considered a part of one’s spiritual process of understanding.

Much of the Vedic literature was written in a question and answer process between student and teacher. Thus, therein we find hundreds of thousands of questions and answers, all of which deal with innumerable topics or various views of understanding and describing the Absolute Truth and the means to perceive it. Having your questions answered is a natural way to increase your spiritual understanding and faith, and eradicate your doubts. However, in some religions asking too many questions is taboo, or improper, partly because it can reveal how little is really understood in a fundamental or elementary religion, and how they still expect blind faith to be the major qualification of their followers. Thus, genuine spiritual understanding in such religions is not increased unless the people look elsewhere for fuller answers to the deeper questions.
23. HINDUISM IS LIKE THE MILLION DOLLAR CULTURE.

The reason why the Vedic philosophy is the million dollar culture is because just as when a millionaire automatically has all his ten dollar problems solved, so one who follows the Vedic philosophy has all his ten dollar questions answered. There are so many cultures and religions in the world, all of which may offer basic moralistic rules if not higher spiritual knowledge. But such paths often deal only with the ten dollar questions, and sometimes with difficulty. The Vedic system, however, goes much more deeply into dealing with more advanced levels of spiritual understanding. Thus, it is like the million dollar philosophy which, because of its depth of awareness and insight, already incorporates all these 10 dollar questions. In this way, it is not necessary to be distracted by 10 dollar religions or philosophies when you already have one worth a million dollars as we find in the Vedic knowledge.

As a Hindu, we do not need to be saved from what is already saving us, from what is already delivering us to a higher level of consciousness, a higher level of spiritual understanding. All we have to do is go deeper into the Vedic path, the Vedic literature, the Vedic system. That will do more for us than comparing Hinduism with other religions, or considering how some other religion will provide us with better material facility or something, while placing God as secondary.
24. THE VEDIC PROCESS OFFERS THE EASIEST PATH BACK TO GOD.

Of course, this point may seem like it is merely a matter of opinion, but if we analyze things we can see that the Vedic system can be very easy and trouble free. It is merely a matter of love. That is the main thing.

Love is the most natural emotional need and longing any of us have. Simply dovetailing and realigning our love toward God is the easiest process for spiritual development. All religions explain this. However, the most personal aspects of the Vedic teachings go into the greatest details of how to develop this loving tendency toward God, and how such an eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Being is manifested and maintained. The Vedic descriptions of the pastimes of the Supreme Lord are like none found anywhere else, along with explanations of His friends and relatives, His personality, His dress and appearance, and so much more, all of which are provided to invoke our loving attraction to this Supreme object of our affection. The easiest part of the Vedic system that helps us accomplish this is through the process of bhakti-yoga (the yoga of awakening our loving devotion to God) and harinam (associating with God through the chanting of the Lord’s holy names). It has been shown many times, and by many great sages, and through the instructions in the Vedic scripture, that our natural and continuous loving propensity, when directed toward God, is not only the means but also the end of the path. Such love becomes the impetus to always think of God, which is the easiest and most constant form of meditation. This is what purifies our heart, delivering us to the freedom from the cycles of repeated birth and death, and to our eternal home in the spiritual sky. The spiritual world is that place wherein our natural spiritual love can manifest to its fullest and most unlimited degree.
25. HINDUISM ADVOCATES A UNIVERSAL RATHER THAN A SELF-CENTERED CONSCIOUSNESS.

As explained earlier, the Vedic philosophy is a universal philosophy. It asserts that every individual is a part of the universe and in microcosm represents the macrocosm. A thorough study of Vedic astronomy will reveal that the universal form is also inside our body, and that the body represents the cosmos in miniature. In such a light, it can also be understood that man cannot be separate from family, society, country, or the universe itself. In other words, he or she is a multidimensional being who is connected in many ways to the multidimensional universe. A universal consciousness means that we perceive this connection, and how we are related to each and every being in some way. Therefore, our actions are connected to those around us, even to the plants and animals. Thus, it is recommended that we act as proper caretakers of all other living entities so that we do not do anything that will wrongly effect or create harm, even unknowingly, to others, which would only be reflected back on ourselves. Therefore, whatever we do will have a direct or no less than subtle effect on all and everything around us. This understanding also promotes the fact that we need to remember that we are all stewards and caretakers of the planet, the land, each other, and all creatures.

In Western countries people are brought up in the idea of consumerism. This is the basis in which people tend to think of themselves and their own happiness first. In Vedic society, people are raised to see things differently, to see that everyone shares in the results of other’s actions, and that everyone shares in looking after the needs of others before considering one’s own. However, this is not as noticeable as it used to be due to the people falling away from the Vedic system and being more attracted to the principle of consumerism of the West.
26. HINDUISM PROMOTES THE CAUSE OF REAL CARE AND CONCERN FOR OTHERS.

By understanding our spiritual nature, and being able to perceive that nature in all other living beings, we naturally care for and are concerned about all others. This does not only mean the material benefits, such as making sure the hungry are fed, or the poor are clothed. But this also extends to the care for the soul. Naturally, it can be difficult to take care of the material or bodily needs of all other living beings. However, the point is that as long as we have these material bodies, there will be a constant drive to care for the problems that our material body will create for us. Therefore, by giving everyone the chance to advance spiritually can also help each person to solve this problem. Once a person has made enough spiritual advancement that they no longer need a material body and become free from any continued rounds of birth and death, then all such problems will naturally be solved. This is the true care and concern of the Vedic system.

Some people may nonetheless criticize Hinduism for what appears to be the issue of the untouchability of the low castes, the disrespect for widows, poverty, etc. However, these issues are not so much the problem or product of the Vedic system in as much as they are social issues that have developed because of society falling away from the Vedic path. To explain briefly, the caste system as we see it today is a perverted remnant from the varnashrama system of the Vedic culture. Varna is a legitimate Vedic system by which a person is recommended for a type of work and social service according to his or her mental and intellectual caliber, ability and tendencies. Thus, if a person showed a proclivity for study and religious pursuits, then he may be trained to be a Brahmin. If he exhibited a talent for business, then he may be trained to be a Vaishya. A child of feeble intellect that preferred performing menial tasks would then be trained in the ways of serving those in the higher varnas, as a Sudra. Nonetheless, his dignity was preserved and he had full rights as any other person.

However, the caste system we see today is that if you are born in the family of a Brahmin, then you are accepted to be a Brahmin. And if you are born in a Sudra family, then that is where you remain. Thus, through the years, the higher castes have shown an attitude of exclusivity above the lower castes. There is no justification for this, since it is clearly taught in the Vedic literature, such as the Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavat Purana that everyone is born in ignorance. Thus, everyone is at first a Sudra until it is determined what mental or intellectual tendencies and abilities a person has. Only then may it be determined what varna or caste a person is likely to belong. In other words, just by being born in the family of a doctor does not mean that you are automatically a doctor. You must be trained, tested and qualified. If you do not become qualified, then you are no doctor, but must be something else. Similarly, if you are born in a Brahmin family, but go out smoking, drinking, eating meat, etc., then you are no Brahmin, but you actually have a low-caste mentality. Furthermore, in the true Vedic varnashrama system, even if you were born in a low-caste family, if you exhibited good intellectual ability, then you were not forced to remain in the low-caste category. You could be trained for other purposes and skills.

These problems would all be resolved if people would actually study more seriously the Vedic literature and regain the spiritual standards that more strictly follow the Vedic path. Then there would certainly be more of the genuine care and concern that the Vedic system promotes. This would naturally be there if we all saw each other as spiritual beings but merely in different types of bodies. With this sort of spiritual perception, we all lose sight of the materialistic distinctions between us and easily become more loving, caring, and cooperative with everyone.
27. WITH OR WITHOUT A CHURCH OR INSTITUTION, HINDUISM SHOWS AND ESTABLISHES THAT EVERYONE HAS A PERSONAL AND INDEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, WHICH ONLY NEEDS TO BE REAWAKENED.

This is an important point. There are other religions that teach that your only connection with God is through the church, or the institution, without which you are excommunicated or eternally damned. Unlike this, the Vedic system teaches that everyone is a spiritual being, and, thus, automatically a part of a loving God with an eternal relationship with Him. This relationship only has to be reawakened, which is the purpose of the many instructions given by God in the Vedic texts. It is also the purpose of the spiritual teachers who try to help everyone revive this eternal but dormant relationship. To rejuvenate such a relationship simply depends on one’s sincerity to advance by following these instructions. It is not subject to an institution or a pope who alone claims to be in touch with God and knows the ultimate truth, upon whom we all are dependent, and who can dictate restrictions as he likes. In fact, any spiritual teacher is only as good to the degree in which he is at being a representation of God’s love for us, or at being a transparent medium for the spiritual instructions of God and the previous acharyas or authorities.

The church or institution also is only good to the degree in which it represents the genuine spiritual tradition, as found in the Vedic system. If there is any blockage or ulterior motive in the spiritual teacher or institution in this transference of love and knowledge, then it may actually misrepresent God’s true message and mislead people in their search for God’s love.

In this way, a church or establishment is meant to provide the proper facility and opportunity for people to advance and experience God’s love. Without a connection to a church or organization does not mean that a person is eternally condemned or will never have a chance of revitalizing one’s relationship with God. An organization is not, nor can it ever be, the controller of whether a person has a relation to God, or goes to heaven or hell. This is completely dependent on the individual soul and his or her consciousness or sincerity. The fact is that since we are all spiritual beings, everyone has a personal relationship with God, and no one else can interfere with that. It only needs to be revived, which is the purpose of the Vedic process.
28. IN ESSENCE, HINDUISM, THE VEDIC SYSTEM, OPENS THE DOOR TO THE REAL MEANINGS OF LIFE.

After practicing and living by the principles of the Vedic philosophy, you can bring a perceptive and obvious change in your life, as well as into your own sphere of influence. By beginning to awaken your awareness of your spiritual identity and your relationship with the Supreme, you can easily feel a new level of happiness, peace, and contentment. You will have a clearer understanding of who you are, where you have come from, and your purpose in life. You will have a better focus on why we are here and what needs to done while living in this material world. Little things that you may have taken so seriously, that may have bothered you will no longer have the same affect on you. You will see with a clearer view of what really matters in life, and the superficialities that are not important. You will see that there is only one universal religion, and that is Sanatana-Dharma, awakening the natural proclivity and needs of the soul, and regaining our real spiritual identity and relationship with God. It is merely a matter of learning how to love and serve God. That is the heart of the Vedic path.

(More information is provided at: http:// http://www.stephen-knapp.com.)

The Gentle Art of Dharma Self-Defense

The Gentle Art of

 

Dharma Self-

Defense

Many people misjudge Hinduism and the Vedic path, dismissing it as a form of antiquated heathenism or some ignorant superstition.

It is important to show compassion for those who misunderstand or persecute the Hindu religion and Vedic culture. And the proper way to show compassion for them is to gently enlighten them to the high levels of spiritual truth that are found within the Vedic path. This booklet will show many examples of ways to answer their criticisms and analyze the reasons why their complaints or objections are inaccurate and unjustified.

 

BY

Yajnavalkya Dasa

 

FOREWORD

This booklet is not copyrighted. In the defense of Dharma, the original publisher, International Database, and the author, Yajnavalkya Dasa, have donated this work to the public domain. Therefore, you are free (and encouraged) to copy and distribute this booklet as you wish.

Presently you can find this booklet on the web site: http://www.stephen-knapp.com. It is for email and internet distribution, as well as for downloading and printing for hardcopy distribution. It is also available as a Microsoft Word document, in Wordperfect, or Adobe Acrobat Reader pdf files. To get your copy in any of these additional formats, simply email your request to: Srinandan@aol.com.

PREFACE

Not too long ago, I came across a book written for Christians who plan to “convert” members of other religions to Christianity. This book dealt with other religions’ beliefs, and had a handy guide for pointing out the so-called “weak points” in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. Of course, Christians have a right to practice their own religion, but their rights end where others’ rights begin. It is a matter of record that certain Christians, particularly some “fundamentalist” Christians, have an agenda for “saving” the “heathens”. Certain well-known evangelists on television beg for funds so that they may send missionaries to India, to save the “devil worshiping Hindus”. At the same time, they target Hindu youth here in America for conversion tactics. There is a publishing company in California which produces anti-Hindu comic books which teach that Satan (in Christian mythology, the supreme spirit of evil) created the Hindu religion. Realizing how important the family and community is to Hindus, religious bigots use “zoning laws” to prevent the establishment of temples (as typified in the struggle to build a temple near Sydney, Australia in early 1991), or to close them altogether (as is the case of two Hindu temples in England).

Another disturbing trend is the increase in blatant Christian fundamentalism and conservatism in politics. The popular Col. Oliver (Ollie) North speaks out on the importance of good ole, Christian values, as does the “former” Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, an admired politician from Louisiana you had aims for the White House. In the same way, the 1992 Republican Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan is a columnist for the Christian American newspaper, which is published by the “Christian Coalition”, whose stated purpose is the promotion of Christian values.

Furthermore, consider the popular TV evangelist Pat Robertson, who ran for the Presidency in 1988. In his recent book, “The New World Order”, at the bottom of page 218, he mentions his campaign pledge to bring only Christians and Jews into the government with him, and he states quite clearly that he believes that those who follow the Judeo/Christian value system are more fit to govern America than are Hindus. But before you write him off as a harmless crackpot, remember that he did win some states in the Republican primaries that year.

There are also more personal attacks on Hindus. There have been reported many instances of Christians leaving threatening messages on Hindus’ answering machines. Or the incident mentioned in the August 1 [year?] Dallas Observer newspaper, which described Christians loudly taunting a Gaudiya Vaishnava sankirtana party, thrusting raw meat into the faces of the devotees.

Then there are blatant examples of outright physical violence. I personally witnessed an attempt by a Christian who tried to attack the Deities in a Gaudiya Vaishnava temple in Detroit in 1973, complaining of “idol worship”. Three fourths of the Vaishnava temple in Fiji was destroyed by a gang of Christian youths on October 15, 1989. On September 20, 1991, a 77-year old priest was attacked on the altar at the Siva Subramaniya Swami temple in Fiji, by a young Christian man who told him to “stop worshiping idols and go to church and pray to Jesus”… while kicking the old priest in the head and smashing his face on the concrete floor. These are just a few examples.

Of course, it may be argued that these last few instances are committed by members of the lunatic fringe of Christianity. That is certainly a valid point. But it is also important to note that such activities certainly seem to be endorsed in the Bible itself. For example, in Christian mythology (and related in the Old Testament, Exodus 32:19-20), there is an episode in which Moses, carrying the stone tablets which contain the “Ten Commandments”, comes across some “idol worshipers”. Seething with raging fury, he attempts to destroy the “idol” by hitting it with the stone tablets. Such a story, as well as the Christian history of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch hunts of Europe and America, can breed a climate in which physical attacking of “heathens”, “pagans”, and “idolaters” is encouraged.

Many Christians are tolerant and respect the rights of others’ religions, cultures, and beliefs. Some examples of tolerant groups include the Unitarians, Quakers, Amish, Episcopalians, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics. Groups such as Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and the Mormons are fairly tolerant. But there are groups that have developed a reputation for intolerance, such as the Baptists, Adventists, southern Pentacostals, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In fact, some of the members of these groups are even intolerant of other Christian sects, what to speak of other religions! Such groups are known as fundamentalists; that is, they believe the Bible is perfect and flawless, and is the only valid scripture in the world.

Since most Bible fundamentalists have no respect for the authority of other scriptures, it is practically useless to counter their Biblical sayings with Vedic or Buddhist truisms. For this reason, in this booklet I show how you can easily defeat their arguments using logic and common sense, and recognizing the lapses in logic (known as “philosophical fallacies”) in their own arguments. Therefore, this booklet will not only be useful to Hindus, but to Buddhists, Jains, and Taoists as well.

Most people use the word “bigot” in an ethnic or racial sense, but the dictionary defines bigot as “one blindly intolerant’ to the views of others, especially in matters of religion or race”. The source of bigotry is ignorance. By using this booklet, you can gently educate the narrow-minded, and thereby tear down the walls that separate one culture

INTRODUCTION

There are two key causes for the inimical attitude that many fundamentalists hold towards Hinduism. The first one is their mistaken and chauvinistic belief that only their scripture is valid. And the second cause is their gross misunderstandings and disinformation concerning other religions.

Concerning the first point (the supremacy of the Bible), I will bring forth many arguments that cast considerable doubt as to its validity. It may be argued that many of these arguments could be used against the Vedic scriptures as well. For example, it is practically impossible to absolutely prove that the Vedic scriptures have divine authorship. But there are several important differences…

First, even educated Christians themselves do not claim that the Bible was written by God, or divinely transmitted to man. They say that the Bible was written by men, but inspired by God. This is why the Bible is considered (by biblical scholars and Christian theologians) to be so open to interpretation. But it must be pointed out that just because something is “inspired” does not mean that it is the Absolute Truth. For example, a man may be inspired by his paramour to write a poem about her, but that does not mean that his words are true, nor does it mean that his lover even approves of what he has composed.

And as for “interpreting” the scriptures, it is worthwhile to mention that Hindus consider God to be “Adhoksaja”, or the One who is beyond the mind and senses. As such, it is impossible to speculate accurately on the ultimate nature of God. Our senses, our minds, and all of our tools (computers, microscopes, etc.) cannot give us perfect knowledge about even our own limited material world, what to speak of God, who transcends the material world! Therefore, the only way to acquire knowledge of God is through the descending process of knowledge, i.e. receiving knowledge of God from God Himself. If God exists, and He wants us to know about Him, He will surely give us the way to learn about Him. And that is through the “user’s manual” of the universe, called the Vedas. God imparted this knowledge to Brahma, the first created being, who passed it down through disciplic succession, until Vyasadeva eventually compiled the Vedic scriptures in written form.

The Christians attribute the authorship of the books of the Bible to “traditional” authors. This in interesting, because most of the books of the Bible are truly anonymous. There are very few “signature” verses (“this books was written by…”) as is customary in Hindu scriptures. In the Appendix of this work, I give a listing of modern scholars’ educated opinions as to the true authorship of the books of the Bible. These are not blind speculations, but their best scientific opinions resulting from carefully weighing the available evidence. In many cases, I have listed the evidence the scholars used, giving a type of archeological “detective” story. It is intriguing that so many Christians tend to quote scholarly assumptions on the questionable sources of other scriptures, but minimize (or ignore altogether) the opinions of Biblical scholars on their own scripture!

Finally, the “burden of proof” lies entirely with the Christians. According to the rules of logic and debate (as well as the rules of law), when one attempts to condemn a different core belief, the burden of proof is on the accuser. After all, Hindus do not attack other religions… we respect all (except for their exclusivism). If a Christian fundamentalist approaches you, the burden of proof is on him to prove his case.

Moreover, there is the problem of many Christians totally misunderstanding other religions. This is due entirely to ignorance. One example of gross misinformation occurred during a radio talk show in Chicago. A Christian was a guest on the show, and he was promoting his new book which shows how Saturday morning cartoons, which are aimed at children, are “contaminated” with New Age, Satanism, Hinduism, and Buddhism (note how they tend to group Hinduism and Buddhism with Satanism). At one point, he was challenged to cite his knowledge of the “evils” of Hinduism. He responded: “The goal of Hinduism is to worship yourself. And that, according to the Bible, is a trick of Satan. Satan caused Adam and Eve to fall from the Garden of Eden by first having them worship themselves, instead of God.” This is a gross misconception. He obviously confused the Vedic injunctions of “worshiping the Self” (i.e. the undifferentiated Brahman) with worshiping oneself!

I often use the following example to show Christians how easy it is to misunderstand other religions: In Christianity there is a sacrament known as the Eucharist, in which the blood of Christ is symbolically drunk (in the form of wine or grape juice) and the body of Christ is eaten (in the form of a wafer). But if a person heard that “in the Christian ceremony they drink the blood of Christ and eat his body”, he could easily think that Christians are vampires and cannibals!

In the same way, many people misjudge Hinduism, dismissing it as “devil worship” or ignorant superstition. They consider the adoration of the Self as narcissism; the worship of the Deity in the temple as idolatry; the esteem for the cow as animism; the respect for Mother Earth and other life forms as pantheism; and they ridicule the noble concept of ahimsa (non-violence to other life forms) as impractical sentimentalism.

It is important to show compassion for those who persecute our Hindu religion and Vedic culture. And the proper way to show compassion for them is to gently enlighten them. This booklet will show many examples of ways to answer their criticisms.

This booklet will also show examples of “philosophic fallacies”, or lapses in logical thought. The existence of a philosophic fallacy renders the argument invalid. Here is an example of such a fallacy, known in Latin as post hoc ergo propter hoc, the “Argument from False Cause”: “America is an overwhelmingly Christian country. America easily defeated Iraq, a Moslem country. Therefore, God is clearly on the side of the Christians.” As you can see, this fallacy is committed when one erroneously attempts to make a cause-and-effect connection. Following this “logic”, one may point out that the mighty USA was unable to defeat the overwhelmingly Buddhist Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Does this mean that God is on the side of the Buddhists?

Philosophic fallacies are sometimes unintentionally committed, but it is important to watch for them and point them out when detected. Actually, when first heard, the fallacy may seem to make sense; but upon reflection, the flaws show themselves all too clearly. Philosophic fallacies also permeate nationalistic and political propaganda, as exemplified in catchy slogans. The nationalistic rallying cry, “America… love it or leave it!”, is a popular one. It implies that citizens should blindly follow even immoral or unethical behavior on the part of the government. We should be grateful that the individuals who fought against slavery in the 1800’s were willing to question the government’s policies.

When engaging in a debate, and especially in a debate of a religious nature, it is vitally important to keep cool and calm, which is difficult to do when your religion, your culture, your homeland, and even your family is being vilified or blasphemed. But no good can come from becoming angry. In fact, it is difficult to think logically when you are in a state of mental agitation. It is important to remain in a state of emotional equilibrium, setting an example for others. As the prose work Desiderata recommends, “Speak your truth calmly and clearly. And listen to the dull and ignorant, for they, too, have their story.”

There are exceptions, of course, but proselytizers are generally, more often than not, insecure. Because they actually have doubts about their own religion, by preaching to others, they are actually preaching to themselves. Because they have so many doubts, they are constantly debating themselves (in their own mind) why they believe the way they do. In this way, they become proficient in their evangelism. And if they are able to convert anyone else, it reinforces their faith. On the other hand, person who is genuinely firm in his faith and secure in his religion will often forget the reasons why he practices his own faith, since he no longer has internal debates with himself. It is my sincere hope that this book will assist others in fending off the unwelcome intrusions into the peaceful and gentle practice of our own religion, sanatana-dharma.

CHAPTER ONE: THE BASIS

As I mentioned earlier, the very basis of the Christians’ self-proclaimed religious elitism is in their claim of the infallibility of their scripture, the Bible. They claim it to be the only valid scripture on Earth. This is similar to the philosophy which prompted a Moslem general to burn down the library of Alexandria long ago, which housed an immense treasure house of ancient knowledge. He allegedly reasoned, “If these books merely restate what is in the Koran, then they are unnecessary. If they say something other than what is in the Koran, then they are pernicious. Since all these books will either say something that is already in the Koran, or they will say something that is not in the Koran, then this means that all of these books are either unnecessary or pernicious. Therefore, they should be destroyed.” This type of “reasoning” is a type of philosophic fallacy in which one does not consider the other alternatives available. This is a type of “either this or that” mentality, viewing all problems in black-or-white terms, while ignoring the many shades of grey in between.

There is another problem in logic which arises when one considers the doctrine that only one scripture is the only valid lawbook. Any argument to support this must come, therefore, from that same lawbook. This is the logical fallacy known as the “circular argument”, which is committed when one presents evidence from that which one is trying to prove. In the same way, if you ask a fundamentalist Christian to prove the validity of the Bible, he will usually start quoting verses from the Bible! Here is a mundane example of this fallacy: A thief was dividing up some ill-gotten booty, some jewels, with his two partners in crime. But he kept most of the jewels for himself. “Why is your share of the jewels larger than our share?”, asked one of his partners. “Because I am the leader”, he replied. “Why are you the leader?” his partner queried. To which he responded, “Because I have more jewels.”

This principle of accepting only one authoritative scripture is unknown in Hinduism, which has the checks-and-balances system of guru-sadhu-shastra. A bone fide authority must be approved by one’s spiritual master (the guru), by recognized holy men (the sadhus), as well as the existing recognized scriptures (the shastra) .

As I have previously mentioned, there is great doubt as to the authorship of the different books of the Bible. The compilation in the Appendix of this work came from various reputable sources, respected encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia Brittanica, Collier’s Encyclopedia, and Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia. And these encyclopedias gathered their information from academically acclaimed biblical scholars. These scholars carefully considered the different evidences concerning the authorship of the books, and made their very best professional, erudite opinions. Fundamentalist Christians tend to completely belittle these arguments, yet they are unable to produce enough evidence (or, in many cases, any evidence) to sway the findings of the scholars. Faith is one thing… but blind faith is another.

As the Appendix relates, most of the books of the Bible are anonymous. This in itself is very significant. How can a book be considered inspired by God when the author is completely unknown? If you don’t know who the author is, how do you know he was divinely inspired?

There is also the question of the character of the author. This question is raised in not only the anonymous books, but also in the books where nothing is known of the author except his name. Was the author a saint or a schemer? We don’t know. Yet we are expected to cast our own beliefs aside and put our souls in the hands of this book.

One of the tests on whether or not a hypothesis is valid is by looking at who is presenting the hypothesis. After all, you would not seek financial advice from a pauper. Yet we are expected to take the spiritual advice of a completely unknown person?

And then there is the disturbing fact that many of the books of the Bible show evidence of tampering. There were modifications and additions. It is fairly certain, then, that there were deletions as well. The question arises, “Who did this?” And more importantly, “Why?” What were their motives? There must have been something in the original that disturbed someone enough to make him want to change it. What was it? These are deeply troubling questions.

There is also the matter of the Biblical canon itself. After all, ancient Israel and the early church knew of many more religious books than the ones that now constitute the Bible. For example, there were 50 gospels in circulation at the time, yet only four made it into the New Testament! Who decided which of the books would become part of the Christian scriptures, and again, “Why?” Who decided, “This book belongs… this book doesn’t”? What were their reasons? What were their motives? There are reports that some of the books that didn’t make it into the canon contain references of reincarnation and ahimsa (nonviolence), as well as references that mention that Jesus traveled to India during the middle part of his life to learn about spiritual truths.

The fact is, there are no clear records available which document the church’s process of determining which books were acceptable and which books were unacceptable. The general consensus of opinion among scholars is that the decision was based on whether or not the book agreed with the prevailing theological thought at the time. In other words, the only books accepted were the ones that maintained the “status quo”.

This means that the fundamentalists’ religion is not based on the Bible, as they claim so fervently… but means the Bible was based on the prevailing religion! This, in itself, is another example of the “circular argument” as related earlier.

Another way you can judge something is to look at its results (“the proof of the pudding is in the tasting”). If you purchase and follow a car repair book, and the result is that your car runs even worse, you would have good reasons to doubt the validity of the book.

So let us glimpse at the legacy of many of the followers of the Bible. Let us take a look at the misery which follows people assuming an air of spiritual elitism. It may be argued that the following atrocities were committed not by “true Christians”, but by misguided zealots. Yet, as pointed out earlier, the Bible certainly sets examples for such actions.

First, there are the Crusades, a series of eight major military expeditions (and many more minor campaigns) during a period lasting almost 300 years, for the purpose of “rescuing” the “holy” land from the “heathen” Moslems. The Christian Crusaders massacred virtually every man, woman and child in Jerusalem in 1099. The Children’s Crusade of 1212 resulted in many children dying along the way, the others sold into slavery. The Crusades created death, disease, and misery for millions of Christians and non-Christians alike. Yet, even today, a favorite song in Christian churches is “Onward, Christian Soldiers!”

There is also the infamous Inquisition, a series of quasi-judicial institutions of the Christian church which began in 1231, and not abolished until 1820. The primary purpose of the Inquisitions was to punish heresy (holding a belief that is not part of the Christian dogma). Those convicted were punished by fines, confiscation of property, imprisonment, and death by burning. Torture against the accused (not just those found guilty!) was approved by Pope Innocent IV in the mid 1200’s. The Spanish Inquisition, a government branch established with papal approval, was primarily targeted against Jews, and became synonymous with terrorism.

Typical of the heresy trials is the history of Joan of Arc in the 15th century, a heroine of the Hundred Years War. She was captured by the English in 1430, who turned her over to an ecclesiastical (church) court, charged with heresy and sorcery. Her interrogations lasted 14 months. She was found guilty of: 1] dressing like a man, and 2] heresy (she believed that she was directly responsible to God, rather than to the Church). She was burned at the stake.

The witchcraft hunting of Europe from the 11th to the 17th centuries (and in the United States in the latter part of the 17th century) resulted in the torture and execution (usually by fire) of thousands of persons by devout, well-meaning Christians, with the blessings of the Church. An instance of drought, an epidemic, a baby or a farm animal dying during birth would be enough to start an hysterical witch hunt. People were encouraged to inform on each other, children against their parents, spouses against each other. Just having a birthmark would be enough to make one a suspect. Witnesses were paid to testify against the accused. Confessions were forced by both inhuman tortures as well as promising pardon in return (although pardon was seldom granted). Professional witch hunters were paid a fee for each conviction.

The destruction of the Incan, Mayan and Aztec civilizations in Central and South America from the 16th to the 19th centuries was impelled by greed, of course, but still with the blessings of the Church, who saw it as an important missionary activity. The drive for the Spanish conquest of the New World came from Queen Isabella, who was such a fervent Christian that she became known as “Isabella the Catholic”. She is well known for her activities in starting the Inquisition, and expelling the Jews from Spain. It is ironic that the money that funded Spain’s military/missionary endeavors were obtained by the confiscation of the Jews’ property during the Inquisition. The end result of these endeavors resulted in vast numbers of South and Central American Indians being killed, not only in combat, but by the diseases brought over by the Europeans (smallpox, syphilis, plague, etc.).

It is also ironic that the United States, which was originally founded by people who were fleeing religious bigotry in Europe, engaged in the subsequent persecution of the native American Indians. This uniquely American concept was called “Manifest Destiny”, which proclaimed that the United States had divine sanction (!) “to overspread the (North American) continent allotted to us by God for the free development of our multiplying millions”. This concept was used as justification for the United States’ endeavors in destroying the indigenous native Indian civilizations. This doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” was later modified to justify the annexation of various Caribbean and Pacific islands.

The issue of the American attitude towards slavery of blacks is also worthy of mention. It is certainly true that many Christian groups started the struggle to abolish slavery, most notably the Quakers. But many Protestant sects split over the question of slavery. Some were in favor of enslaving other human beings, others were opposed.

As you can see, this attitude of spiritual superiority resulted in tremendous amounts of human suffering. But this pales in comparison with the suffering brought on to the Earth and man’s fellow creatures. This is the result of the Christian doctrine of “anthropocentrism”, the belief that man is the center of the universe. All other life forms, including the Earth herself, exist only for man’s enjoyment and amusement. Couple this with the fact that Christianity is an apocalyptic religion (i.e., the belief that the violent end of the world is very close at hand), and you have a philosophy of utter rape of the Earth and her ecosystems. It is for this reason that, when confronted with an “environmental or economic development” issue, many fundamentalists loudly proclaim, “Who care about the environment? Jesus is coming!”

It is this very cavalier attitude towards the environment which led the renowned Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki to remark about Christianity: “Man against nature. Nature against man. Strange religion.” Contempt for the Earth is in direct opposition of the Hindu and Buddhist concept of “deep ecology”, which was so succinctly summarized by the American Indian Chief Seattle: “Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Christianity also maintains a disturbing, speciest philosophy which claims that only man has a soul… animals are simply “chemical reactions”. With this twisted doctrine, truly unspeakable horrors are committed to millions of other living entities daily. For the sake of the satisfaction of the tongue, animals are routinely slaughtered. For the sake of vanity, for the sake of smelling pretty, animals are tortured in laboratories to test the lethal dosages of colognes and perfumes. For the sake of fashion, animals are killed just for their fur or skin.

Contrast this with the doctrine of ahimsa (nonviolence). In the Buddhist scripture, the Dhammapada (129-130), the Buddha says, “All beings fear death and pain, life is dear to all; therefore the wise man will not kill or cause anything to be killed.” And in the Hindu scriptures, the Padma Purana proclaims, “Ahimsa paramo dharmal“: Non-violence to other living entities (ahimsa) is the highest (paramo) duty (dharma).

CHAPTER TWO: CHRISTIAN CRITICISMS… ANSWERED

Criticism #1: Hindu scriptures contradict each other, whereas the Bible is harmonious. Let us examine the first part, “Hindu scriptures contradict each other”. If you ever hear this comment, ask the person, “Please cite an example of a contradiction in the Hindu scriptures.” As of yet, I have never heard anyone give me an example. This is good evidence that the person never studied the Hindu scriptures himself… he was simply told to say this when preaching to Hindus. Keep pressing him to cite an example.

Of course, there are apparent inconsistencies, but they only appear to be a contradiction to one who does not understand the purposes behind the Vedic literature, which is to gradually uplift the living entities to the topmost perfectional stage. There are people in different qualities of existence: persons in the mode of goodness (sattva-guna) are inclined to introspection and have a philosophical, spiritual aptitude. Those in the mode of passion (rajas-guna) are inclined to improve themselves economically and sensually, and have a creative aptitude. Those in the mode of ignorance (tamas-guna) are inclined to laziness and intoxication. It is extremely rare to find a person in one mode only… they often share their attributes between these three modes, yet one mode is always predominant.

Different parts of the Vedic literature are targeted to these different classes of people. For instance, a person in the mode of ignorance would not be inclined to follow the injunctions meant for someone in the mode of goodness. So certain sections of the Vedic scriptures are targeted at his class, so he may gradually, at his own individual rate, purify himself, and eventually be elevated to the mode of pure goodness (suddha-sattva).

This process of gradual purification is expressed by the Lord Himself in the Bhagavad-gita (12.8-12): “If you can’t do this, then do this… and if you can’t do that, then do this… ” Only for those who are confused does the Vedic scriptures appear contradictory.

Now let us examine the second part of the criticism: “The Bible is harmonious.” As was mentioned in Chapter One, any harmony in the Bible is purely intentional. When the Christian canon was chosen, only those books that reflected the current philosophical though were included. Books that went “against the grain” were discarded. The Bible is harmonious because only harmonious books were included in it.

Christians also point out the similarities in the “Gospels”, the four quasi-biographical books that make up the first four books in the New Testament. But as will be elaborated upon in the Appendix, the Gospel of Matthew is based on the Gospel of Mark, and all four Gospels draw heavily upon a collection of the supposed sayings of Jesus, called “Q”. And, again, with only four of the over 50 gospels in circulation at the time making it into to Christian canon, it is clear that only those that were chosen would be those that agreed with each other.

Yet, even discounting the question of the Biblical canon, there is still a nagging question: “If the Bible is so harmonious, then why are there so many different sects of Christianity… each one claiming to be the purest representative of the Truth?” For example, Christianity is basically divided into three major schools of thought. There are the Roman Catholics, the Protestants, and the Eastern Orthodox. And the Protestant Branch is divided up into many different sects: the Adventists, the Amish, the Anglican Church, the Apostolic Faith, the Assemblies of God, the Baptists, the Brethren, the Christian Church, the Church of Christ, the Church of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the Church of the Nazarene, the Congregational Christian Churches, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Congregational Church, the Friends (Quakers), the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Lutherans, the Mennonites, the Methodists, the Pentacostal Churches, the Presbyterians, the Salvation Army, the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, and about 66 other sects!

And that does not count the different denominations (sub-sects) of the different sects! For example. the Baptists have the following denominations: the American Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention. the American Baptist Association, the Baptist General Conference, the Bethel Baptist Assembly, Inc., the Christian Unity Baptist Association, the Conservative Baptist Association of America, the Baptist Church of Christ, the Free Will Baptists… and about 19 other denominations. And there are not just “minor differences” between these sub-sects. For example, the Southern Baptist Association was formed in 1845 in large part because of disagreements concerning slavery. And today, there is discord between the sub-sects in important matters such as whether or not to believe in the infallibility of the Bible.

The other Protestant denominations also have been broken up into different sub-sects: the Methodists have 23 different sub-sects, the Mennonites 15; the Presbyterians 9; the Mormons 3; etc.

And again, each sect and sub-sect claim to possess the truth of the Bible in its purest form… and each sub-sect are able to quote verses from the Bible to prove it! So much for the “harmony” of the Bible .

Criticism #2: The concept of ahimsa (non-violence to other living entities) is impractical and unworkable, because even the simplest action can result in the death of millions of other living entities (germs, insects, etc.). This is another form of the fallacy known as the “black or white” fallacy, that is, the only solutions to the problem are at the opposite ends of the two extremes. In other words, what they are saying is, “Because we cannot prevent the unintentional deaths of other living entities, therefore we should not even try. We should kill other life forms with gay abandon.”

This is true demoniac mentality. This type of “philosophy” justifies the killing of other life forms for the sake of the sense gratification of the tongue. Or to hold a “pigeon shoot” to raise funds for a park. Or to destroy a rainforest to clear land for beef cattle. Or to mow down a meadow to make room for a shopping mall. Or to submit animals to testing to ensure the safety of perfumes, so that the users may enhance their sex attraction. Or to engage in so-called “sport” hunting so that a father and son may “bond”.

Yes, there is an inevitable, unavoidable, and unintentional death of millions of life forms as we go about our daily business. But the purpose of ahimsa is to minimize killing, not to stop it. By being a vegetarian, we prevent the slaughter of innocent creatures. By refusing to wear leather or fur, we diminish the suffering in this world. By refusing to use cosmetics that have been tested on animals, we send a message to the pharmaceutical companies.

But the flesh-eater says, “You vegetarians aren’t minimizing killing. You’re just transferring it. Instead of killing animals, you’re killing plants. In fact, a vegetarian kills more plants than a meat-eater kills animals! How many wheat plants had to be killed just to take the place of a pound of meat, which is just a small fraction of a cow?” This is an interesting point. The person who says this undoubtedly thinks of himself as an intelligent individual, carefully weighing the pros and cons of every argument, and comes to a conclusion by the use of careful logic and deductive reasoning. He also probably sees himself as open-minded, level-headed… a practical, yet compassionate person.

You will soon see, however, that his open-mindedness and his judicial “weighing of the facts” will go right out the window as soon as he sees that his sense gratification is threatened. In other word, his compassion ends where his taste buds begin. Educate him concerning the facts: You have to feed 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to a cow to produce one pound of edible beef. In other words, to produce 500 pounds of meat on a 700 pound cow requires that the cow consume 8,000 pounds of grains and soybeans. And you can feed many, many more people with 8,000 pounds of grains and beans than would the 500 pounds of beef. So, the killing of a cow entails not only the cow’s death, but the death of all the plants that the cow ate during her lifetime. Therefore, if this person was truly sincere in his desire to minimize killing, even the killing of plants, he would become a vegetarian!

This “16-to-1” ratio concerning the wastefulness of meat production is widely accepted fact. No one can deny it. Any beef producer will admit that he buys (or grows) far more pounds of feed for his cattle than what he sells as meat. Meat production is horribly wasteful. Meat feeds few at the expense of many. Futurists predict that, as the population of the world grows, vegetarian diets will be the norm, since the limited resources of the planet will be unable to supply the demands required to produce meat. This is a major reason why India is able to grow its own food (and even export the excess)… because so many Indians are vegetarians. If they took to the wasteful American meat-centered diet, they would not be able to produce the grains and beans to feed the number of cattle required.

The above argument (concerning the wasteful 16-to-1 ratio of meat production) is a key argument in the ethical, ecological, and environmental arguments against meat-eating. In environmental matters, for instance, the largest culprit against the environment is the farm industry. Because it takes 16 times more food to feed cattle than what we receive in return, that means we are using 16 times more land than is necessary to produce food. And this land is mostly cleared forests and drained wetlands, which are growing in short supply, and are essential for the biological diversity of nature. While the US condemns Brazil for the destruction of the rainforest (at 60 acres a minute) for pastureland for beef cattle, the US is losing 12 acres of forest a minute, primarily to agriculture. The largest polluter of rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers (for water wells) is not the manufacturing industry, but the agriculture industry, by the runoff from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If the reduction of farmland was reduced by 1/16th (by switching to a vegetarian diet), everyone would still be fed, and the reduction of pollution would be enormous.

Furthermore, there is the shortage of water. In drought-stricken California, they are concerned about the lack of water. In fact, the mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean… it is used up before it gets there, primarily for irrigation of grains and soybeans… to feed beef cattle. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than half of the water that is used in the United States is used for livestock production.

This is an era of dwindling natural resources, especially fossil fuels (petroleum). It is such a concern that the US was willing to engage Iraq in war to preserve America’s access to the oil in the Persian Gulf region. It is interesting to note the findings of the US Department of Commerce: 33% of all raw materials used in the US is devoted to the production of livestock. Again, this is not just for the raising of the livestock, but includes the growing of the grains and beans to feed the livestock. It is estimated that it takes 2 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of protein from soybeans. But it takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef. If only one fifth of the people in the US were vegetarian, the US would no longer need to depend on imported oil. Although many Christians will say that a vegetarian diet is “un-American”, the fact of the matter is that a person who is sincerely concerned for the United States (in other words, a true patriot) would become a vegetarian!

The powerful meat industry has a feeble “response” to this damning data. Here it is: “The food that is fed to the animals is not fit for human consumption.” This is true, but it is not the whole truth. It is a clever way of misleading the public. It is not fit for human consumption because of the way it is processed after harvesting, with no sanitary measures. Once it is bought for animal feed, it is processed differently. But the crops in the field are certainly fit! 95% of the oats grown in the US are fed to livestock. Are we to naively believe that only 5% “meets the grade” for human consumption?

And then consider the ethical argument: it is estimated that 20,000,000 people per year die of malnutrition throughout the world. Yet if Americans would just reduce their intake of meat by only 10%, the amount of land, water, and energy freed could produce enough vegetarian food to feed 60,000,000 people annually.

Last, but not least, meat is unnecessary. There is no nutrient in meat that is not found in a vegetarian diet. The medical community constantly reminds us to cut down on meat intake. In fact, the only persons encouraging the increase of meat consumption is the American Meat Industry Board. Why do you think that is?

After presenting these arguments, you will soon see how open-minded your debate opponent really is. If meat is 1) wasteful, 2) unethical, 3) hazardous to health, 4) detrimental to the environment, and, most of all, 5) completely unnecessary, how can one justify its use? If one engages in such activities, simply to gratify his own senses, and these activities inflict pain on other sentient life forms, one can be sure that this is a prime example of demoniac mentality. “Those persons with the mentality of demons do not know what is to be done, and what is prohibited. They ignore proper behavior as well as truth… these foolish persons engage in useless activities meant for the pain and destruction of the world.” (Bhagavad-gita 16.7,9)

Criticism #3: the doctrine that the world is an illusion is preposterous. This is a classic case of misunderstanding, similar to the misconception I related earlier concerning Christians being mistaken for vampires and cannibals. Here the misunderstanding is in the definition of the word “illusion”. Here the confusion is in thinking that the word “illusion” means the same thing as “hallucination” or “delusion”, i.e., a figment of the imagination that has no basis in reality whatsoever. But when the Hindus use the word “illusion”, they are using the word in the same meaning as is given in any dictionary: “a mistaken perception of reality.”

The classic example to illustrate this is the example of a rope lying on the grass. One may easily think that it is a snake. That is an illusion. But the rope exists. The illusion is not whether or not the rope exists. The illusion is that one mistakenly perceives the rope to be a snake. So when Hindus speak of the material world as an illusion, they are not saying the material world does not exist. They are speaking about the mistaken perception of the world, that is thinking that the material world is separate from God. The material world may be a temporary manifestation, but it does exist.

Criticism #4: the Hindu doctrine that all religions are the same is wrong. This is a complete fabrication. Hindus do not say that all religions are the same. What Hindus do say is that there are many paths to God, although some are longer or more tortuous than others. And some religions are different gateways on the same path, some farther down the trail than others. Actually, all living entities are on the path back to Godhead. Not only are they on different paths, but the individual entity may occasionally take a few steps backward, or may stop for a while.

Of course, this concept of “many paths to God” would bring arguments from many fundamentalist Christians. They claim that the only path to God is Christianity (and, as I pointed out earlier, many believe that only their specific sect or sub-sect is valid… even other Christians are destined to hell). They point out that the fate of even the most upright Hindu or Buddhist is as dark as that of an unrepentant sinner, such as a murderer or rapist. Hinduism disagrees wholeheartedly with this elitist attitude. We believe that God is a God of justice, mercy, and compassion. The Christian view is that one should fear God, because He is a jealous god. But jealousy is born of insecurity… does this mean that God is insecure?

There is a mistake in thinking that there is a Christian God, a Moslem God, a Hindu God, etc. God is one, although He is known by many names. And the perception of Him is different, too. As a mundane example, consider a policeman. Store owners on his “beat” consider him a well-wishing ally; his co-workers consider him a good friend; his children think of him as their father; his parents think of him as their son; his wife thinks of him as her provider; and criminals on the street see him as a threat. The same person, yet perceived in many different ways.

In the same way, different people of different cultures perceive God in many different ways. The Judeo/Christian tradition perceives God as jealous (“for I the Lord thy God am a jealous god”, Exodus 20:5), and vengeful and vindictive (“vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”, Romans 12:19). The Christians proudly proclaim themselves “God-fearing people”, as if to stress that God is to be feared (as their “fire and brimstone” revivalist sermons attest).

In contrast, the Vedic tradition perceives God as karuna-sindhu (the Ocean of mercy and compassion); patita-pavana (the Friend of distressed). “I am the Shelter and the most dear Friend”, says the Bhagavad-gita (9.18). The perfection of life, according to the Bhagavata school, is prema, or pure, unadulterated love of God. Pure love cannot exist where there is fear of retribution.

Criticism #5: the Hindus are idolaters. Christians are fond of quoting this specific passage of the Bible: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or likeness of anything, that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous god.” (Exodus 20:3-5) This is part of the famed “Ten Commandments”. Although this portion of the Bible certainly has dubious authorship (see the Appendix), for the sake of argument we will suppose that it actually is valid. It is quite obvious here that God is referring to “other gods”. So, once again, they are thinking that the Christian God is different from the Hindu God.

Besides, they are attempting to judge one culture on the basis of their own culture. The Bible does have many pearls of wisdom in it. But Hindus do not consider it to be a revealed, authoritative scripture. The Old and New Testaments are yavana-shastras, or the scriptures of the flesh-eaters. Hindus consider the Bible to be their lawbook as much as Christians follow the Manu-samhita. If one does not recognize the validity of another person’s scripture, it is useless to hurl quotes and verses back and forth.

Criticism #6: Hindus worship the cow. Again, this is an attempt to judge one culture by the standards of another. But there is no “cow goddess” in any Hindu pantheon. They probably get this idea from seeing travelogues about India, and seeing the cows wandering the streets freely. Hindus have reverence for all forms of life; the cow just stands out in these scenes because of its large size. It is somewhat similar to the American habit of dogs running loose in the cities of the US. What with this, and dog shows, sections of the supermarket devoted to the family dog, and the outrage from the typical American when he learns that some orientals actually eat dogs… why, you would think that Americans worship the dog!

The cow and bull do have a special place in the hearts of Hindus. Because the cow gives milk, she is considered to be one of the mothers of man (along with the natural mother, the nurse, Mother Earth, etc.). And because the bull (and ox) plow the fields and thereby help produce food grains, he is considered to be one of the fathers of mankind.

Criticism #7: the Hindus worship many gods and demons. This is another misunderstanding .As for “worshiping many gods”, the Mayavadi school of Hinduism says that the different gods are different aspects of the Supreme Absolute Truth, Brahman (God) .On the other hand, the Bhagavata school teaches that the different gods (demigods, actually) are empowered living entities that serve God in different capacities, and are subordinate to God. There are sections in the Vedic literatures that recommend worship of specific demigods for specific benedictions. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the Vedic literature is to gradually elevate the living being to the perfectional stage of love of God. So, for one obsessed with material desires, he is encouraged to turn to the demigods. But as stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.20), “those deprived of knowledge because of desire turn to the worship of the demigods”, but “the results are temporary” (7.23). Therefore, demigod worship is not recommended for the ultimate benefit of the living entity: surrender to God is.

One would think that the Christians worship “many gods”, with their worship of the Trinity (the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost). And Satan seems to be regarded on a god-like level, since many Christians consider him to be all-pervading.

And regarding the “worship of demons”, this is truly a misunderstanding to the highest degree. Hindus do not worship any demons. There are fierce forms of Kali who represents material nature, as the destructive power of kala, or the time factor. But she is the personified external energy of God, and therefore His obedient servant. Then there is the fierce form of Narasimha, an incarnation of Narayana, who appeared in the form of a half-man, half-lion in order to protect the saint Prahlada Maharaja, offer salvation to the demon Hiranya-kashipu, and fulfil the promise of Brahma. Perhaps the ignorant may consider this awesome form as “demoniac”, but that is not the case.

Criticism #8: the Hindu attitude towards suffering in this world: since people are just suffering their own “karma”, there is no reason to help one’s fellow man. It is true that the material world is a place of misery, and the cause of our suffering is due to our past misdeeds. No one suffers unjustly.

But there is great stress in the Vedic scriptures that one should help improve the lives of others: “It is the duty of everyone to dedicate his life, intelligence, wealth, words, and his work to benefit other living beings.” (Bhagavata Purana 10.22.35)

Material welfare work is always welcomed and encouraged. But the Vedic literature also makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the best welfare work is not just compassion, but enlightened compassion. And what is enlightenment? Enlightenment means realizing that we are not these material bodies, which is certain to be destroyed in due course of time. Our actual nature is pure spirit. Action for the material bodies gives only temporary results. For permanent results, we need to benefit our spiritual natures.

If a person falls overboard off of a Ship, you do not claim the rescue a success if you manage to save only his clothes. This is exactly situation when mundane philanthropists are concerned only with the care and comfort of the external covering of the soul (the material body).

A somewhat similar sentiment is expressed in the Bible, Matthew 26:7-11… certain individuals were complaining that valuable oil was given to Jesus, instead of being sold, with the proceeds being given to help the suffering of the poor. Jesus said that “the poor will always be here. I (the spiritual teacher) won’t.”

Real, enlightened compassion means teaching people about dharma, about knowledge of God. It means instructing them about the ultimate cause of their suffering (their previous sinful activities), and how to prevent future suffering. Any compassionate act towards the body must be coupled with compassionate acts towards the soul as well. This is why when Hindu temples feed the hungry, they are not just distributing vegetarian foodstuffs… they distribute prasada, sanctified foodstuff, which, by consuming, one performs acts of devotion to God.

Another problem here is that many Christians confuse “service to God” with “service to man”. There is a gulf of difference between the two. Those who serve man attain the nature of man, those who serve God attain to His nature. One type of service is noble, with temporary results, the other type of service is infinitely more noble, with eternal results.

Criticism #9: The belief that Satan does not exist. This, in itself, is a trick of Satan… he wants to make people disbelieve in his existence. We do not believe in the existence of anything as being separate from God, or in the existence of an “anti-God” supreme spirit of evil.

In the Vedic literature, there are references to “asuras“, or demons, which refer to individuals who, blinded by ignorance, fight against dharma for their own twisted, selfish interests. But one of God’s names is “Vishnu”, which means “He Who pervades everywhere”. God is in every atom as well as in the hearts of everyone… even the “demons”. There is a historical account found in the Puranas concerning the powerful demon Hiranyakashipu. He hated Lord Vishnu so much that he was determined to kill Him. By using his mystic powers, he even traveled to other planets in search of God. But the Bhagavata Purana (8.19.0) relates that God was “hidden in the very last place Hiranyakashipu would have thought to look… in his own heart.”

Interestingly, this “God vs. Satan” concept brings up a paradox in Christianity: Satan is considered to be the enemy and nemesis of God. He works against God, and brings about misery upon the Earth. If God cannot stop Satan, then He is not all-powerful, although He may be all-good. But if He can stop Satan, then He is all-powerful, but since He chooses to not stop him, therefore He is not all-good. With this strongly dualistic philosophy (which has its roots in Zoroastrianism), God cannot be both all-good and all-powerful.

Zoroastrianism, founded around 500 years before Christ, basically believes in two Gods: Ahura-Mazda, the Deity of light and good, and Ahriman, the Deity of darkness and evil. Because things can be seen only by the absence of light (shadow) , they believe that the Evil One created the material world… and also misleads mankind. But Ahura-Mazda sends a Savior to lead the people back to the Light. As you can see, there are a number of similarities between this and Christianity. Not only the Satan/Savior conflict, but also the doctrine that nature is intrinsically evil.

This concept of having an “Evil One” like Satan for a scapegoat is often used as a cop-out to escape personal responsibility. After all, one could easily blame one’s own shortcomings and failings on the pretense of “the Devil made me do it”.

Furthermore, the belief in the existence of the Devil is used to promote ideas of separatism, an “us-against-them” mentality. For example, a hurricane damaging a Hindu temple is viewed by many Christians as “the wrath of God Almighty upon the heathens”, but if a lightning bolt were to hit a Christian church, it is “the work of the Devil”.

Criticism #10: The Hindu concept of the non-existence of evil. Again, the concept of evil is deeply rooted in dualism. What is perceived as evil is in reality ignorance. In fact, the more “evil” one is perceived to be, the more that person is ignorant of his actual constitutional position (his relationship with God). In such an “evil” state of mind, one can commit truly abominable actions in his own selfish interests (desire for wealth, power, etc.). It is as simple as that. It would be irresponsible to try to blame it on the unseen influences of diabolical powers.

Criticism #11: Only Christianity has a solution for the problem of sin. This is intriguing. Although Christians believe that the individual soul did not exist before its conception in the womb, they still maintain that all men are born into sin, tainted with the “original sin”. Although Jesus exhorts people to “be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”, they say that man is inherently a sinful creature, and that Christ’s death on the cross paid for all of our sins… all we have to do is acknowledge that sacrifice. Furthermore, many Christians believe that there is no need to stop sinning, as long as you have faith in Christ’s sacrifice.

Hinduism maintains that sinful activities are due to ignorance. And Hinduism does indeed have a solution to the problem of sin, which is, through the acquisition of knowledge, understanding that the ultimate cause of sin is desire. All sinful activity, and the resultant suffering, is due to desire. A simple look at the world and you can see that practically everyone is in a mad rush to exploit the Earth and other living entities (including his fellow man) in the desire to enjoy. The very motto of civilization is “Enjoy! Entertain yourself!” Human society runs on desire. Even our economy depends on it.

Desire is the cause of sinful activities. And sinful activities is the cause of suffering. Fully 100% of man’s inhumanity to man is due to desire. The desire for wealth breeds crime and mistrust. The desire for adoration results in envy and arguments. Desire is actually a web, with desire feeding on desire. Desirous to appear desirable to members of the opposite sex, one desires wealth, a fancy car, a fancy wardrobe, etc.

The very basis of Hindu and Buddhist thought is in stressing the importance of the necessity to control desire. The Bhagavad-gita (3.37) calls desire the greatest enemy of the world. By even contemplating desire, one can fall down from the spiritual platform (2.62-63), and desire is one of the three gates leading towards a future hellish existence (16.21). But by conquering desire, one becomes peaceful and serene.

Although Jesus clearly instructed that “ye cannot serve both God and Mammon (cupidity personified, i.e., desire)”, it is quite evident that Christianity never addresses the issue of the role of desire at all. Why? Because instead of understanding the necessity of purifying and transforming one’s own consciousness (as a requisite for salvation), they believe that salvation is a “reward” for their faith. Incidently, this is a major reason for the growth of Christianity (especially ill India). One of the main tactics most Christian missionaries use is to teach Hindus that there is no need to follow their religious restrictions. Just as long as they believe in Jesus, they can eat meat, drink, and make merry… and still go to heaven! They are taught that disciplining the mind and controlling the senses is unnecessary, or even unhealthy. Sinful activities are like fire, and desire is the fuel that feeds the flames. You cannot extinguish fire by pouring fuel onto it.

In short, the Christian tactic to end sin is to try to smother the fire… but the fire soon returns. The Vedic and Buddhist strategy is to cut off the fuel supply to the fire.

CHAPTER THREE: DIALOGS WITH CHRISTIANS

What follows is a compilation of dialogs I have had with Christians. The statements in italics is the comment/question of the Christian, and what follows is my response.

Do you accept Jesus Christ as the son of God? Of course we do. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (14.4) that God is the Father of all… even of insects and plants, as well as the human beings. Therefore we are all His sons, which, of course, includes Jesus.

But do you accept Jesus as the only begotten son of God? Is God so limited that He can beget only one son? In the Bhagavata Purana (10.90.34), we find a partial list of other begotten sons of God: Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Diptiman, Bhanu, Samba, and others.

But Jesus was special. He died for His people. Did Pradyumna die for his people? No. Pradyumna is described to be just like His father… He is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, that is, eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. He has no material body, and can never die.

If He never dies, then where is He? Sometimes God manifests Himself, and sometimes He is unmanifest (not visible to our eyes). He is like the sun… when the sun sets, does it die? No, it is just invisible to our material eyes. It is beyond the horizon, but it is still there.

This concept of Jesus “dying for his people” is a philosophic fallacy known as “argumentum ad misericordium”, or all “appeal to pity”. This is committed when one appeals to another’s pity rather than giving evidence to support a conclusion. Besides, many people die for their people, or for a cause, or for their country, or for their religion. Soldiers give up their lives for their people. Does that make them a divine savior?

Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross is hardly an “argument topity”. ..it is an expression of the love of God for the world. And why does God need to send his son to his death?

Because “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) That sounds nice, but it does not answer the question. God is all-powerful. He can easily deliver everyone in an instant, if He so chooses. He has no need to send His son to his death.

Furthermore, death does not exist for the soul, so there is no question of one “perishing”. We have always existed, and we will always continue to exist, says the Bhagavad-gita (2.12).

It is important to understand the role intelligent thought has in our Search for God. Emotional fervor can get in the way of common sense and logic.

Also, it is apparent that the supposed “miracle” of the resurrection is supposed to instill faith amongst the Christians. This is one of their main claims as to the “specialness” of their religion. Yet, what value are miracles in instilling faith? If you point out a miracle in Christianity, you say that it is the work of God. But if someone points out a miracle in another religion, you immediately brand it as “a trick of Satan.”

But only Christianity has a solution to the problem of sin: Adam. the first man, sinned. Man, down to the present day, inherited this sin at birth. In other words, man is born in sin, and he is destined for an eternity in hell. But, just by having faith in Christ Jesus, you can be saved. This is an expression of the love and mercy of God Almighty. Threatening someone with an eternity of torment in hell is hardly an expression of love and mercy. We Hindus believe that God is a God of justice. No one is more just than God. This concept of “man inheriting the sins of Adam” does not speak of a God of justice. If a government were to arrest and punish citizens for their distant forefather’s crimes, we would be outraged at such an exhibition of lawlessness and utter disregard for the most basic of human rights. Yet you ascribe this to God? How is that a “solution to the problem of sin”?

But God makes it easy to be free. Just have faith in Jesus. Jesus’ grace is not earned, it’s freely given. All we have to do is accept it. Those who don’t are lost forever. It is becoming more and more obvious of the huge gulf of difference between the Christian conception of God and the Hindu perception of God. We believe that God is not only a God of justice, but also a God of unfathomable mercy, compassion, and love. Christians believe in an eternal hell of intense torment and pain. What value is punishment if there is no hope of it ending? What value is there in this, if the soul does not have a chance to mend his ways, and to apply the lessons he has learned? Such a concept of eternal punishment is not a concept of rehabilitation, but is a concept of pure, naked vengeance. This is not the acts of a God of love, mercy, and compassion. Living for only a few, short years on this planet, and all of eternity depending upon these few years? And consider the inequity in this world: one child may be born in a comfortable home in a small town in America. Another may be born in a squalid crime-infested ghetto. One child obviously has the deck stacked against him, being born and raised in a climate of sin and hate. Are both judged equally? And what criterion is used to judge a person after death? Does a person who is 51% sinful and 49% pious burn in hell as much as a person who is 99% sinful? There are many, many inequities to the concept of endless punishment and eternal damnation. And that is not the hallmarks of a God of justice.

You Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation. So what is the value of reincarnation if you can’ t remember your past lives? There is no rehabilitation there, either. The ultimate purpose of reincarnation is not for punishment (although the embodied soul certainly receives his due share of miseries from his embodied existences). The soul transmigrates to other bodies simply because that is the soul’s desire. God is very kind. If we want to live with Him, that is, if we truly desire to live with Him, we will be liberated from samsara, the cycle of birth and death. But if we want to remain here in the material world, trying to chew the chewed, trying our best to squeeze every drop of enjoyment from this world, trying to make a kingdom of God without God, then we will be given our desire… another material body. But, even when we receive another material body, we are given chance after chance to mend our ways and pursue our real self-interest… redeeming our relationship with God.

And after many, many millions of lifetimes, a wise person will begin to understand that no matter what material endeavors he makes, the results are finished at the time of death. He cannot take his wealth with him to his next body. Being materially exhausted, he can finally begins spiritual life. It is written that one can become serious about spiritual life only when he is materially frustrated. So even the so-called material miseries can actually be a blessing in disguise. There is a Hindu saying that “if God likes you, He will give you everything, but if He loves you, He will take everything away.” In this way, by showing His special mercy, the living being quickly realizes that God is the only thing that matters.

But just look at the bounty God has blessed America! Surely that is a sign he favors us Christians. If that was the case, then God must really favor the Moslems, since certain oil-rich Arab states have the highest per-capita income in the world, and they are blessed with favorable climate. You cannot equate material happiness with God’s blessings. Tyrants and ruthless kings have lived lives of luxury. It is important to understand that material wealth is not always in the living being’s best interests. He may come under the spell of illusion, thinking, “The material world is not so bad. Who needs God?” Real wealth is spiritual wealth.

By the way, it is questionable to consider the United States “blessed”. Drug use is rampant, crime haunts both the cities as well as the countryside. Millions of abortions a year. 45,000 murders a year, shootings in schoolyards. Although Christianity has had a strong foothold here in the United States since the very beginning, it is still glaringly obvious that something has gone awry with the social fabric. And yet you criticize India’s “backward ways” and want to export Western culture there? Even in your own Bible, Jesus admonished the sanctimonious hypocrites, saying, “Before you can remove the speck in your brother’s eye, first remove the log in your own.”

In Hindu’s homes in India, the center of the home is the family altar, where spiritual values are shared. In America, the center of the home is the family television set, where the favorite fare is sitcoms, where anti-social skills are learned (the favorite source of “humor” in sitcoms is usually insults being hurled back and forth) .

In India, it is the goal of every Hindu to visit the different places of pilgrimage (especially after retirement), such as Varanasi, Vrindavana, Badarikashrama, and great temples such as the temples of Venkateswara, Jagannatha and Rangaksetra. In the United States, the places of pilgrimage are either Disney World, or, after retirement, Las Vegas, a mecca of gambling, intoxication, and legalized prostitution.

So if you say God is a God of love, why doesn’t He take away everyone’s opulence? It depends upon the individual’s spiritual evolution. Taking away someone’s opulence is beneficial only for the person is who ready to surrender to God. Other people would become angry and bitter at their misfortune.

If a person believes in reincarnation, he will think. “Oh, I can enjoy this time… in the next lifetime I will become serious about God. Yes, he might think like that. But he may not be in a position, next time around, to become serious about God. His next body may be that of an animal or a flea… or even a bacteria inside the bowels of the flea. This human form of life is actually very rarely obtained. Instead of pursuing sense gratification, which is so easily obtainable in other life forms, we should fully utilize this human form of life for God realization.

So this concept of reincarnation in to other species is related to your concept of non-violence and vegetarianism. But animals have no souls. According to Genesis in the Bible, man was given dominion over all the animals. So there is no sin in killing animals. Animals are here for our enjoyment. As for man being given “dominion over the animals”, look in the dictionary as to what the word “dominion” means. It means “authority or control”. A man has “dominion” over his children, but that does not give him the right to kill and eat them! And as for the pernicious doctrine that “animals have no souls”, there is absolutely NO place in the Bible where it is stated, or even hinted, that animals have no souls. This doctrine is not found in the Bible at all, but from the speculations of Aquinas and Augustine. Animals feel pain, we feel pain. We fear death, animals fear death. Animals seek pleasure and warmth, and so do we. Even the ancient Greeks, such as Plato, observed that animals dream (as evidenced by dogs barking in their sleep).

But humans are extremely intelligent. That is what makes them special, that is evidence of their soul. A young child has less intelligence than a dog. Does that mean the child has no soul? What about people in a degenerative mental state? Do they have no soul?

But if all life forms have the same quality of soul, why are not animals as intelligent as humans? Because they can express themselves only through the body they are in. Here is an example: suppose an expert computer programmer has to program two separate computers. One computer is an 8-bit, 1 mHz microcomputer, and the other is a 32-bit, 50 mHz mainframe. In this example, the programmer represents the soul, and the computers are the brains of the different bodies the soul may inhabit. If you were looking at the output of the two computers, you would see the output of the mainframe is much faster and better than that of the smaller computer. So you might assume that the programmer of the mainframe is much smarter than the programmer of the micro-computer. But, in reality, it is the same programmer! He is just limited to the computer he uses. In the same way, one may think that a human soul is different (and much more advanced) than an animal soul.

By the way, this analogy is also useful when explaining the results of brain injuries. After a brain injury, a person may act confused, or lose his ability to control his emotions, etc. But the soul is undamaged. It is just that the soul’s mechanism for expression (the body and brain) has been damaged. Just as a computer with a faulty keypad would seriously hamper the computer’s activities, even though the programmer is the same as he always was.

The Bhagavad-gita explains it in this way: some embodied souls are compared to smoke-covered fire. These are the souls encased in human bodies, where a dim glimmer of God consciousness can be perceived. Other souls are compared to dust-covered mirrors, which are the souls in animals… the spiritual nature of these beings is almost imperceptible. And, finally, the other embodied souls are compared to an embryo encased in a womb, which represent the souls in plants, where their consciousness is so covered that it is imperceptible.

So the injunction to not kill other living entities seems important to you. Then why is it not mentioned in the Bible? It is mentioned, in Exodus 20:13, where the list of the Ten Commandments is given: “Thou shalt not kill.”

We interpret this to mean, “Thou shalt not murder (another human being)”. “Interpret”, according to the dictionary, means “to explain in familiar terms that which is obscurely worded”.The sentence “thou shalt not kill” is hardly obscurely worded. It is crystal clear, and needs no such “interpretation”.

Besides, that’s part of the Old Testament. We, as Christians, are mainly concerned with the New Testament, and the teachings of Jesus. Why did Jesus not say anything against meat-eating? Actually, Jesus made the commandments even more strict. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus quotes the commandment “thou shalt not kill”, and then said that even one who is angry is in danger of jeopardizing his salvation.

Besides, how do you know that Jesus did not speak out against meat eating? Jesus lived for 33 years, yet the Bible only speaks of his childhood, and the last three years of his life. All of the Jesus’ speeches in the Bible would take less than an hour to read. After 33 years, only one hour’s worth of speeches? Some scholars believed that Jesus was an Essene Jew, many of whom practiced vegetarianism.

Well, maybe only an hour of his speeches was recorded, but everything we need to know that is important is there in the Bible. That is an audacious thing to say. Remember, Jesus never compiled the books for the New Testament, nor did he choose which books were going to make it into the canon, nor did he even write any of the books. Other people did, and they were guided by unknown motives.

If Jesus was so concerned about animals, why did he multiply the loaves and fishes? Why not just loaves and vegetables? Jesus told his disciples to bring whatever was available, and they replied, “We have only these five loaves and two fish.” But, even if this really happened, that does not condone animal slaughter. If you live in a place like the Middle East, that is one thing. But to slaughter animals when the grocery shelves are full or grains, fruits, and vegetables is another thing altogether. To cause any living entity to suffer needlessly is a great offense.

Besides, just speaking from a practical, realistic standpoint, if we did not eat the animals, they would overpopulate the Earth. This is nonsense, a truly narrow vision. Farm animals are forced to reproduce, especially by artificial insemination. To encourage the breeding of livestock, and at the same time, saying, “We have to eat them, or they will overrun the Earth” is true demoniac thinking.

But what about wild animals? With the animals’ natural predators gone, their populations must be curbed. Human hunters take up the ecological “niche” left behind by the disappearance of the predators. Human hunters hardly fill the ecological “niche” of the natural predators. Natural predators attempt “easy” kills, so they will automatically attack only the weak or the sickly prey, which leaves only the fittest and strongest of the preyed species to survive, passing on their genes for the benefit of the species. Human hunters, on the other hand, will invariably go after the “trophy”, the biggest and strongest member of the herd. Thus they do not weed out the sickly members of the herd that a natural predator would target. This is entirely contrary to the laws of nature.

If hunters were truly sincere in their claims that they are doing this to help restore nature’s balance, they would immediately stop their slaughter of the natural predators, and help restore areas for wildlife to flourish.

It seems to me that you people worship the creation. and not the Creator. Both respect for the creation and the creator go hand in hand. As Chief Seattle said, “those who abuse the creation heap contempt on the Creator.” How can you claim to worship someone if you scorn his creation? If you were to vandalize your landlord’s property, what value is your claim that you respect and admire your landlord?

There is enough human misery in this world. Why waste the time and energy being concerned for animals? First, let’s take care of our fellow man, then we’ll worry about the animals. First, it takes no time or energy to stop our abuse of animals. Second, this material world will always be a place of misery. You can attempt to minimize the suffering, but there will always be suffering here. So to say to “wait until we have solved mankind’s problems” is irresponsible because it will never happen. Third, it is quite clear that our use of animals for food is responsible for a tremendous amount of human misery (starvation, disease., etc.) .Fourth, our abuse of our fellow creatures is also hurting us. For instance, wetlands are important in flood control (by acting as a giant “sponge” to absorb excess rain, and then slowly releasing the excess). By destroying the wetlands, we are only hurting ourselves. Man’s tampering with nature only hurts mankind in the end. And finally, there is the subtle law of karma. Man’s malicious treatment of other living entities will revisit him in the form of sinful reactions in the future. Therefore, anyone truly sincere in his desire to alleviate the suffering of his fellow man will avoid causing unnecessary pain to his fellow creatures.

How do you know your scriptures are valid? We say your scriptures are useless. And, apparently, you think our own Bible is worthless as well. Speaking for myself, I can say that following the Vedic principles has made me a better person. As for the Bible, we do not accept the Bible as a revealed scripture, but we most certainly do not consider it useless. It was valuable to help elevate the people of that ancient time and place to a higher level of consciousness. Basically, the Bible instructs, “Be good. Don’t kill or steal. Worship God. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

But we believe that our own scriptures, being divinely transmitted to man, places us on a closer path to God, on a higher level of consciousness, and on a far higher ethical and moral plane.

It is like the science of numbers: First you have arithmetic; then you move up to mathematics. Still higher is algebra, and higher still is calculus. The existence of calculus does not negate, or even minimize, the importance of basic arithmetic.

In the same way, certain scriptures are on a higher spiritual plane. But that does not negate the lesser scriptures. They, too, have their place.

And this concept of higher planes of God consciousness is reflected in the Bible itself: Jesus said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)

APPENDIX: Authorship of the Bible

This is a list of the authorship of the Bible, according to most modern biblical scholars. This information can be found by looking in any encyclopedia. The scholars base their conclusions by carefully weighing the evidence… there is a reason why they feel the way they do. Although many Christians (and especially many fundamentalist Christians) try to minimize or even ignore these scholarly conclusions, the fact remains that they are completely unable to counter these arguments by any evidence whatsoever. Although they are quick to accept archeological data that verifies a piece of biblical history, and they are quick to accept scholars’ conclusions on the questionable nature of the scriptures of other religions, they completely downplay a critical, unbiased study of their own supposedly “infallible” scripture, the Bible. Which is ironic, since their entire claim to spiritual superiority rests on their premise that the Bible is perfect and flawless.

In the following analyses, it is important to watch for the references to “editing”, “rewriting”, and “additions” to the books of the Bible. These changes to the Bible might make one wonder, “Why did someone find it necessary to change this scripture? What was their motive? What was the original scripture lacking? Or what did it say that someone felt it was necessary to change? And who did the changing?”

After reading this section, the obvious question that comes to mind is, “How can someone base their life, and condemn other religions, on such a scripture?”
THE OLD TESTAMENT

It doesn’t take a scholar to realize that autobiography is very rarely found in it. It is mostly written in the third person (“he said”, or “she said”, rather than “I said”). Scholars say that the vast majority of the Old Testament consists of stories that were handed down via the unreliable method of oral transmission before they were finally written down. There was a long journey from the creation of these stories until the time they were compiled… and this journey involved storytellers and editors.

It is also important to note that almost none of the books in the Old Testament have “signature verses”. Christians and Jews maintain different “traditional” authors, although they have little or no evidence to support these claims. There is also a common misunderstanding among many Christians that the books are by individuals, rather than about individuals. For example, many Christians believe a man named Job wrote the book in the Old Testament, “The Book of Job”. But here, as elsewhere, “of” means “about”, not “by”. This is quite clear in the very first verse of that book: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job…” (Job 1:1)

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: These first five books of the Bible are known as the “Pentateuch”, and tradition ascribes these books to have been written by Moses. This is highly unlikely since these books tell of the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5)! In reality, these books are actually anonymous and composite works. In these books are two and different accounts of Creation, of the “flood”, and of the plagues of Egypt. Scholars have overwhelming evidence that Genesis was compiled from several different sources. They also feel that Exodus and Leviticus were written by members of the priesthood in the 5th or 6th century BC.

Joshua: Scholars maintain that this book is drawn from a number of different sources. The oldest passages of the book date from the 10th century BC, but were rewritten around the 7th century BC by members of the Deuteronomic school. Around the 5th century BC, persons motivated by priestly matters added to or rewrote altogether the entire second half of the book.

Judges: The traditional author of this book was Samuel. However, scholars believe that it was written after the death of Samuel; chapters 2-16 are believed to be written by members of the Deuteronomic school, and chapters 17-21 are considered to be an addition by priests in the 5th century BC.

Ruth: Nothing is known about the author or when it was written. Scholars point out that certain references in the book show that it was written sometime in the “post-exilic” period, probably sometime between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC.

Samuel (1 and 2): Scholars concur that these books are clearly composite works. Some scholars maintain that the books were composed from an “Early Source”, which dates around the time of the reign of Solomon (961-922 BC), and the “Late Source”, which dates from around the 7th century BC. Other scholars believe that there were three sources, known as “J”, “L”, and “E”. In both theories, it is interesting to note that the Early Source (or J and L) favors the establishment of the monarchy as divinely willed. Yet the Late Source (or E), clearly disapproves of the concept of a monarchy, saying it rejects the role of God as the true king! This is an example of one of the many contradictions of the Bible (even though so many fundamentalists claim the Bible to be “harmonious”).

There are other inconsistencies as well. For example, in 1 Samuel 17, David is credited with killing the giant Goliath. But in 2 Samuel 21:19, Elhanan, son of Jaareoregim, is credited with the act. Another point to mention is that if you look in the popular King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, and turn to 2 Samuel 21:19, you will see “the brother of” (Goliath) in italics. This italic print means that it was an embellishment of the editor of tile KJV, in an attempt to cover up this inconsistency (by making it appear that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath, as opposed to Goliath himself). But if you look in a reputable version of the Bible, such as the New English Bible, you will see the original rendition: that Elhanan killed Goliath. Any italic print you see in the KJV is a modification by the editor of that book.

Kings (1 and 2): The traditional author is ascribed to be Jeremiah. However, modern scholars have determined that it was actually composed by at least two anonymous authors. The earlier author wrote his portion sometime before the death of Josiah, the king of Judah, in 610 BC. The second portion is thought to have been written around 60 years later. They reason this by noticing that the last historical event mentioned occurred around that time, and no mention at all was made of the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, a significant historical event that certainly would have been worthy of mention. Both authors, however, certainly seemed to have been motivated by a nationalistic fervor in the cause of Israel.

Chronicles (1 and 2), Ezra, Nehemiah: Almost all scholars agree that that these four books were written by the same author(s). Internal evidence suggests that he (or they) was a member of a priestly tribe, probably a Levite. Nothing is known about the author, neither his name, nor his character. Like most books of the Bible, the author was anonymous.

In Chronicles 1 and 2, the author refers to other books, but scholars are uncertain as to which are genuine references, and which are embellishments of the author. Most scholars agree that these books contain many later additions, and that the entire work took from 332 to 167 BC to complete.

It is also obvious that the author used specific references from the books of Samuel and Kings (which scholars say is less inaccurate), significantly modified to suit the author’s point of view. The writer attempted to find answers to such troubling questions as “Why do good people sometimes suffer? And why do the unjust sometimes flourish?” In attempting to answer these questions, it is notable that the author rejected source material which did not further his aim.

Also, although fundamentalists consider the entire Bible harmonious, there are many inconsistencies with the book of Chronicles and the book of Kings.

Esther: This book is not even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because the mood of this book is hateful and vengeful, with nationalistic overtones, and completely secular in nature, early Jewish scholars were reluctant to include it into the Bible. But, bowing down to popular demand, it was eventually included, but not until AD 90! It is interesting to note that the Greek version of this book contains over 100 additional verses that were not in the original Hebrew version!

Job: Modern scholars say that not only was this book written anonymously, the author used, as his sources, an Israelite or Edomite folktale.

Psalms: This is one of the few sections of the entire Bible which contains signature lines. 74 or the psalms are attributed to David, and 32 to other authors… but all of the remainder are of unknown authorship. Christians and Jews have always attributed the authorship of this entire book (or at least the editorship) to David, but in reality, this book is a collection of psalms that took almost 800 years to compile.

Proverbs: Traditionalists attribute this book to Solomon, but scholars point out that it was probably written around 600 years later (by an unknown person) because it is clear that the author(s) were heavily influenced by Greek philosophical systems of thought, such as Epicureanism and Stoicism.

Song of Solomon: You would think that this book would be written by Solomon, but scholars believe that it was composed 400-600 years later, and that it was obviously influenced by cultic and pagan rituals.

Isaiah: Traditionally ascribed to Isaiah, but scholars maintain that the first 36 chapters were of his teachings, and the rest were the teachings of his disciples.

Jeremiah: One of the very few books of the Old Testament that contains first-person references (although this is only a part of the book). Other sections are third-person accounts, probably from the students of Jeremiah. The rest clearly shows the influence of the Deuteronomic school. The entire book shows evidence of tampering in the form of editing.

Lamentations: Traditionalists say that the author was Jeremiah, but educated scholars say that it was composed by different anonymous authors. Chapter 5 is clearly a later, edited addition of the book. Actually, the ascription of the book to Jeremiah is the result of a misunderstanding of 2 Chronicles 35:25, which says that the lamentation of Jeremiah for the king Josiah “are written in the lamentations”. But the book of Lamentations never even mentions Josiah.

Ezekiel: This is one of the very few books where the majority of the book was probably written by its namesake. But the last nine chapters are believed by scholars to have been a later edition by the disciples of Ezekiel.

Daniel: This book is traditionally ascribed to Daniel (who lived in the 6th century BC). In this book, he tells of his kidnapping by Babylonians from Jerusalem. But since there is absolutely no historical record of a Babylonian attack on Jerusalem until about 400 years later, the actual date is estimated to have been in the 2nd century BC, by an anonymous author.

Although the traditionalists tend to categorize this book with the other so-called “prophetical” books, it is important to note that this book is not even mentioned in the directory of famous Hebrew writings, the “Wisdom of Sirach” (200 BC)!

Also, although the traditionalists ascribe this book to one author, a significant portion (2:4 through 7:28) is written in another language, Aramaic (the remainder of the book being in Hebrew). Furthermore, historians note numerous historical inaccuracies mentioned in this book (when compared against other historical records of that time, as well as other books of the Old Testament) .

Hosea: Again, traditionally ascribed to Hosea. But scholars believe that portions (1:10-11 and the latter half of the second chapter) are later additions. In is interesting to note that these two additional sections are verses which describe the “specialness” of the Jewish people.

Joel: Absolutely nothing is known about the author, except his name (Joel).

Amos: Traditionally ascribed to Amos, but scholars believe that this was written after his death. They also point out that the end of this book (9:8-15) differs so dramatically from the rest of the book that it must have been an even later addition, which deals with the people of Israel, the favorites of Jehovah, being spared the divine wrath.

Obadiah: The traditionalists say this book was written by Obadiah. But biblical scholars question the unity of the book, and maintain that more than one author wrote it (one of which may have been Obadiah). Aside from that, absolutely nothing is known about this Hebrew prophet. Regarding the question of unity of this book, it is interesting to note that this entire book is only 21 verses in length!

Jonah: Tradition holds that this book was written by the prophet Jonah, who, according to Judeo/Christian mythology, lived in the 8th century BC and was swallowed by a giant fish. But scholars point to evidence that this work was written anonymously about 300 years later, in the post-exilic period. Among their evidence, they point to 1) the later form of Hebrew used by the author(s), and 2) the familiarity of the author(s) with other post-exilic works.

The traditionalists say this, and so many other books of the Bible, are autobiographical works. But even a casual glance at these books show they were written by another (unknown) person. Using this book as an example, let us examine chapter 1, verse 17: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.” This is clearly a third-person account. A first-person account would read, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow me up. And I was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.”

What evidence do the fundamentalists produce in supporting their claim that Jonah is the author? Absolutely none. There is nothing in the book that even suggests a signature verse.

And remember, I am just using this book as an example. The exact same case could be made against the vast majority of the so-called “autobiographical” books.

Micah: Again, the traditionalists say that this book was written by Micah. But, again, scholars say that it is a composite work. Chapters 1-3 seem to have actually have been written by him, except for the 12th and 13th verses of the second chapter, which appears to have been a later addition. These last two verses speak of the restoration of the tribes of Israel, probably to bolster the Zionist effort. Scholars maintain that the contents of chapters 4 through 7 reflect circumstances that occurred long after Micah’s life. Therefore, Micah could not have been the author of these chapters.

Nahum: Traditionalists believe this book was written by Nahum. Scholars have found no evidence to disagree with this. Of course, the traditionalists have no evidence that it was written by Nahum… this is a type of philosophic fallacy wherein a conclusion is “proven” true on the basis that it has not been proven false.

Habakkuk: Scholars believe that the first two chapters were actually written by Habakkuk, although absolutely nothing is known about this person. But the rest of the book is considered to be a later addition by an anonymous author. The scholars strong, irrefutable evidence: there was no reference to that part of the book in the Habakkuk Commentary of the Dead Sea scrolls.

Zephaniah: Tradition attributes it to the prophet Zephaniah, but scholars say that chapters 2 and 3 were added later. And the end of the third chapter was all even later addition. Again, this later addition speaks of the Jews regaining their homeland.

Haggai: Although traditionalists believe that this was written hy the prophet Haggai, scholars doubt this, pointing to the impersonal third-person references to him as “the prophet”.

Zechariah: Tradition holds that this was written by Zechariah himself. This may be the case, in the first eight chapters. But scholars point to the last six chapters, which differ significantly from the first eight, in language, style, theology, and other matters. This dramatic difference leads the scholars to believe that this section was composed over a century later than the first part of the book.

Malachi: Early Jewish commentators believed that this book was written by Ezra, but scholars believe that is was written later.

THE NEW TESTAMENT

Before discussing the authorship of the New Testament, it is important to remember that much of the justification of the New Testament is due to the supposed fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. But, as is clearly shown above, the authorship and the authenticity of the Old Testament is highly doubtful. You cannot build a sturdy house on a flimsy foundation. Similarly, you cannot have a sound argument when your premise for your argument is a weak, shaky presumption.

The philosophic “center” of the New Testament is the first four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which are known as the “Gospels”. The rest of the New Testament is, for all practical purposes, an elaboration on these four books. Many Christians believe that these four Gospels were written by the direct disciples of Christ, but, as you will see, this is hardly the case. So even the beloved Gospels are not free from the nagging doubt of dubious authorship. Christians cite the similarity of the Gospels as “proof” of their authenticity. But the similarities between these four books is due to the existence of a alleged collection of the sayings of Jesus called “Q”. The compiler of Q is unknown. Christians place enormous faith that this unknown person(s) did not 1) fabricate his own sayings to suit his own agenda, and 2) use sayings from questionable sources.

Also, as I noted earlier, there were over 50 different Gospels in circulation at the time the New Testament was compiled. Since the persons choosing the canon used only books that were, more or less, harmonious, it is reasonable to conclude that the results would be… harmonious books!

For example, one book that did not make it into the New Testament was the “Gospel of Peter I”, because the book does not consider the Crucifixion as an act of atonement. Similarly, the “Acts of John” was not included because of its subversion of traditional Christian teachings (such as denying the reality of Christ’s physical body). It may be argued that these (and many other books) were not included because of “questionable authorship”, but the authorship of these books is no less questionable than other books that have been included.

Another significant, disquieting fact concerning the New Testament is the widely used literary tradition at that time of pseudonymously ascribing new works to a venerated personage of the past in order to give the new concoction credibility! This has, indeed, serious implications for the entire New Testament.

Matthew: Traditionalists believe that this is the earliest of the four Gospels, and was written by St. Matthew, one of the 12 apostles. However, most modern scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was earlier, and that the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew upon the Gospel of Mark for material. This is significant, because the Gospel of Mark is indeed of highly questionable authorship (see below). They base these beliefs on internal and external evidence. And this evidence also casts strong doubts that St. Matthew wrote this book. They have narrowed down the date of the writing of this book between 70 and 80 AD.

Mark: Traditionalists believe that St. Mark wrote this book. And many Christians believe that St. Mark was one of the 12 apostles, but that is not the case. The very earliest evidence concerning the authorship of this Gospel comes from the 3rd century, from a church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, who in turn quotes a writer who lived a hundred years earlier, whose name was Papias… who in turn quotes a still earlier person called only “the elder”. This quote refers to the author, Mark, being an interpreter of Peter, whose name was John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas. But there are reasons to doubt this. Because most early Christians linked this Gospel to Mark, the “elder” did his best to at least try to link the author with a man named “Mark” (Peter’s interpreter). The conclusion by most scholars that the author was an otherwise unknown man (named Mark), who drew on a large number of traditions to compose this work.

It is also interesting to note that many Greek manuscripts end with the eighth verse of the 15th chapter. Yet the Bible today ends with verse 20! Most scholars believe that the final 12 verses were added by a 2nd century monk or scribe to make a more satisfying ending.

Luke: Attributed to St. Luke, although very little is know about St. Luke, except that he may have been a traveling companion of St. Paul. And, like Paul, there is no record or mention of St. Luke even meeting Christ. Therefore, even if this gospel was written by St. Luke, it would clearly be at best a second-hand account of the biography of the savior of the Christians, and was written 40 or 50 years after Christ’s death. Modern scholars agree that the Gospel of Luke is clearly based on the earliest Gospel (Mark), and that the author used two major interpolations (Luke 6:20-8:3, and 9:51-18:14) from the collection of supposed sayings of Jesus, “Q”, and from a large body of oral traditions (commonly referred to as “L”).

John: The authorship of this book has created heated controversy since the 1800’s. Although traditionalists have always believed that the author of this book was St. John the Evangelist, in actuality there are four candidates for authorship: 1) it was written by a person known as “the elder”, as mentioned in the Epistles of John; 2) it was written by a student of St. John the Evangelist; 3) it was written by Lazarus of Bethany; or 4) it was written by an anonymous person in Alexandria a hundred years after Christ’s death.

Also, scholars generally agree that the entire 21st chapter is a later addition. This chapter deals with Christ’s supposed resurrection.

Acts of the Apostles: Traditionally believed that the author was St. Luke, but, since there is no reference to this within the book itself, there are many doubts to this. Many scholars contend that it was written by someone who had acquired the diary of a traveling companion of St. Paul. Scholars point out that it was written around AD 62-90, and was written in Greek, instead of Hebrew.

Romans; Corinthians (1 and 2); Galatians: Attributed to Paul.

Ephesians: Traditionally attributed to Paul, but it is doubted by many modern scholars because of the extreme differences of tone, vocabulary, and writing style as compared to authentic letters of Paul.

Phillippians: Attributed to Paul.

Colossians: Although traditionally ascribed to Paul, many scholars have strong doubts about this because of the differences of vocabulary used (as compared to genuine Pauline writings).

1 Thessalonians: Attributed to Paul.

2 Thessalonians: Attributed to Paul, although, based on internal and external evidence, many scholars tend to doubt this.

Timothy (1 and 2); Titus: Traditionally attributed to Paul, but most scholars believe otherwise due to the fact that the style and vocabulary differ in significant ways from authentic works by Paul. Also, historical events as reflected in these works do not fit into any known situation of Paul’s life. The scholars believe that these books are by an unknown author(s) who used the name of Paul to give it an air of authority. This is important because in the book of Timothy, Paul condemns those who say to abstain from eating meat: “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to… [the] doctrines of devils; speaking lies… and commanding to abstain from meats…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) Christians are fond of quoting this verse to show that vegetarianism is the doctrine of the Devil. Yet this is a book of extremely doubtful authorship.

Yet, even for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Paul did indeed write this book. What justification does Paul have in saying such a thing. There is no place in the Old Testament or in Jesus’ sayings which equated vegetarianism with the “doctrines of devils.” It is fairly safe to say that whoever wrote Timothy was displeased at the idea of giving up his precious animal flesh.

Philomon: Traditionally ascribed to Paul.

Hebrews: Practically all modern scholars doubt this was written by Paul (as the traditionalists claim). Actually, even the early Christian Church itself had strong doubts about Paul’s authorship of this book! Scholars point out that the vocabulary, grammar, and style are dramatically different from known works by Paul. But the most damning evidence is that the author(s) of this book quote from the Greek versions of the Old Testament (instead of the Hebrew originals, as Paul would have done)! Therefore, it is clear that this book was not written by Paul, or any other apostle. This is deeply significant, for in this book contains the cornerstones of the fundamentalists’ beliefs: 1) that Jesus died for everyone’s sins (chapter nine and ten); and 2) that the doctrine of faith alone is sufficient for salvation (chapters 11 and 12).

James: This book is traditionally ascribed to St. James, the apostle. Most scholars doubt this because of the expertise of the author in the Greek language. Therefore, they feel that it was written by an unknown Greek Christian.

And many Christians themselves have their doubts about this work. Even Martin Luther, the founder of one of the three main branches of Christianity (Protestantism), called it “an epistle of straw”. One reason why he may have said this was because of a verse in James (2:20): “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” The Protestants believe that faith alone is sufficient for salvation. The Catholics believe that it is important to do good works as well. This one point was a major factor in causing Protestantism to break away from Catholicism. And this one verse devastates the fundamentalists’ argument. This is completely contradictory to Paul’s exhortations of “justification by faith” in Romans and Hebrews. So much for the “harmony of the Bible”, as the fundamentalists claim (as proof of the Bible’s validity).

Peter 1: Although attributed to Peter, it is widely doubted by most scholars on the basis of the fact that the author of this book cites Greek translations of the Old Testament instead of the Hebrew originals. This questionable book contains the fundamentalists’ slogan “born again” (1 Peter 1:23).

Peter 2: This book has even more doubtful authorship that Peter 1, so much so that it was delayed entrance into the New Testament’s canon. It is generally believed that it was written by an unknown scribe around 150 AD.

Epistles of John: Traditionally ascribed to St. John the Evangelist, but many scholars disagree. Many scholars feel that it was written by one of the four “Johns” as listed above under the “Gospel of John”, but they can’t agree on which one.

Revelations: Again attributed to St. John the Evangelist, but scholars again disagree. There are so many linguistic differences between this book and the Gospel of John that it is clear that they were written by different people.

This book is the cornerstone of the fundamentalists, the evangelicals, and the millenarianists. It records a purported “vision”, and Christians are fond of tying its enigmatic allegory to current events to show that the end of the world is near. And they are generally successful, since this book is so obscure that one can elicit practically any interpretation from it. In fact, ever since it was written (around AD 100), people of every generation have been able to link it to their own period of time.

The numerous references to “a thousand years” in chapter 20 has led many to consider that doomsday will occur at the end of a millennium. The “Judgement Day” hysteria that occurred as the year 1000 approached is a historical fact. Similarly, social psychologists predicted that as we approached the year 2000, the same hysteria would occur.

Many scholars believe that Revelations is actually a collection of separate works by various unknown authors. One reason they believe this is because the book is a strange collection of Greek and Hebrew idioms. And some believe that it was never intended to be viewed as a “prophecy”, but as an allegory showing the crisis of faith at that period of time (of the Roman persecutions).
It is interesting to note that Jesus himself never authored any book of the New Testament, not even a paragraph. In fact, most of the New Testament was written by Paul. This has led many to consider that Paul is the architect of modern Christianity, not Christ. A more accurate name for Christians, then, is “Paulists”, not “Christians”.

Many Christians believe that Paul was one of the 12 apostles of Christ, but this is not the case… the 12 were Andrew, John, Bartholomew, Judas, Jude, the two Jameses, Matthew, Peter, Phillip, Simon, and Thomas. After Judas committed suicide, Matthias replaced him. By the way, this is one way of testing the fundamentalist’s knowledge of his own religion. Many believe that St. Mark (the alleged author of the Gospel of Mark), and St. Luke (the supposed author of the Gospel of Luke), and St. Paul (the author of many New Testament books), were members of the 12 apostles, Jesus’ direct disciples. But they are not on the list.

As for Paul, who plays such an important part of Christian theology, it is important to note that he never met Christ. In fact, he was active in the persecutions of early Christians, claiming it to be an unlawful Jewish cult. Acts 8:1 depicts Paul as agreeing with the stoning of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen: “And Saul (Paul’s pre-Christian name) was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death.” Paul was converted to Christianity later, and became a zealous missionary (perhaps motivated by extreme guilt for his atrocities).

 

CONCLUDING WORDS

As the Hindu proverb says, “Philosophy without religion is mental speculation. And religion without philosophy is sentimentality.” A religion guided solely by slogans and rampant emotional fervor is in no position to declare itself the only valid religion of mankind (while condemning other religions as the “tricks of Satan”) .

The Buddha said, “Believe not because some old manuscripts are produced, believe not because it is your national belief, believe not because you have been made to believe from your childhood, but reason truth out, and after you have analyzed it, then if you find that it will do good to one and all, believe it, live up to it and help others to live up to it.”

This is true dharma. The Vedic (and Buddhist) literatures are veritable treasure houses of logical thought and sound principles, guiding the living entities to the very pinnacle of spiritual perfection. In this dark Age of Kali, when irreligion is considered religion (and religion is considered irreligion), this dharma is certainly needed. It is the last light of the world.

ADDITIONAL SUGGESTED READING

Diet for a New America, by John Robbins, published by EarthSave Foundation, 706 Frederick Street, San Francisco, California. This book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It lists evidence from reputable sources such as the US Dept. of Agriculture, the US Dept. of Commerce, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and much, much more, and gives undeniable, persuasive testimony that meat eating is hazardous to our bodies as well as the to the well-being of the Earth herself.

Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, by Lloyd M. Graham, published by University books, Secaucus, NJ. This book gives compelling evidence that the many of the myths of the Bible came from older sources. Examples: the myths of Eden, Adam, and Eve are from earlier Babylonian stories; Moses is fashioned after the Syrian Mises; the myth of Noah and the flood came from the Puranic history of the Matsya avatar.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1) Support your local temple. It is quite normal for a thoughtful person to want to make a positive difference, to leave the world a better place than the way one found it. There are hundreds of worth-while charities you might consider giving to: charities that help the poor; health-related charities; libraries; educational, environmental and animal rights organizations. But remember that these charities have a broad base of support from the entire spectrum of the general populace. Hindu temples, small islands of refuge for dharma, are supported by only a small minority of people, and they need your help!

If you supply water to the roots of a tree, the entire tree (trunk, branches, and leaves) is benefitted. Similarly, by nourishing dharma (the very roots of the world), all other worthwhile projects are automatically served.

2) Stay informed. It is absolutely vital to keep abreast of the happenings in your neighborhood, your community, and in this entire global village.

3) Make your voice heard. If there is some issue before a city council, state legislature, or Congress, write or call your representative. You have a right to your opinion, and let your representative know. And let him know that you keep track of his voting record. In politics, it is the “squeaky wheel that gets the grease”. Also, consider writing letters to newspapers; a well-written letter can inspire others to get involved. A good way to make sure your letter gets printed is to rebut the opinion expressed in an editorial, or the views of a previous letter writer.

4) Make your vote count. Political conservatism and anti-foreign culture sentiment is on the rise. Make sure you vote for the right person (or, at least, vote against the wrong person). If your candidate wins the election, immediately write him a congratulatory letter, and tell him why you voted for him.

5) Speak with your wallet. Avoid merchants and businesses that are inimical to the cause of dharma. And go out of your way to patronize businesses that support our cause.

6) Pass on your values to the next generation… Don’t assume they will be passed on automatically. The next generation is facing enormous pressure from their peers, from society, and from Christian fundamentalists. They need all the help you can give them.

7) Live dharma. At every instant, we are faced with only two choices of action. Either an action will help support dharma, or the other action will let the world drift further into darkness. At each moment, we are given the chance to add our own light to the sum of light. The choice is ours.

[This is available at http://www.stephen-knapp.com]

Sri Krishna

Sri Krishna

By Stephen Knapp

DIFFERENCES IN REALIZATION AND PERCEPTION

OF THE SUPREME

 

            It is described that there are three aspects of the Supreme that must be understood in order to have a complete realization of the Absolute Person. These are the impersonal and all pervasive Brahman aspect, the localized expansion of the Lord known as the Supersoul or Paramatma, and then the Supreme Personality or Bhagavan aspect. Bhagavan means the Supreme Being who is the originator of all qualities and who possesses them to the fullest degree. He is especially full with the qualities of wealth, strength, beauty, knowledge, opulence, and renunciation to the maximum. All three aspects of Brahman, Paramatama and Bhagavan must be understood if one is to have a complete understanding and realization of God.

            When one follows the basic process of yoga, a person will naturally attain the Brahman and then the Paramatma realizations sequentially. Of course, this depends on how thoroughly one follows the process. In essence, the Brahman realization involves perceiving the spiritual energy behind all aspects of the creation, opposite to the mundane world. Brahman is the passive aspect of the non-dual substance of the Absolute Truth. It is the realization of the Supreme Being without any of His potencies or qualities. If one goes no further, he will naturally conclude that realization of the Brahman is the ultimate perception and understanding of the Absolute.

            The Paramatma realization is to perceive the Supersoul within all material forms, within all living entities and even all material elements. Paramatma is the partial expansion of the Lord in the material world. But to go further and attain the Bhagavan realization, one needs to attain a totally spiritual vision without any material conceptions or conditionings to perceive the completely transcendental form of the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan–as He is. The formless aspect of the Supreme Person is Brahman. But when that Supreme Brahman is endowed with His natural potencies and qualities, then the Brahman aspect is transformed into the more complete Bhagavan aspect. Therefore, Bhagavan is the original nature of the Absolute Truth with full qualities and potencies, while the Brahman is merely the impersonal, transcendental bodily effulgence.

            Lord Narayana is the opulent and potent manifestation of Bhagavan, husband of Lakshmi devi, the Goddess of fortune, while Sri Krishna is the naturally loving and sweet aspect of Bhagavan, Lord of Srimati Radharani, and center of the spiritual abode.

 

WHO IS SRI KRISHNA?

            It is the Vedic literature that most clearly reveals the nature and identity of the Absolute Truth or Supreme Personality. As with many of the Vedic texts, they begin to reveal this identity with hints that show how the Absolute is a person from which everything else originates. One such reference is the first and second verses of the Vedanta Sutras. The first verse states simply that “Now one should enquire into the Brahman.” This means that now that you have attained a human body, you should use your intelligence to discover what is really spiritual and what is the Absolute Truth. Then the second verse begins to explain what is this Absolute Truth: “He from whom everything originates is the Absolute.” Thus, as it refers to “He”, the source of all that exists, the ultimate point of creation, is a person.

            The Katha Upanishad (2.2.9) relates in like manner: “As with fire–the one original flame expands itself throughout the world by producing many more separate flames; similarly, the one Supreme Soul, who resides in every jiva, enters this cosmos and expands Himself in replica images known as pratibimba, or the jivas.” Thus, herein we have further confirmation that the Lord exists outside of the created universe.

            So who is this Being from whom all else is created? Much more information is supplied from numerous Vedic sources. For example, the early Rig-veda (1.22.20-21) relates that Lord Vishnu is that Supreme Being, the Absolute Truth whose lotus feet all the demigods are always eager to see. His most sublime region is only visible to those endowed with spiritual vision, accessed by ever-vigilant devotion.

            The Rig-veda continues elsewhere (1.154.4-5): “Him whose three places that are filled with sweetness and imperishable joy, who verily alone upholds the threefold, the earth, the heaven, and all living beings. May I attain to His well-loved mansion where men devoted to the Gods are happy. For there springs the well of honey [or Soma] in Vishnu’s highest step.”

            The Svetasvatara Upanishad has a similar verse: “No one is superior to Him, nothing is smaller or larger than Him. He is the one Supreme Being (purusha), who has created everything complete. On His planet, He is situated like a steadfast tree, emanating great effulgence.”

            As it is explained in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi. 2.106), Lord Krishna is the original primeval Lord, the source of all other expansions. All the revealed scriptures accept Sri Krishna as the Supreme Lord. Furthermore (Cc.Adi 2.24-26), it goes on to relate that Lord Krishna Himself is the one undivided Absolute Truth and ultimate reality. He manifests in three features, namely the Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan (the Supreme Personality). The Svetasvatara Upanishad (5.4) also explains that the Supreme Being, Lord Krishna, is worshipable by everyone; the one adorable God, repository of all goodness ruler of all creatures, born from the womb [in His pastime of Lord Krishna], for He is eternally present in all loving beings [as Supersoul]. Furthermore, it states (3.8) “I have realized this transcendental Personality of Godhead who shines most brilliantly like the sun beyond all darkness. Only by realizing Him one goes beyond the cycle of birth and deaths. Absolutely there is no other means to get God-realization.”

            The Svetasvatara Upanishad (5.6) further elaborates that Lord Krishna is the topmost of all the gods. “He is the most esoteric aspect hidden in the Upanishads which form the essence of the Vedas. Brahma knows Him as the source of himself as well as the Vedas. The gods like Shiva and the seers of the ancient, like Vamadeva rishi realizing Him, ever became dovetailed in His service and therefore they naturally became immortal.” And in (6.7) it continues: “Let us take our final resort at Him who is the Transcendent and the only adorable Lord of the universe, who is the highest Deity over all the deities, the Supreme Ruler of all rulers–Him let us know as the Paramount Divinity.”

            The GopalaTapani Upanishad, which is about Gopala or Krishna, is quite clear on this point, and naturally has numerous verses that explain the nature of the Absolute Truth and Lord Krishna. A few of such verses include the following: “Brahma with his full awareness emphatically said, ‘Sri Krishna is the Supreme Divinity. (1.3) He who meditates on Sri Krishna, serves Him with unalloyed devotion and [makes His transcendental senses gratified by engaging one’s own spiritual senses in] rendering service to Him–all of them become immortal and attain the summum bonum, or perfection of life. (1.10) Sri Krishna is that Supreme Divinity as the Paramount Eternal Reality among all other sentient beings and the Fountain-source of consciousness to all conscious beings. He is the only reality without a second but as a Supersoul dwelling in the cave of the hearts of all beings He rewards them in accordance with their respective actions in life. Those men of intuitive wisdom who serve Him with loving devotion surely attain the highest perfection of life. Whereas those who do not do so never gain this highest beatitude of their lives. (1.22) This Sri Krishna who is most dear to you all is the cause of all causes. He is the efficient cause of the creation of the universe as well as the superintending force for propelling the jiva souls. Therefore, although He is the enjoyer as well as the Lord of all sacrifices, He is ever atmarama, self-satisfied.” (2.17)

            So, summarily, as it is explained and concluded in a variety of Vedic texts, Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, as it is said in Sanskrit, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28) Krishna is the source of all other incarnations and forms of God. He is the ultimate and end of all Truth and philosophical enquiry, the goal or end result of Vedanta. He is the all-attractive personality and source of all pleasure for which we are always hankering. He is the origin from which everything else manifests. He is the unlimited source of all power, wealth, fame, beauty, wisdom, and renunciation. Thus, no one is greater than Him. Since Krishna is the source of all living beings, He is also considered the Supreme Father and source of all worlds. He is shown with a blue or blackish complexion. This represents absolute, pure consciousness, which also is unconditional love. Krishna is the embodiment of love. He is also sat-chit-ananda vigraha, which means the form of eternal knowledge and bliss.

            The reason why the Lord is called “Krishna” is explained in a book known as the Sri Caitanya Upanishad, which is connected with the Atharva-veda. In verse twelve it is explained: “These three names of the Supreme Lord (Hari, Krishna and Rama) may be explained in the following way: (1) ‘Hari’ means ‘He who unties [harati] the knot of material desire in the hearts of the living entities’; (2) ‘Krishna’ is divided into two syllables ‘krish’ and ‘na’. ‘Krish’ means ‘He who attracts the minds of all living entities’, and ‘na’ means ‘the supreme transcendental pleasure’. These two syllables combine to become the name ‘Krishna’; and (3) ‘Rama’ means ‘He who delights [ramayati] all living entities’, and it also means ‘He who is full of transcendental bliss’. The maha-mantra consists of the repetition of these names of the Supreme Lord.” In this way, Krishna’s names represent His character and qualities, which, in this case, means the greatest and all attractive transcendental pleasure.

            So, as we further our investigation of the identity of Sri Krishna in the Vedic literature, especially the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Vishnu Purana, Brahma-samhita, and many others, we find that they are full of descriptions of Lord Krishna as the Supreme Being. These actually can help us understand the nature of God regardless of which religion we may affiliate ourselves with. So let us find out more about God from these descriptions.

            The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says, purnam idam purnat purnam udacyate: “Although He expands in many ways, He keeps His original personality. His original spiritual body remains as it is.” Thus, we can understand that God can expand His energies in many ways, but is not affected or diminished in His potency.

The invocation mantra of the Sri Ishopanishad says something similar:

 

Om purnam adah purnam idam

purnat purnam udachyate

purnasya purnam adaya

purnam evavashishyate
            This means, in essence, that the Supreme Being is complete and perfect, and whatever is expanded from His energies is also complete and does not take away from His potencies in any way. He remains as He is, the complete whole and the complete balance.

            The Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.6) also states: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original person, has multifarious energies. He is the origin of material creation, and it is due to Him only that everything changes. He is the protector of religion and annihilator of all sinful activities. He is the master of all opulences.” This verse specifically points out that only due to God’s multipotencies does the world continue to change and be maintained. He also protects religion, which could not be done if He were impersonal or without form. This is only logical since it takes a person to watch over, protect, or maintain anything.

            In the Katha Upanishad (2.2.13) there is the important verse; nityo nityanam chetanas chetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: “He is the supreme eternally conscious person who maintains all other living entities.” So, this Supreme Person is the Absolute Truth, as confirmed in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi.7.111): “According to direct understanding, the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has all spiritual opulences. No one can be equal to or greater than Him.”

            The Svetasvatara Upanishad (4.7-8) goes on to describe that, “The Supreme Lord is He who is referred to by the mantras of the Rig-veda, who resides in the topmost, eternal sky, and who elevates His saintly devotees to share that same position. One who has developed pure love for Him and realizes His uniqueness then appreciates His glories and is freed from sorrow. What further good can the Rig mantras bestow on one who knows that Supreme Lord? All who come to know Him achieve the supreme destination.”

            This is further corroborated in the Katha Upanishad (2.3.8-9) wherein it says: “Beyond the Brahmajyoti (nirguna or formless Brahman of the monist) there is the Great Purusha viz., Purushottama God who is all-pervading (as the Brahmajyoti) and without any empirical attributes, but having sat-chit-ananda–transcendental embodiment. He who realizes this Purushottama-tattva is finally liberated. Attaining a spiritual body he renders eternal service to the Purushottama [Supreme Being]. The Transcendental Personality of Godhead is beyond the purview of occult vision. But He can be apprehended through a pure transparent mind imbibed with intuitive wisdom born out of unalloyed devotional practices in the very core of one’s own unstinted heart–those who have really got such a vision have gained final beatitude.”

            Additional references further describe how Lord Krishna exists beyond the impersonal Brahman. The Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.7-8) relates that, “The Supreme Lord is the controller of all other controllers, and He is the greatest of all the diverse planetary leaders. Everyone is under His control. All entities are delegated with particular power only by the Supreme Lord; they are not supreme themselves. He is also worshipable by all demigods and is the supreme director of all directors. Therefore, He is transcendental to all kinds of material leaders and controllers and is worshipable by all. There is no one greater than Him, and He is the supreme cause of all causes. He does not possess a bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He is absolute [pure consciousness]. All His senses are transcendental. Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence.”

            The Chandogya Upanishad (3.17.6-7) goes on to relate the need to become aware and focused on the Supreme Being, Sri Krishna. “Ghora Angihasa rishi advised his disciple that he should invoke Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the Son of Devakidevi [devakiputra], by repeating this triad thinking as if death is sitting upon his shoulder: ‘Thou art the Indestructible; Thou art the Unchangeable; Thou art the very Substratum that enlivens the entire universe.’” On culturing this he [the disciple] became free from desires. On this point there are two additional Rig verses:

            “The light (Grace) that comes from the Primeval Fountain-Source dispels darkness of illusion like the morning sun dispelling the night darkness. [This is also found in Rig-veda 8.6.30] The Primeval Fountain-Source from Whom light (Grace) comes which dispels darkness viz., illusion of the soul like the morning sun dispels the darkness of the night and shines forth far beyond the universe. When we perceive that most Effulgent Highest Purusha (Supreme Person) dwelling in the world of Transcendent (sarva loka urddham svah Bhagavat Lokam paripashantah) and through unalloyed devotion when we attain Him, the most Effulgent One Who is the God of all gods. We in ecstatic joy proclaim, ‘Yea, we have attained Him. Yea, we have attained the summum bonum of life–Yea, the final beatitude in life.’” [This is also found in the Rig-veda 1.50.10]

The Mahabharata also explains how Krishna is the One Supreme Being. In it when Grandfather Bishma was giving the last of his advice to King Yudhisthira while on the battlefield of Kurukshetra before leaving this world, King Yudhisthira asked, “Who is the One God in the world? The One Object which is our sole refuge? By worshipping whom does one obtain all that one desires? Which is the One Religion which is the foremost of all religions? What is the mantra, reciting which, man becomes freed from bondage to birth?”

In answer to this the great Bishma responds, “Krishna is the Lord of the Universe. He is the God of Gods. He is the foremost of all beings. By Him is pervaded this universe. Meditating on Him and on His many names man can transcend all sorrow. The foremost of all religions is Krishna. He is the highest energy. He is the highest penance. He is the highest refuge. He is the holiest of holies. He is the beginning of all creation and the end of all creation. Krishna is the eternal Brahman. Surrender yourself to Him and you will be one with Him: with Krishna the Lord of the past, the present and the future: the Supreme Soul.” (From the Mahabharata translated by Kamala Subramaniam, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1982, pages 721-2)

            In the Bhagavad-gita (10.12-13), Arjuna also explains that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. He is the primal God, transcendental and original, the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this.

            He goes on to say that Krishna is the original Personality, the Godhead. He is the only sanctuary of the manifested material world. He knows everything and is all that is knowable. He is above the material modes. With limitless form, He pervades the whole cosmic manifestation. (Bg.11.38) Krishna is the father of the complete cosmic manifestation, the worshipable chief and spiritual master. No one is equal to Him, nor can anyone be one with Him. He is immeasurable. (Bg.11.43)

            Since Chapter One of this book has already established the superior revelatory nature of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in relating the character and qualities of Lord Krishna, naturally we will have to glean the verses within it to get a clearer view of who is Lord Krishna. Why is this the case? Because other scriptures may also relate the nature of God, and even discuss Lord Krishna’s pastimes, but do so with what could be said is a reporter’s view, simply and impartially stating the facts. But the Srimad-Bhagavatam relates the pastimes and qualities of Lord Krishna from a participant’s perspective. Thus, the nectar that can only come from the deep involvement of the associate and devotee is relayed within the vibrations of those verses. However, the receptivity of this nectar depends on two things: one is the qualities of the receiver and how open or faithful the person is to such high thoughts and vibrations, and the other is whether the ecstasies within the message of the Bhagavatam get perverted or spoiled from the misinterpretation of a disbeliever or speculator who improperly writes or speaks the message.

            It is like a light bulb being properly wired to the power house. Unless the light bulb is appropriately wired and works favorably, there will not be light. Similarly, unless the speaker and receiver of the message of the Bhagavatam are properly connected with favorable and unalloyed consciousness, the purity of the message will not manifest.

            So, as we get into the Srimad-Bhagavatam, we find that the very first verse summarizes Lord Krishna’s position. “O my Lord, Sri Krishna, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. I meditate on Lord Sri Krishna because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmaji, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion… Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Sri Krishna, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode, which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth.”

            Later, when Uddhava visits Vrindavana, he talks with Nanda Maharaja and explains things in a similar way: “Nothing can be said to exist independent of Lord Acyuta–nothing heard or seen, nothing in the past, present or future, nothing moving or unmoving, great or small. He indeed is everything, for He is the Supreme Soul.” (Bhag.10.46.43)

            These have been a few of the verses in the Vedic texts which explain the position of the Supreme Being, but what does Lord Krishna say?

 

WHAT SRI KRISHNA SAYS ABOUT HIMSELF
            If we are expected to understand God, then who better to explain His qualities and characteristics than Himself? So in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna provides the Self-revelatory truth about His position in His explanations to Arjuna. There are numerous verses in this regard, of which the following are but a few: “And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me–and that they are in Me, and are Mine. (4.35) The sages, knowing Me to be the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries. (5.29) Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution. (7.6) It is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant… I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support, and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable om. I am also the Rig, the Sama, and the Yajur Vedas. I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed. (9.16-18)

            “I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts. (Bg.10:8)

            “I am all devouring death, and I am the generator of all things yet to be. Among women I am fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, faithfulness and patience. (Bg. 10.34) Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as the Supreme Person.” (Bg.15.18)

            Going on to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna specifically explains that before, during, and after the universal creation, there is always Himself that exists.

            “Brahma it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Supreme Lord.” (Bhag.2.9.33)

            “Gold alone is present before its manufacture into gold products, the gold alone remains after the products’ destruction, and the gold alone is the essential reality while it is being utilized under various designations. Similarly, I alone exist before the creation of this universe, after its destruction and during its maintenance.” (Bhag.11.28.19)

            “Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, I alone existed with My specific spiritual potencies. Consciousness was then unmanifested, just as one’s consciousness is unmanifested during the time of sleep. I am the reservoir of unlimited potency, and therefore I am known as unlimited or all-pervading. From My material energy the cosmic manifestation appeared within Me, and in this universal manifestation appeared the chief being, Lord Brahma, who is your source and is not born of a material mother.” (Bhag.6.4.47-48)

            “Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Bg.9.11)

            “Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme. I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible. A Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows.” (Bg.7.24-26)

            Lord Krishna also explains that he is the Supersoul of each and every living being, who exist only because of Him. He also establishes that He is the spiritual sound vibrations that can be chanted, as well as the forms of the Deities that we can see. “All living beings, moving and nonmoving, are My expansions and are separate from Me. I am the Supersoul of all living beings, who exist because I manifest them. I am the form of the transcendental vibrations like omkara and Hare Krishna Hare Rama, and I am the Supreme Absolute Truth. These two forms of Mine–namely the transcendental sound and the eternally blissful spiritual form of the Deity, are My eternal forms; they are not material.” (Bhag.6.16.51)

            “My dear Uddhava, I am the cause, protector and the Lord of all mystic perfections, of the yoga system, of analytical knowledge, of pure activity and of the community of learned Vedic teachers. Just as the same material elements exist within and outside of all material bodies, similarly, I cannot be covered by anything else. I exist within everything as the Supersoul and outside of everything in My all-pervading feature.” (Bhag.11.15.35-36)

            Lord Krishna goes on to explain how He is perceived by different people in different ways. “When there is agitation and interaction of the material modes of nature, the living entities then describe Me in various ways such as all-powerful time, the Self, Vedic knowledge, the universe, one’s own nature, religious ceremonies and so on.” (Bhag.11.10.34)

            However, when a person reaches the vision of the Supreme by the process of Self-realization, which takes him or her above the influence of the material modes, the experience is one and the same. Then there is no more confusion about what is or what is not the highest level of spiritual realization.

            In conclusion Krishna explains, “Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendour. But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.” (Bg.10:41-42)

 

THE MISTAKE OF ACCEPTING KRISHNA AS A REPRESENTATION OF SOMETHING HIGHER

            Some people feel that Krishna is merely a representation of something higher, which is often mistaken for the impersonal Brahman. However, such texts as the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.2) explain that “One who realizes Brahman attains the summum bonum, highest goal, of life. So who is Brahman? Who is to be known? What is the means to know Him? And what is the prospect? These are the four vital points in reference to which it has been declared: Brahman is eternally existent, source of all wisdom, and infinite or all-pervasive. One who realizes Brahman as such, he adores Him in the secret cavity of the heart which is converted into a transcendental plane, the replica of Vaikuntha, a resort of divine sports. Thereby he gets his objects fulfilled with the all-wisdom of Brahman i.e., he attains the summum bonum of life in rendering unalloyed devotion to Brahman, the Supreme Reality.”

             From this point, the above verse continues to explain how the various aspects of the material creation are manifested from the Brahman, directed by a Supreme Will. Yet, we can see in this verse that the Brahman is indicated to be a person whom we can render loving service, which is the means to reach the supreme goal of life. He is in the cavity of the heart as the localized expansion of the Supreme known as the Supersoul, Paramatma. Through this devotion the person will transform his heart and consciousness into the spiritual strata of Vaikuntha, the residence of the Supreme Being wherein spiritual activities are constantly taking place. Thus, the ultimate meaning of the Brahman is the Supreme Person from whom the Brahman emanates.

            The Brahma-samhita (5.40) explains how the Brahman is but Sri Krishna’s physical brilliance: “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord who is endowed with great power. The glowing effulgence of His transcendental form is the impersonal Brahman, which is absolute, complete and unlimited, and which displays the varieties of countless planets with their different opulences in millions and millions of universes.”

            The Isha Upanishad (15) also confirms this: “O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee.”

            This Vedic evidence makes it clear that Krishna is not a mere representation for something higher or above Him., but He is the basis and foundation of the Brahman and all that is. The idea that the Supreme Personality or Bhagavan is merely a personified form or representational symbol for a higher abstract spiritual reality beyond Him is but the means to assign material attributes to what is inherently spiritual. It is a way of taking the Supreme and interpreting Him through our own limited understanding and misconceptions.

            According to the Vaishnava understanding, Bhagavan is not merely a symbol of the Divine but is the essential nature of the Divine. A symbol would be like a national flag used as a representation of a nation, which is bigger and something different than the flag. So to consider Krishna as a mere symbol created to make it easy for the mind to focus on what is spiritual is to say that Krishna Himself is but part of the material energy and only a representation of something else. This means that the Supreme Spiritual Reality must take assistance from maya, the material energy, in order to appear in this world, without which there is no possibility for it to have form. This is mayavada philosophy, along with the idea that any form of God, or His name, pastimes, or any demigod is but an equal symbol of what is a higher transcendent reality, like the Brahman. This means we are inflicting material qualities on what is essentially fully spiritual. But this is the wrong conclusion of those who do not understand the Absolute nature, energy, and power of the Supreme Person, Bhagavan. So, by forcing our own weaknesses and lack of depth on our attempt to understand what is beyond materialistic comprehension, the nature of the Supreme continues to escape us.

            From the Vedic evidence that is supplied herein, it is clear that Lord Krishna’s name, form, pastimes, etc., exist eternally in the spiritual dimension and are never affected by even a tinge of the material energy. Thus, He can appear as often and whenever He likes as He is, or in any form He chooses within this material manifestation. He is completely and totally spiritual for He is the Absolute Truth. As the Vedanta Sutras explain, the Absolute Truth is He from whom all else manifests. Thus, the Absolute Truth is the ultimate Person.

 

KRISHNA IS THE SOURCE OF ALL CREATION
            In the Bhagavad-gita (10.8) Krishna explains that He is the source of all spiritual and material worlds. “Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”

            Lord Krishna further relates that all other sages and creators also originate from Him: “The seven great sages and before them the four other great sages and the Manus [progenitors of mankind] are born out of My mind, and all creatures in these planets descend from them.” (Bg.10.6)

            Jambavan also says to Lord Krishna, “You are the ultimate creator of all creators of the universe, and of everything created You are the underlying substance. You are the subduer of all subduers, the Supreme Lord and Supreme Soul of all souls.” (Bhag.10.56.27)

            When the demigods approached Lord Krishna to return to His abode and wind up His earthly pastimes, they also recognized that He was the supreme creator in their prayers: “You are the cause of the creation, maintenance and destruction of this universe. As time, You regulate the subtle and manifest states of material nature and control every living being. As the threefold wheel of time You diminish all things by Your imperceptible actions, and thus You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead… O Lord, You are the supreme creator of this universe and the ultimate controller of all moving and nonmoving living entities. You are Hrishikesha, the supreme controller of all sensory activity, and thus You never become contaminated or entangled in the course of Your supervision of the infinite sensory activities within the material creation. On the other hand, other living entities, even yogis and philosophers, are disturbed and frightened simply by remembering the material objects that they have supposedly renounced in their pursuit of enlightenment.” (Bhag.11.6.15, 17)

            Because Krishna is the source of everything, it is not possible for others to determine His origin. “Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and sages.” (Bg.10.2)

            Arjuna also admits to this fact after having understood Krishna’s real characteristics: “O Krishna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the gods nor demons, O Lord, know Thy personality. Indeed, You alone know Yourself by Your own potencies, O origin of all, Lord of all beings, God of gods, O Supreme Person, Lord of the universe! (Bg.10.14-15) O great one, who stands above even Brahma, You are the original master. Why should they not offer their homage up to You, O limitless one? O refuge of the universe, You are the invincible source, the cause of all causes, transcendental to this material manifestation. (Bg.11.37) You are air, fire, water, and You are the moon! You are the supreme controller and the grandfather. Thus I offer my respectful obeisances unto You a thousand times, and again and yet again! Obeisances from the front, from behind and from all sides! O unbounded power, You are the master of limitless light! You are all-pervading, and thus You are everything! (Bg.11.39-40) You are the father of this complete cosmic manifestation, the worshipable chief, the spiritual master. No one is equal to You, nor can anyone be one with You. Within the three worlds, You are immeasurable.” (Bg.11.43)

            Even the immeasurable spiritual area called the Brahman is actually a tool that Krishna uses in which to create the cosmic manifestation. As He explains, “The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata [Arjuna]. It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father. (Bg.14.3-4) Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution. (Bg.7.6) I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being–moving or unmoving–that can exist without Me. (Bg.10.39) Know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men.” (Bg.7.10)

            In this way, Lord Krishna creates the material manifestation, and later absorbs it back into Himself. Then at His will, He again creates. “At the end of the millennium every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency I again create.” (Bg.9.7)

            “My dear Lord, the original purusha-avatara, Maha-Vishnu, acquires His creative potency from You. Thus with infallible energy He impregnates material nature, producing the mahat-tattva. Then the mahat-tattva, the amalgamated material energy, endowed with the potency of the Lord, produces from itself the primeval golden egg of the universe, which is covered by various layers of material elements.” (Bhag.11.6.16)

            Because Lord Krishna is the source of everything, there is obviously nothing that He personally needs from it, nor is He ever entangled in it. He is like the warden of a prison who can go in or out of it at any time he wants. Yet He is still overseeing it. “O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything–and yet I am engaged in work. (Bg.3.22) There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.” (Bg.4.14)

            Akrura also admitted to Lord Krishna that, “You create, destroy and also maintain this universe with Your personal energies–the modes of passion, ignorance and goodness–yet You are never entangled by these modes or the activities they generate. Since You are the original source of all knowledge, what could ever cause You to be bound by illusion?” (Bhag.10.48.21)

            The summary process of how Lord Krishna manifests and gives facility to the universe and the living entities within it is described in Vasudeva’s prayer to Lord Krishna: “O transcendental Lord, from Yourself You created this entire variegated universe, and then You entered within it in Your personal form as the Supersoul. In this way, O unborn supreme Soul, as the life force and consciousness of everyone, You maintain the creation. Whatever potencies the life air and other elements of universal creation exhibit are actually all personal energies of the Supreme Lord, for both life and matter are subordinate to Him and dependent on Him, and also different from one another. Thus, everything active in the material world is set into motion by the Supreme Lord. The glow of the moon, the brilliance of fire, the radiance of the sun, the twinkling of the stars, the flash of lightning, the permanence of mountains and the aroma and sustaining power of the earth–all these are actually You. My Lord, You are water, and also its taste and its capacities to quench thirst and sustain life. You exhibit Your potencies through the manifestations of the air as bodily warmth, vitality, mental power, physical strength, endeavor and movement. You are the directions and their accommodating capacity, the all-pervading ether and the elemental sound residing within it. You are the primeval, unmanifested form of sound; the first syllable, om: and audible speech, by which sound, as words, acquires particular references. You are the power of the senses to reveal their objects, the senses’ presiding demigods, and the sanction these demigods give for sensory activity. You are the capacity of the intelligence for decision-making, and the living being’s ability to remember things accurately. You are false ego in the mode of ignorance, which is the source of physical elements; false ego in the mode of passion, which is the source of the bodily senses; false ego in the mode of goodness, which is the source of the demigods; and the unmanifest, total material energy, which underlies everything. You are the indestructible entity among all the destructible things of this world, like the underlying substance that is seen to remain unchanged while the things made from it undergo transformation.” (Bhag.10.85.5-12)

            “Thus these created entities, transformations of material nature, do not exist except when material nature manifests them within You, at which time You also manifest within them. But aside from such periods of creation, You stand alone as the transcendental reality.” (Bhag.10.85.14)

            Being the source of everything, Lord Krishna explains how He is also the source of genuine religion. “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: ‘O brahmana, I am the speaker of religion, its performer and sanctifier. I observe religious principles to teach them to the world, My child, so do not be disturbed.” (Bhag.10.69.40)

            Lord Krishna goes on to say that the understanding of how He is the origination of everything is the knowledge which can free a person from sins: “He who knows Me as the unborn, as the beginningless, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds–he, undeluded among men, is freed from all sins.” (Bg.10.3) This is the special nature of this spiritual knowledge.

 

KRISHNA IS THE SOURCE OF ALL INCARNATIONS OF GOD
            Numerous references establish Sri Krishna as the Absolute Truth, yet it should be understood that He is not simply another incarnation of God, but He is the source of all other incarnations of the Lord. This is verified in the Bhagavatam verse (1.3.28) where it explains: ete chamsha-kalah pumsaha / krishnas tu bhagavan svayam / indrari-vyakulam lokam / mridayanti yuge yuge, which means, “All of the (previously mentioned) incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists.”

            So herein we can understand that Sri Krishna either descends directly, or it is one of His plenary portions who appears in order to perform the necessary activities. This is further explained in the following verses, which shows that even Maha-Vishnu, the Creator of the cosmic manifestation, and Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, the expansion in each universe, are plenary portions of Lord Krishna. “The Supreme original Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, expanding His plenary portion as Maha-Vishnu, the first incarnation, creates this manifold cosmos, but He is unborn. The creation, however, takes place in Him, and the material substance and manifestations are all Himself. He maintains them for some time and absorbs them into Himself again. (Bhag.2.6.39)

            “The Personality of Godhead is pure, being free from all contaminations of material tinges. He is the Absolute Truth and the embodiment of full and perfect knowledge. He is all-pervading, without beginning or end, and without rival. O Narada, O great sage, the great thinkers can know Him when completely freed from all material hankerings and when sheltered under undisturbed conditions of the senses. Otherwise, by untenable arguments, all is distorted, and the Lord disappears from our sight. (Bhag. 2.6.40-41)

            “Karanarnavashayi Vishnu [Maha-Vishnu] is the first incarnation of the Supreme Lord, and He is the master of eternal time, space, cause and effects, mind, the elements, the material ego, the modes of nature, the senses, the universal form of the Lord, Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, and the sum total of all living beings, both moving and nonmoving. (Bhag. 2.6.42)

            “I myself [Brahma], Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, great generators of living beings like Daksha and Prajapati, yourselves [Narada and the Kumaras], heavenly demigods like Indra and Chandra, the leaders of the Bhurloka planets, the leaders of the earthly planets, the leaders of the lower planets, the leaders of the Gandharva [angel-like beings] planets, the leaders of the Vidyadhara planets, the leaders of the Charanaloka planets, the leaders of the Yakshas, Rakshas and Uragas, the great sages, the great demons, the great atheists and the great spacemen, as well as the dead bodies, evil spirits, jinn, kushmandas, great aquatics, great beasts and great birds, etc.–in other words, anything and everything which is exceptionally possessed of power, opulence, mental and perceptual dexterity, strength, forgiveness, beauty, modesty, and breeding, whether in form or formless–may appear to be the specific truth and the form of the Lord, but actually they are not so. They are only a fragment of the transcendental potency of the Lord.” (Bhag.2.6.43-45)

            In Brahma’s prayers to Lord Krishna, in a later portion of the Bhagavatam, He continues to explain, “Are You not the original Narayana, O supreme controller, since You are the Soul of every embodied being and the eternal witness of all created realms? Indeed, Lord Narayana [Maha-Vishnu] is your expansion, and He is called Narayana because He is the generating source of the primeval water of the universe. He is real, not a product of Your illusory Maya.” (Bhag.10.14.14)

            Once when Lord Krishna was beginning to prepare for leaving this world to return to His abode, all the demigods, sages, and celestial and subtle beings approached Him when He lived in Dvaraka. Then they offered prayers to the Lord which further reveals Lord Krishna’s supremacy over all other incarnations and demigods. It is explained:

            “The powerful Lord Indra, along with the Maruts, Adityas, Vasus, Ashvinis, Ribhus, Angiras, Rudras, Vishvadevas, Sadhyas, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Nagas, Siddhas, Charanas, Guhyakas, the great sages and forefathers, and the Vidyadharas and Kinnaras, arrived at the city of Dvaraka, hoping to see Lord Krishna. By His transcendental form, Krishna, the Supreme Lord, enchanted all human beings and spread His own fame throughout the worlds. The Lord’s glories destroy all contamination within the universe.” (Bhag.11.6.2-4)

            Many Hindus show great respect to these Vedic demigods, but such demigods can also come under the influence of Lord Krishna’s illusory energy. In this next verse, we see how Lord Krishna takes it upon Himself to relieve Lord Indra of his pride and ignorance. Lord Indra is the king of heaven who is known for his own mystical or magical abilities, which tend to be a source of pride for him, which encourages him to do inappropriate things. In one such incident, Lord Krishna explained, “By My mystic power I will completely counteract this disturbance caused by Indra. Demigods like Indra are proud of their opulence, and out of foolishness they falsely consider themselves the Lord of the universe. I will now destroy such ignorance.” (Bhag.10.25.16)

            In summarizing the contents of the Srimad-Bhagavatam as Suta Gosvami begins to close his talk near the end of this Purana, he states: “I bow down to that unborn and infinite Supreme Soul, whose personal energies effect the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material universe. Even Brahma, Indra, Shankara [Shiva] and the other lords of the heavenly planets cannot fathom the glories of that infallible Personality of Godhead.” (Bhag.12.12.67)

            Thus from different angles of thought, it is established that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Being and source of all other incarnations of God and demigods.

 

WHY LORD KRISHNA DESCENDS INTO THIS WORLD
            Why the Lord descends into this world is for multiple purposes, but primarily for two reasons. One of which is that, since He originally enunciated the ancient religious path of the Vedas for the benefit of the whole universe, whenever that becomes obstructed by the demoniac or wicked atheists, He descends in one of His forms, which is in the transcendental mode of goodness. Thus, He again establishes the righteous Vedic path. He is the same Supreme Person, and in His incarnation as Krishna appeared in the home of Vasudeva with His plenary portion, Balarama. This was for the second reason, which is to relieve the earth of the burden of the demoniac. As Krishna, He came to kill the hundreds of armies led by the kings who were but expansions of the enemies of the demigods, and to spread the fame of the Yadu dynasty. (Bhag.10.48.23-24)

            Sri Krishna Himself explains this in the Bhagavad-gita: “Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form. Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practices, O son of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium. One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bg. 4.4-9)

            Arjuna, after understanding the position of Lord Krishna, recognized His superior position and said, “Thus You descend as an incarnation to remove the burden of the world and to benefit Your friends, especially those who are Your exclusive devotees and are rapt in meditation upon You.” (Bhag.1.7.25)

            The sages at Kuruksetra, while addressing Lord Krishna, also summarized the reason for Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world. They explained that at suitable times He assumes the mode of pure goodness to protect His devotees and punish the wicked. Thus, the Supreme Personality descends to maintain the eternal path of the Vedas by enjoying His pleasure pastimes. (Bhag.10.84.18)

            It is also described that when the Lord assumes a humanlike body, it is to show His mercy to His devotees. Then He engages in the sort of pastimes that will attract those who hear about them. Then they may become dedicated to Him. (Bhag.10.33.36) These pastimes of the Lord are so powerful that they can remove the sins of the three planetary systems and deliver those who are trapped in the continuous cycle of birth and death. (Bhag.10.86.34) Those who desire to serve the Lord should hear of these activities. Hearing such narrations of these pastimes destroy the reactions to fruitive work [karma]. (Bhag.10.90.49)

            It is by Lord Krishna’s pastimes that He calls all the conditioned souls to Him through love. Thus, by His wondrous activities He attracts all beings to return to their natural, spiritual position by reawakening their dormant love and service to Him, the Supreme Being. This is the purpose of human life, which provides the best facility and intellect for understanding our spiritual identity and connection with the Lord. As Sukadeva Gosvami explained to Maharaja Pariksit, “He, the Personality of Godhead, as the maintainer of all in the universe, appears in different incarnations after establishing the creation, and thus He reclaims all kinds of conditioned souls amongst the humans, nonhumans and demigods.” (Bhag.2.10.42)

            “To show causeless mercy to the devotees who would take birth in the future of this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, acted in such a way that simply by remembering Him one will be freed from all the lamentation and unhappiness of material existence.” (Bhag.9.24.61) However, Lord Krishna also explains that when He descends in His human form, the fools who are ignorant of His spiritual nature and supreme dominion over everything deride and criticize Him (Bg.9.11)

            Nonetheless, Lord Krishna Himself further explains the reasons for His appearance in this world to King Muchukunda: “My dear friend, I have taken thousands of births, lived thousands of lives and accepted thousands of names. In fact My births, activities and names are limitless, and thus even I cannot count them. After many lifetimes someone might count the dust particles on the earth, but no one can ever finish counting My qualities, activities, names and births. O King, the greatest sages enumerate My births and activities, which take place throughout the three phases of time, but never do they reach the end of them. Nonetheless, O friend, I will tell you about My current birth, name and activities. Kindly hear. Some time ago, Lord Brahma requested Me to protect religious principles and destroy the demons who were burdening the earth. Thus I descended in the Yadu dynasty, in the home of Anakadundubhi. Indeed, because I am the son of Vasudeva, people call Me Vasudeva.” (Bhag.10.51.36-40)

 

HOW LORD KRISHNA TOOK BIRTH IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
            The Supreme Being in His form as Sri Krishna appeared on this planet 5,000 years ago and performed His pastimes for 125 years before returning to His spiritual abode. The Vishnu Purana (Book Four, Chapter Twenty-four) establishes that the age of Kali-yuga began when Lord Krishna left this world in 3102 BC. There are many stories in the Vedic literature which narrate how Krishna engages in loving activities with His friends and relatives when He appears in this world, and how He performs amazing feats which thrill and astonish everyone, both while on this planet and in His spiritual abode. However, He brings His spiritual domain and His numerous pure devotees with Him when He descends into this world. Descriptions of the many activities and pastimes which go on in the spiritual world are found in such texts as Srimad-Bhagavatam, Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata, Caitanya-caritamrta, and Sanatana Goswami’s Brihat Bhagavatamritam, and others, which explain the many levels and unlimited nature of the spiritual realm. Indeed, the body of the Lord is described as full of eternal bliss, truth, knowledge, the most dazzling splendour, and source of all that exists.

            It is described that when the Lord appeared on this planet in the nineteenth and twentieth incarnations, He advented Himself as Lord Balarama and Lord Krishna in the family of Vrishni [the Yadu dynasty], and by so doing He removed the burden of the world. (Bhag.1.3.23)

            The story of Lord Krishna’s birth is a unique narrative, as told in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. About 5,000 years ago when the earth was overburdened by the military might of the demoniac who had taken the forms of rulers and kings, the spirit of mother earth took the shape of a cow and approached Lord Brahma to seek relief. Concerned with the situation on earth, Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and other demigods went to the shore of the ocean of milk. Within that ocean is an island which is the residence of Lord Vishnu. After mentally offering prayers to Lord Vishnu, Brahma could understand the advice the Lord gave him. This was that He would soon appear on the surface of the earth in order to mitigate the burden of the demoniac kings. Therefore, the demigods and their wives should appear in the Yadu dynasty in order to serve as servants of Lord Krishna and increase the size of that dynasty.

            Then one day Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, and his wife, Devaki, were riding home from their wedding. Devaki’s brother, the demoniac King Kamsa, was driving the chariot. Then a voice of warning came from the sky announcing that Kamsa would be killed by Devaki’s eighth son. Kamsa was immediately ready to kill his sister, but Vasudeva instructed him and talked him out of the idea. Kamsa was still not satisfied, so Vasudeva said he would bring all of the children to Kamsa as they were born. Then Kamsa could kill them. As the children were born, at first Kamsa decided not to kill them. But later Kamsa learned from the sage Narada Muni that the demigods were appearing in the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties and were conspiring to kill him. Kamsa then decided that all the children in these families should be killed, and that Vasudev and Devaki should be imprisoned in his jail in Mathura, and that their children should not be spared. Narada Muni had also told Kamsa that in his previous life he had been a demon named Kalanemi who was killed by Lord Vishnu. Thus, Kamsa became especially infuriated and a dedicated enemy of all the descendants of the Yadu dynasty.

            Anantadeva (Balarama) first appeared in the womb of Devaki as her seventh pregnancy. It was Yogamaya, Krishna’s internal potency, who made the arrangement to transfer Anantadeva from the womb of Devaki to that of Rohini, a wife of Nanda Maharaja in Gokul, from whom He appeared as Balarama. Then, with the prayers and meditations of Vasudeva, Lord Krishna appeared within his heart, and then within the heart of Devaki. So Devaki’s eighth pregnancy was Krishna Himself. Thereafter, she became increasingly effulgent, which drew the attention of Kamsa, who wanted to kill Krishna. Thus, he became absorbed in thoughts of Krishna. Devaki also drew the attention of the many demigods who came to offer prayers to her and the Lord in her womb.

            When the Lord appeared, He first exhibited His four-armed form to show that He was the Supreme Lord. Vasudeva and Devaki were struck with wonder and offered many prayers. Yet, fearing Kamsa, Devaki prayed that Krishna withdraw His four-armed form and exhibit His two-armed form.

            The Lord also told them of how He had appeared two other times as their son in the form of Prishnigarbha and Vamanadeva. This was the third time that He was appearing as their son to fulfill their desires. That night, during a rainstorm, Lord Krishna desired to leave the prison and be taken to Gokul. By the arrangement of Yogamaya, the shackles and prison doors were opened and Vasudeva was able to leave the prison and take Krishna to Gokul, thus saving the child from the danger of Kamsa. At this time, Yogamaya herself had taken birth from Mother Yashoda as a baby girl. When Vasudeva arrived at Nanda Maharaja’s house, everyone was in deep sleep. Thus, he was able to place Lord Krishna in the hands of Yashoda, while taking her own newly born baby girl back with him. This baby girl was actually Krishna’s energy, Yogamaya. When he returned, he placed the baby girl on Devaki’s bed, and prepared to accept his place in the prison again by putting the shackles back on. Later, when Yashoda awoke in Gokul, she could not remember whether she had given birth to a male or female child, and easily accepted Lord Krishna as her own.

            When the baby girl, Yogamaya, began crying in the morning, it drew the attention of the doorkeepers of the prison, who then notified King Kamsa. Kamsa forcefully appeared in the prison to kill the child. Devaki pleaded with him to save the baby. Instead, he grabbed the little girl from her arms and tried to dash the baby against a rock. However, she slipped from his hands and rose above his head, floating in the air while exhibiting her true form as the eight-armed Durga. Durga told Kamsa that the person for whom he was looking had already taken birth elsewhere. Thus, Kamsa became filled with wonder that Devaki’s eighth child appeared to be a female, and the enemy he feared had taken birth elsewhere. Then he released Devaki and Vasudeva, being apologetic for all that he had done. Yet, after conferring with his ministers, they decided that they had best try to kill all the children that had been born in the past ten days in the attempt to try to find and kill Kamsa’s enemy, Krishna. Thus started the atrocities of Kamsa and his ministers, which he would eventually pay for when Lord Krishna would kill him. Meanwhile, Lord Krishna started His pastimes with His devotees in Gokul and Vrindavana to display His unique characteristics, personality and beauty.

            In this way, as Sri Uddhava explained to Vidura, “The Lord appeared in the mortal world by His external potency, yogamaya. He came in His eternal form, which is just suitable for His pastimes. These pastimes were wonderful for everyone, even for those proud of their own opulence, including the Lord Himself in His form as the Lord of Vaikuntha. Thus His [Sri Krishna’s] transcendental body is the ornament of all ornaments… The Personality of Godhead, the all-compassionate controller of both the material and spiritual creations, is unborn, but when there is friction between His peaceful devotees and persons who are in the material modes of nature, He takes His birth just like fire, accompanied by the mahat-tattva.” (Bhag. 3.2.12, 15)

 

JANMASTAMI–KRISHNA’S BIRTH FESTIVAL

 

            The day of Krishna’s birth in this world is called Janmastami. It is one of the biggest of the annual Vedic festivals. It is held in the typical pattern of preparation, purification, realization, and then celebration. On the day of the festival, people will fast and spend the day focused on Krishna, meditating and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and other prayers or songs devoted to Lord Krishna. Often times, there will also be plays and enactments of the birth and pastimes of the Lord. Thus, offering their obeisances and focusing their minds on Lord Krishna, the devotees hold themselves in such single-pointed concentration throughout the day. This, along with the fasting, indicates the overcoming of the false ego and the attachment to the body. After relieving ourselves of such hindrances, we engage in the worship of the Lord as the evening brings us closer to the occasion of His divine appearance. Therein, after a full day of purification, the Supreme appears and we realize our own connection with the Lord, who then manifests as the ultimate worshipable object of our purified consciousness. Then at the stroke of midnight Lord Krishna takes birth, which is commemorated by a midnight arati ceremony. Thus, this climax at night represents our overcoming the darkness of ignorance and reaching the state of purified spiritual knowledge and perception. Therein we overcome the influence of the mind and senses and enter the state of steady awareness wherein there is full spiritual awakening. If one can follow this process, then he or she can experience the real meaning of Krishna Janmastami.

 

MISUNDERSTANDING THE ACTIVITIES OF LORD KRISHNA
            The activities and pastimes of Lord Krishna are full of meaning and purpose, all of which reveal the highest Truth. The level of perception depends on the person’s depth of spiritual understanding. If a person has little depth to his or her spiritual realization and the life of Lord Krishna, then interpretations of such activities of the Lord can result in wrong or even absurd conclusions. This is the danger when those who are spiritually inexperienced wish to comment on something of which they have no real understanding, though they think they do.

            Some people feel that if Lord Krishna encouraged Arjuna to fight in the war of Kuruksetra, as was instructed in the Bhagavad-gita, then this means that He was endorsing violence. However, we should point out that Lord Krishna never wanted war and exhibited much tolerance to the atrocities that the Kauravas displayed toward the Pandavas. But too much tolerance may also be seen as a sign of weakness and can make the abusers more egoistic and cruel, allowing them to think they can get away with whatever they want. When such a person is a ruler of a country, he must be removed. That is compassion for the rest of society. If such a ruler is allowed to live, he will create more havoc to the rest of society.

            Lord Krishna wanted to protect dharma, the ways of truth and Vedic culture, and asked the Kauravas, especially Duryodhana, to give up their evil ways. He even tried to negotiate for peace, but the Kauravas wanted no part of it. The Pandavas only wanted a small portion of land to live on, which was their rightful heritage. But the Kauravas said they would not give enough land in which to even push in a needle. So they would not change. So finally there was no alternative but war. However, even then Lord Krishna said He would only be Arjuna’s chariot driver and not take up any weapon, even though He could have destroyed to whole world with a glance. So He actually had no personal interest in fighting. The Lord acted in the appropriate manner to protect society and dharma. In this way, war may be utilized to protect dharma and the general welfare of society when necessary. To stand by and watch wickedness spread through the world without taking any action is a worse evil.

            Even when Krishna killed His own uncle, Kamsa, He did so because Kamsa had completely given up all dharma and moral standards, and would not accept anyone’s advice. He ruled in a cruel way and made so many plans and attempts to kill Krishna, thus terrorizing the whole society. So finally there was a showdown when Kamsa invited Krishna and Balarama to a wrestling match that had been planned as another attempt to kill them. Therein Krishna finally killed Kamsa. However, by this act of losing his body, Kamsa was delivered from his evil mentality and was transferred to a new situation after having been purified by the touch of the Lord. Thus, Kamsa lost his body, but his soul was lifted up and he achieved liberation.

            Some people may also say that Lord Krishna consorted with women and the wives of other men, which shows devious standards. Yet, this idea exhibits how ignorant such people are. First of all, He was only six or seven years old at the time He performed His rasa dance with the cowherd girls of Vrindavana, which holds much deep significance that few can fully understand. He is the Lord of everyone no matter what their position. He wanted to make everyone happy, and to awaken each soul to their relationship with the Supreme. To do this He wanted to break the limitations of pride and shame and whatever bonds keep us from an unbroken focus on God and our service to Him. Such bonds exist only within the mind, but we must become free from these unwanted conceptions. This was but one small purpose in bringing those select souls in the form of the girls of Vrindavana to the unlimited spiritual bliss of divine love with the Supreme Being. This is no common thing, most of which ordinary people cannot fathom or imagine. Therefore, one must look deep into Lord Krishna’s activities. Otherwise, without proper insight, one may arrive at a wrong conclusion as to the purpose and meaning in the Lord’s activities, or even what the real identity is of the Lord.

            When Shiva went to see the Lord in His form as Vishnu, Shiva pointed out in his prayers how the Lord is perceived by different people in different ways, according to their level of understanding and consciousness. He said “Those who are known as the impersonalist Vedantists regard you as the Impersonal Brahman. Others, known as the Mimamsaka philosophers, regard You as religion. The Sankhya philosophers regard You as the transcendental person who is beyond prakriti [material nature] and purusha who is the controller of even the demigods. The followers of the codes of devotional service known as the Pancharatras regard You as being endowed with nine different potencies. And the Patanjala philosophers, the followers of Patanjali Muni, regard you as the supreme independent Personality of Godhead, who has no equal or superior.” (Bhag.8.12.9) In this way, though one’s consciousness and ideas of what the Absolute is prevents one from arriving at a true understanding, the Supreme Being remains unaffected, waiting for us to purify and spiritualize our consciousness to perceive the ultimate reality as He is.

 

THE BEAUTY OF KRISHNA
            Lord Krishna’s beauty is described in numerous prayers, poems, and portions of the Vedic literature. So we could provide many verses that describe this aspect of Krishna. An example of this is found when Lord Brahma relates Lord Krishna’s form in the many verses of his Brahma-samhita. He also explains the beauty of Lord Krishna in his prayers that he directly offered to the Lord in the Bhagavatam. He says that Lord Krishna’s body is dark blue like a new cloud. His garments are like brilliant lightning, and the beauty of Krishna’s face is enhanced by His earrings and the peacock feather He wears on His head. He stands beautifully while wearing garlands made from the forest flowers, carrying a herding stick, a buffalo horn, and a flute. (Bhag.10.14.1)

            His personal form is so attractive that it is considered the reservoir of all beauty. In fact, all beautiful things emanate from Him. His form is so attractive that it directs one’s attention away from all other objects. Those same objects then seem devoid of attractiveness after seeing Lord Krishna. Thus, He attracts the minds of all people. His words also captivated the minds of all who remembered them. Even seeing His footsteps, people were attracted. Thus, Krishna spreads His glories which are sung everywhere throughout the universe in the most sublime and essential Vedic verses. Lord Krishna says that by hearing and chanting about His glorious pastimes, the conditioned souls within this world could cross the ocean of ignorance. (Bhag.11.1.7)

            The attractive nature of God is further described in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila, 17.139-140): “The transcendental qualities of Sri Krishna are completely blissful and relishable. Consequently Lord Krishna’s qualities attract even the minds of self-realized persons from the bliss of self-realization. Those who are self-satisfied and unattracted by external material desires are also attracted to the loving service of Sri Krishna, whose qualities are transcendental and whose activities are wonderful. Hari, the Personality of Godhead, is called Krishna because He has such transcendentally attractive features.”

            Many of the Gosvamis of Vrindavana who had personally realized the attractive features of the Supreme wrote many books about the transcendental personality of God. One of the greatest of these saints was Rupa Gosvami (1489-1564 A.D.) who wrote a list of Krishna’s characteristics in his book, Bhakti rasamrita-sindhu. This list describes 64 different qualities of God that are mentioned in the Vedic literature. This again confirms that the Lord is not merely an impersonal force, but a person who interacts in every way with the creation and the living entities that are within the creation that manifests from Him.

            The list includes the following qualities: 1) beautiful features of the entire body; 2) marked with all auspicious characteristics; 3) extremely pleasing; 4) effulgent; 5) strong; 6) ever youthful; 7) wonderful linguist; 8) truthful; 9) talks pleasingly; 10) fluent; 11) highly learned; 12) highly intelligent; 13) a genius; 14) artistic; 15) extremely clever; 16) expert; 17) grateful; 18) firmly determined; 19) an expert judge of time and circumstances; 20) sees and speaks on the authority of the scriptures–the Veda; 21) pure; 22) self-controlled; 23) steadfast; 24) forbearing; 25) forgiving; 26) grave; 27) self-satisfied; 28) possessing equilibrium; 29) magnanimous; 30) religious; 31) heroic; 32) compassionate; 33) respectful; 34) gentle; 35) liberal; 36) shy; 37) protector of surrendered souls; 38) happy; 39) well-wisher of devotees; 40) controlled by love; 41) all-auspicious; 42) most powerful; 43) all-famous; 44) popular; 45) partial to devotees; 46) very attractive to all women; 47) all-worshipable; 48) all-opulent; 49) all-honorable; and 50) the Supreme controller.

            These fifty qualities, however, may also be found in varying degrees in some of the jivas or common living entities in this universe. But they are found in Lord Krishna to an unlimited degree. But besides these 50 qualities, there are five more which may also be manifested at times in the forms of Lord Brahma and Shiva. These are: 51) changeless; 52) all-cognizant; 53) ever-fresh; 54) sat-cid-ananda-vigraha–possessing a transcendental form of eternity, full of knowledge and absolute bliss; and 55) possessing all mystic perfection.

            Beyond the above mentioned qualities, which may be seen in other forms of Divinity such as the demigods, Lord Krishna has the following exceptional qualities which are also manifested in the form of Narayana or Vishnu, His form as the Lord of Vaikuntha. These are: 56) inconceivable potency; 57) uncountable universes are generated from His body; 58) the original source of all incarnations; 59) the giver of salvation to the enemies He kills; and 60) the attractor of liberated souls.

            Besides the above-mentioned traits, Lord Krishna has four more qualities that are found only in Him, and not even in His forms of Vishnu, not to mention any of the demigods. These are: 61) the performer of wonderful pastimes (especially his childhood pastimes); 62) surrounded by devotees endowed with unsurpassed love of Godhead; 63) the attractor of all living entities in all universes through the expert playing of His flute; and 64) possessor of unexcelled beauty without rival. All of these qualities are those of someone who has a highly developed form and personality.

            Even the Bible verifies that God has a most beautiful form and is not formless, as is shown in the next few verses that are very similar to the Vedic description of God’s form: “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers; his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl; his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.” (Song of Solomon 5.10-16)

            Obviously, there is no more elevated truth or higher bliss than the personal form of the Supreme. As Sri Krishna says: “O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no truth superior to Me.” (Bg.7.7) Many great transcendental scholars have accepted this fact, including Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Vallabhacharya, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Baladeva, as well as Lord Brahma, who, after performing many austerities for spiritual purification, became perfectly self-realized and, getting a glimpse of the Lord’s spiritual nature, composed the Brahma-samhita many thousands of years ago and described what were his confidential realizations. One such verse is the following: “Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Brahma-samhita 5.1)

 

HOW TO UNDERSTAND GOD

 

            Sometimes people say that they want to see God, or that God is not perceivable. And this is confirmed in the Vedic scripture, but with additional points of instruction on how we can perceive the Supreme Being. The Svetasvatara Upanishad (4.20) explains “His form of beauty is imperceptible to mundane senses. No one can see Him with material eyes. Only those who realize, through deep pure-hearted meditation, this Supreme Personality, who resides in everyone’s heart, can attain liberation.”

            Krishna lila or His pastimes are eternally going on in the spiritual world, whereas they appear to be happening only at certain points in time within the material energy. However, one who has purified his or her consciousness can still witness these activities even while in the material body. This can especially happen at the holy places (dhamas) where the spiritual and material energies overlap, and where the spiritual world appears with this material domain. Such places include Vrindavana, Mathura, Jagannatha Puri, Dwaraka, etc. And when the Lord is pleased with your service, He can reveal Himself to you. In this way, many greatly elevated and pure devotees of Krishna have been able to have personal darshan of the Lord and witness His pastimes even while in the material body. Then they may leave instructions for the rest of us to follow so that we can do the same. This is verification that the process of devotion, bhakti-yoga, works.

            The Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.29) continues with this point. “My Lord, if one is favored by even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet, one can understand the greatness of Your Personality. But those who speculate to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead are unable to know You, even though they continue to study the Vedas for many years.”

            The Katha Upanishad (1.2.23) also relates “The Supreme Soul can neither be attained by studying the Veda, nor by sharp intelligence, nor by hearing many discourses on the scriptures. However, the Lord reveals His original transcendental form to the soul who embraces Him within the heart as the only Lord and Master. That soul alone can attain Him–the Supreme Soul, the Personality of Godhead, the Lord of the heart.”

            Since Krishna is the Supreme Being and source of all enjoyment, it is in our best interest to engage in His service, for that will also connect us to Him and give us that great pleasure and bliss that we are always trying to find. That is the point of devotional service, called bhakti-yoga, which is the process of connecting (yog) with the Supreme through devotion (bhakti). In this way, our inherent loving propensity is directed toward the supreme lover and natural object of love, God. There is no better way of finding God than this. In other words, through devotion we do not try to see God, but we act in such a way that God reveals Himself to us. Then everything is accomplished. There can be no greater achievement in the human form of life than that. Everything else is temporary; it comes and goes. Only our spiritual achievements last eternally because they are connected with the immortal soul. Therefore, reawakening our relationship with the Supreme is the highest goal in human existence.

            Since it is established in the Vedic texts that the Absolute is a person, then meditating on the personal form of God rather than the impersonal feature is the highest form of meditation. This is verified in Bhagavad-gita (12.2): “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: ‘He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshipping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be the most perfect.’”

            Herein, we can understand that realizing the Absolute Truth in the form of the Supreme Person is much easier and much more attractive than struggling to realize, meditate on, or merge into the great white light of the impersonal brahmajyoti, or some other non-personal aspect of God. By understanding the Supreme Personality, all other facets of the Absolute, such as the Brahman effulgence and Paramatma or Supersoul, are also understood. In fact, those who are absorbed in Brahman realization can easily become attracted to understanding the Supreme Personality as did such sages as Sukadeva Gosvami and the Kumaras, as noted in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

            “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, the son of Vyasadeva, Sukadeva Gosvami. It is he who defeats all inauspicious things within this universe. Although in the beginning he was absorbed in the happiness of Brahman realization and was living in a secluded place, giving up all other types of consciousness, he became attracted by the most melodious pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna. He therefore mercifully spoke the supreme Purana, known as Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the bright light of the Absolute Truth and which describes the activities of Lord Krishna.” (Bhag.12.12.68)

            Since Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality, then naturally there are certain ways in which to understand Him. This is a science, which we can more deeply explain later. But for now we can offer a summary of the instructions that point the way. The main point of consideration is that if we are trying to understand Lord Krishna, then we need to know what pleases Him, which is something that we can find from His direct instructions.

            The key is explained directly by Lord Sri Krishna Himself when he says: “Knowledge about Me as described in the scriptures is very confidential, and it has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service. The necessary paraphernalia for that process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully. All of Me, namely My actual eternal form and My transcendental existence, color, qualities and activities–let all be awakened within you by factual realization, out of My causeless mercy.” (Bhag.2.9.31-32)

            To start on this process, one needs to hear from one who knows and is acquainted with the qualities of Lord Krishna and can explain them to others. This is established in this famous verse:

 

yasya deve para bhaktir

yatha deve tatha gurau

tasyaite kathita hy arthaha

prakashante mahatmanaha
            “Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.23)

            Lord Krishna also says, however, that “I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.” (Bg.9.25)

            Lord Brahma concurs with this point and verifies the need for the performance of devotional service, in which he says to Lord Krishna, “My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.” (Bhag. 10.14.4)

            As Lord Krishna establishes the foundation for attaining the means to understand Him, He also explains how to begin the process. “Only by practicing unalloyed devotional service with full faith in Me can one obtain Me, the Supreme Person. I am naturally dear to My devotees, who take Me as the only goal of their loving service. By engaging in such pure devotional service, even the dog-eaters can purify themselves from the contamination of their low birth.” (Bhag.11.14.21)

            In his summary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Suta Gosvami also explains the above point: “Remembrance of Lord Krishna’s lotus feet destroys everything inauspicious and awards the greatest good fortune. It purifies the heart and bestows devotion for the Supreme Soul, along with knowledge enriched with realization and renunciation.” (Bhag.12.12.55)

            Lord Krishna continues His instructions to Arjuna: “My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.” (Bg.11.54)

            “The person who is searching after the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, must certainly search for it up to this, in all circumstances, in all space and time, and both directly and indirectly. O Brahma, just follow this conclusion by fixed concentration of mind, and no pride will disturb you, neither in the partial nor in the final devastation.” (Bhag.2.9.36-37)

            Herein it is as if Lord Krishna is speaking directly to us, that if we follow through with this process, we will be successful even at the time of death, which is certainly the final test of life in whatever we may have done.

            “For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Bg.12.6-7)

            “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.” (Bg.9.27-28)

            “By regularly hearing, chanting and meditating on the beautiful topics of Lord Mukunda with ever-increasing sincerity, a mortal being will attain the divine kingdom of the Lord, where the inviolable power of death holds no sway. For this purpose, many persons, including great kings, abandoned their mundane homes and took to the forest [for performing spiritual pursuits].” (Bhag.10.90.50)

            Here it becomes clear that, as it is further described, for those who hear and chant the holy name and topics of Krishna, millions of grievous sinful reactions become immediately burned to ashes. Of course, the most important time for remembering the Lord and chanting His name is at the time of death. That is why it is said that those who chant “Krishna, Krishna” at the time the body expires become eligible for liberation.

            The GopalaTapani Upanishad (1.6) states, “One who meditates on this Supreme Person, glorifies Him, and worships Him, becomes liberated. He becomes liberated.”

            In conclusion, Lord Krishna simply explains that, “Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do. Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you the most confidential part of knowledge. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit. Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bg.18.63-66)

 

 

RESULT OF FAILING TO KNOW KRISHNA
       Failing to have enough faith in Lord Krishna, or in getting to know Him, is not quite the same as you might find in some other faiths or religions wherein they say you will go to eternal hell if you are a non-believer, or you are an infidel worthy of death, or whatever. But failing to investigate Him and realize what is our final destination is considered a waste of this particular life. Lord Krishna Himself explains:

       “One may be well versed in all the transcendental literature of the Vedas, but if he fails to be acquainted with the Supreme, then it must be concluded that all of his education is like the burden of a beast or like one’s keeping a cow without milking capacity.” (Bhag.11.11.18)

       “Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Bg.9.25)

       In this way we can begin to see the futility of following some materialistic path or a secondary spiritual method without the process for reaching an understanding of Lord Krishna. “Among all the eternal, conscious beings, there is One who supplies the needs of everyone else. The wise who worship Him in His abode attain everlasting peace. Others cannot.” (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13)

       In this way, a person is allowed to proceed through life in the way he or she wants. Lord Krishna allows each person to develop in their own way, and to continue wandering throughout the universe and through various activities until they begin to wonder about the purpose of life, or become ready for a deep spiritual path. Materialistic activities are not the way to find everlasting peace, and most of us need to discover that for ourselves. However, a person cannot be helped until he or she is ready. So, until then, they may be offered the spiritual knowledge they need, but they must decide for themselves how much of it they wish to utilize. Just as when Sri Krishna spoke the whole Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, at the end of it He asked Arjuna what he wished to do. He had to make up his own mind. He was not forced to do anything. In the same way, we can only offer this knowledge for the benefit of humanity, and they can decide what they wish to do, or how long they wish to continue their existence in the material worlds.

       “They are truly ignorant who, while imprisoned within the ceaseless flow of this world’s material qualities, fail to know You, the Supreme Soul of all that be, as their ultimate, sublime destination. Because of their ignorance, the entanglement of material work forces such souls to wander in the cycle of birth and death.” (Bhag.10.85.15)

       Therefore, regardless of what else we do, we should recognize how advantageous it is to add the process of engaging in devotional service to Lord Krishna in this lifetime. We may not even be able to become perfect at it, but it nonetheless accelerates our spiritual development. Otherwise, regardless of what else we have accomplished materially, our life remains incomplete. “Caught in the grip of ignorance, self-proclaimed experts consider themselves learned authorities. They wander about this world befooled, like the blind leading the blind.” (Katha Upanishad 1.2.5)

       It is only through this spiritual education that we can understand our real identity and transcendental nature beyond the body and all material activities. Without that, we remain ignorant of our true potential and the final shelter that is awaiting us in the spiritual domain.

 

KRISHNA’S ETERNAL SPIRITUAL ABODE
            The Vedic texts describe that there are innumerable spiritual planets in the spiritual sky beyond this material creation, each having one of the unlimited forms of the Lord with countless devotees engaging in His service. In the centre of all the spiritual planets of Vaikuntha (meaning the spiritual sky where there is no anxiety) is the planet known as Krishnaloka or Goloka Vrindavana. This is the personal abode of the original Supreme Personality of God, Sri Krishna. Krishna enjoys His transcendental bliss in multiple forms on that planet, and all the opulences of the other Vaikuntha planets are found there. This planet is shaped like a lotus flower and many kinds of pastimes are taking place on each leaf of that lotus, as described in Brahma-samhita, verses two and four: “The superexcellent station of Krishna, which is known as Gokula, has thousands of petals and a corolla like that of a lotus sprouted from a part of His infinitary aspect, the whorl of the leaves being the actual abode of Krishna. The whorl of that eternal realm, Gokula, is the hexagonal abode of Krishna. Its petals are the abodes of gopis [friends] who are part and parcel of Krishna to whom they are most lovingly devoted and are similar in essence. The petals shine beautifully like so many walls. The extended leaves of that lotus are the garden-like dhama, or spiritual abode of Sri Radhika, the most beloved of Krishna.” [For more information about Srimati Radharani, read my article on my website about her at www.stephen-knapp.com.]  

            The only business that Sri Krishna has in the spiritual realm is transcendental enjoyment. The only business of Krishna’s eternal servants or devotees is to offer enjoyment to Him. The more enjoyment the devotees offer to Krishna, the happier He becomes. The happier Krishna becomes, the more His devotees become enlivened and taste eternal, transcendental ecstasy. In this way, there is an ever-increasing competition of spiritual ecstasy between Krishna and His parts and parcels. This is the only business in the spiritual world, as confirmed in Brahma-samhita, verse 6: “The Lord of Gokula is the Transcendental Supreme Godhead, the own Self of eternal ecstacies. He is superior to all superiors and is busily engaged in the enjoyments of the transcendental realm and has no association with His mundane [material] potency.”

            Though it is not possible to experience spiritual pastimes or to see the form of the Supreme with ordinary senses, by spiritualizing our senses by the practice of devotional yoga we can reach the platform of perceiving the Supreme at every moment. At that time we start becoming Krishna conscious and can begin to enter into the pastimes of Krishna, although we may still be situated within this material body. If we become fully spiritualized in this manner, there is no doubt that when we give up this material body, we will return to the spiritual world. Until then, we can continue studying the Vedic texts to remember and be conversant about the beauty and loveliness of the spiritual world, as described as follows:

            “Vrindavana-dhama is a place of ever-increasing joy. Flowers and fruits of all seasons grow there, and that transcendental land is full of the sweet sound of various birds. All directions resound with the humming of bumblebees, and it is served with cool breezes and the waters of the Yamuna River. Vrindavana is decorated with wish-fulfilling trees wound with creepers and beautiful flowers. Its divine beauty is ornamented with the pollen of red, blue and white lotuses. The ground is made of jewels whose dazzling glory is equal to a myriad of suns rising in the sky at one time. On that ground is a garden of desire trees, which always shower divine love. In that garden is a jeweled temple whose pinnacle is made of rubies. It is decorated with various jewels, so it remains brilliantly effulgent through all seasons of the year. The temple is beautified with bright-colored canopies, glittering with various gems, and endowed with ruby-decorated coverings and jeweled gateways and arches. Its splendour is equal to millions of suns, and it is eternally free from the six waves of material miseries. In that temple there is a great golden throne inlaid with many jewels. In this way one should meditate on the divine realm of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vrindavana-dhama.” (Gautamiya Tantra 4)

            “I worship that transcendental seat, known as Svetadvipa where as loving consorts the Lakshmis, in their unalloyed spiritual essence, practice the amorous service of the Supreme Lord Krishna as their only lover; where every tree is a transcendental purpose-tree; where the soil is the purpose-gem, water is nectar, every word is a song, every gait is a dance, the flute is the favorite attendant, effulgence is full of transcendental bliss and the supreme spiritual entities are all enjoyable and tasty, where numberless milch-cows always emit transcendental oceans of milk; where there is eternal existence of transcendental time, who is ever present and without past or future and hence is not subject to the quality of passing away even for the duration of half a moment. That realm is known as Goloka only to a very few self-realized souls in this world.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.56)

      By studying and hearing about the beauty of the spiritual world, we will understand that everything we are looking for in life has its origin in that eternal realm. There, as it is described, one finds freedom from all pains and suffering, and the atmosphere is unlimitedly full of ever-expanding beauty, joy, happiness, knowledge, and eternal, loving relationships. It is a world full of recreation only, without the struggle for maintaining our existence. There is never any hunger, and we can feast and never get full. Neither is there any lamentation over the past or fear of the future. It is said that time is conspicuous by its absence. Thus, the needs of the soul for complete freedom and unbounded love and happiness are found in the spiritual atmosphere. That is our real home.

Shiva and Durga: Their Real Identity

Shiva and Durga:

 Their Real Identity

By Stephen Knapp

      The different Vedic gods have particular roles or functions, and represent or control different forces of nature. Thus, they are not all the same. They all have different meanings and potencies to do particular things in the arrangement and management of the universal creation. In this way, most of them have specific positions and purposes to help facilitate the cause for the creation, maintenance, and even the destruction of the universe.

      Since our analysis of the Vedic texts indicated that the Bhagavatam was the most ripened fruit of Vedic knowledge, as well as being the commentary of all Vedanta by Srila Vyasadeva Himself, we will include the conclusive descriptions as found in the Bhagavatam to reach our definitive understanding.

      The most prominent of all the Vedic gods consists of the Trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Brahma assists in creating the world, Vishnu maintains it, and Shiva helps in its annihilation. (I have dealt with this aspect much more extensively in my book, How the Universe Was Created, so I’ll not include that here.) Those that follow the Vedic path, can generally be divided into three main categories; namely those who worship Shiva and are Shaivites, those who worship Shakti or the Goddess and are Shaktas, and those who worship Vishnu, the Vaishnavas. So let’s take a look at who is Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga.

* * *

       One of the most significant of all the Vedic gods is Shiva. And one of the most noted of all the goddesses is Shiva’s wife, Durga. They also go by many other names. For example, Durga is also called Parvati and Sati, which means chastity. The name Shiva means auspicious. Shiva is known by many different names according to his function. When, for example, he expresses himself through space and time, he is known as Eshwara. He is called Sadashiva when he functions through air, which incorporates the principles of both sound and touch. Shiva is known as Rudra when he operates through fire, which incorporates the principles of sound, touch and form.

       Shiva is the embodiment and controller of tama-guna, the mode of darkness, inertia, and the tendency towards annihilation. This is how he assists in the destruction of the cosmic creation in the end times, as well as in the exhibition of continuous forms of death and destruction that we see every day. However, this demise and dissolution can also be viewed as a renewal, which is also considered to be a part of Shiva.

       We can find additional characteristics of Lord Shiva in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.2.2) in which it states that Lord Shiva is the spiritual master of the entire world. He is a peaceful personality, free from enmity, always satisfied in himself. He is the greatest among all the demigods. He is the spiritual master of the world by showing how to worship the Supreme. He is considered the best of all devotees. Therefore, he has his own spiritual line or sampradaya called the Rudra-sampradaya that comes directly from him. These days it is also found in the Vishnusvami-sampradaya, or the Vallabha-sampradaya.

       Shiva is described as the most powerful, second only to Lord Vishnu.1 In this way, he is not the Supreme, but is almost as powerful. Although he has nothing to attain in this material world, he is always engaged for the benefit of everyone in this universe, and is accompanied by his material and dangerous energies like goddess Kali and goddess Durga. They serve him by killing all kinds of demons and impious persons. War represents Kali’s energy of devastation. Sometimes we see pictures of a fierce form of Kali standing with one foot on the body of Shiva. This is because Shiva sometimes has to lie down in front of her to pacify her from killing all the demoniac people in the world. In this way, Shiva controls the material energy. Lord Shiva is also in control of the destructive energy, tamo-guna, the mode of darkness, and is assisted by Kali and Durga in this purpose. Durga helps him in keeping the majority of the living beings in the darkness of ignorance. That is why Durga and Kali are described as dangerous potencies. Only those who are serious about spiritual life are protected from this darkness.

       Shiva is often shown as a handsome young man, with long hair from which flows a spurt of the Ganga (Ganges) River (an emblem of purity) and in which is also a crescent moon. He is also white or light bluish in complexion, sometimes with a third eye between the eyebrows on the forehead, and usually with four arms (a sign of universal power) holding a Trishula (a trident, showing his ruling proficiency over the three modes of nature), the Damaru (small hour-glass shaped drum, the beating of which represents language or the alphabet), and exhibiting the mudras (hand positions) of Abhaya (protection) and Varada (giving blessings).

       It is also said that Shiva’s drum represents srishti, the creation; the abhaya hand (giving blessings) represents sthiti, or preservation; his foot that presses down symbolizes tirobhava, or the veiling effect; and the uplifted foot means blessings (anugraha), especially toward seeing through the veil of illusion caused by ego. When he is shown with an axe, it represents samhara, destruction.

       Sometimes he is shown with eight, ten or even thirty-two hands. These represent his various potencies and contain such things as an Akshamala (rosary that signifies being the master of spiritual sciences), the Khatvanga (magic wand which shows his being an adept in occult sciences), a Darpana (a mirror showing that the creation is a reflection of his cosmic form), a chakra (disc), a noose, a staff, a bow, a Pashupata spear, a lotus, sword, and so on. He is often sitting on or wearing a tiger skin. The tiger skin represents his command over his desires, which often consumes common men like a tiger.

       Shiva is often shown with serpents entwined around his arms, waist, neck and hair. Snakes often invoke fear. So this represents how Shiva is free from fear. The snake also signifies time. If a poisonous snake bites someone, it is only a matter of time before that person will die. And time catches up with everyone sooner or later. So Lord Shiva is the Lord over time and death. These serpents also indicate that he is surrounded by death but beyond the power of it.

       Shiva is also seen with ash from the cremation grounds smeared over his body. This is called vibhuti. It symbolizes death or detachment from the world and lust. It also indicates that our bodies, being inert matter in their essential form, will also become ashes when we die and if the body is cremated. Thus, we must rise above the bodily identification and become conscious of our real identity within. Ash is the sign of Shiva’s complete renunciation of the world.

       Sometimes Shiva is shown wearing a garland of skulls. The skulls are representative of his being the lord of destruction and the cyclical nature of the appearance and disappearance of the material creation.

       One of the most beautiful forms of Lord Shiva is portrayed in his dancing position, known as Nataraja, the king of dancers. As Nataraja, Shiva holds his damaru drum in his upper right hand. This indicates nada, the sound of the universal development. In his other hand, he holds a flame of destruction. Together these indicate both creation and destruction, the counterpoints of all material existence. His right hand is also held in the position of blessing and protection. As Nataraja, he also wears the skin of a tiger, which he slew. This represents the ego, which will fight when attacked and must be killed by the knowledge of the guru, or the wisdom of Nataraja himself. As Nataraja, he is shown with one foot subduing or standing on the body of Mahamaya, the illusion which is the cause of all suffering. The other foot is raised upward, which represents the attainment of the turiya state beyond the states of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the influence of the mind and creation. Thus, he is completely free from all of these.

       There are many stories that relate how and why Shiva appears the way he does. For example, Lord Shiva is shown at times with a third eye in between his eyebrows on his forehead. It is said that his third eye represents the eye of wisdom, or inner sight. The other two eyes represent the balanced form of love and justice. Thus, Lord Shiva is not too harsh nor too lenient, but views everything with the proper proportions of love, justice, and inner knowledge. Together, Shiva’s three eyes also represent the sun, moon and fire, the means by which the universe is illuminated. How Shiva got a third eye is explained that one day Shiva’s wife Parvati covered Shiva’s eyes with her hands and the whole world was enveloped in darkness. Then Shiva willed the third eye to manifest, which sent forth light, heat and fire.

       Another story is that once when the heavenly Ganga river was descending onto the earth, the weight of its force would have crushed the world, so Shiva accepted it on his head, wherein it stayed until it was ready to be released. The Ganga River is considered to have entered the universe when the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Vamanadeva kicked the outer shell of the universe with His toe, thus letting in some of the water of the Karanadakashayi Ocean, the spiritual water that surrounds the universe. This became the holy Ganga. Thus, it is considered the foot wash of the Lord. So Lord Shiva takes this water on his head.

       Shiva’s Ganga water is also said to represent the flow of knowledge and devotion to God. Shiva is known as the foremost devotee of Lord Krishna, Vishnu, or Lord Rama, which is one of the meanings of the spout of Ganga water on Shiva’s head.

       The Bhagavatam (10.41.15) relates: “The water of the river Ganga [Ganges] has purified the three worlds, having become transcendental by bathing Your [Lord Vishnu’s] feet. Lord Shiva accepted that water on his head, and by that water’s grace the sons of King Sagara attained heaven.”

       Another story is that during the time when the demons and demigods were churning the ocean of milk, many objects started to be produced from it. One was the moon, which Shiva took and placed in his hair. This represents the phases of the moon or the passing of time, which is but an ornament for Shiva since he is not affected by it. The crescent moon also signifies the happiness of life, especially when it is based on a spiritual purpose. The rays of the moon enhance one’s inspiration and energy for spiritual life, just as it is said that the rays of the moon nourish the vegetable kingdom. It represents the cooling light of the knowledge of the Self, and the way life should be when lived in that knowledge.

       Another object that appeared from the churning was the severe poison which Shiva drank to keep it from spreading. However, Parvati, being alarmed at this, grabbed his throat so it could not go down, which is where he kept the poison, and which made his throat turn blue.

       Shiva is often portrayed standing next to or on his bull, Nandikeshvara or Nandi (meaning joyful). Symbolically, Nandi represents the animal tendencies, such as the urge for sex, which are tamed and docile by Lord Shiva’s mastery over it. Thus, he rides on Nandi, who is obedient to Shiva’s command. Nandi also represents strength and virility. He is often seen in temples of Shiva in a reclining position in front of the main shrine, gazing toward the image of Shiva. Nandi also represents the jivatma, the individual soul, and the animalistic impulses that will carry it away into material existence, unless such tendencies are curbed.

 

KRISHNA DEVOTEES ARE DEAR TO SHIVA

AND SHIVA IS DEAR TO THEM

       Shiva works for the benefit of everyone, and tries to help the living beings make spiritual advancement. This is why he has his own line of disciplic succession. This is also why he says to the sons of King Pracinibarhi, “Any person who is surrendered to the Supreme Personality of God, Lord Krishna, the controller of everything, is very dear to me.”1

       The sons of the King were going to practice austerities to worship Lord Vishnu and while searching for a suitable place happened to find Lord Shiva. His bodily luster was like molten gold, his throat was bluish, he had three eyes, and was accompanied by musicians who were glorifying him. Shiva is the protector of the pious and those of gentle behavior. So he was pleased to speak to the princes the way he did. He continued in this way:

       “A person who is directly surrendered to Lord Krishna, or Vishnu, in unalloyed devotional service is immediately promoted to the spiritual planets. I, Lord Shiva, and other demigods attain these planets only after the destruction of the material world. You are all devotees of the Lord, and as such I appreciate that you are as respectable as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. I know in this way that the devotees also respect me and that I am dear to them. Thus no one can be as dear to the devotees as I am.”2

       In this way, a devotee of Krishna does not disrespect Lord Shiva, but worships him as the greatest of devotees of Lord Krishna. A Krishna bhakta also prays to Lord Shiva, but asks Shiva to assist him in attaining the favor of Lord Krishna, and not merely for material benefits. As we find in the Tulasi Ramayana (Uttara-Kanda, Doha 45), Lord Rama says “With joined palms I lay before you another secret doctrine: without adoring Sankara (Lord Shiva) man cannot attain devotion to Me.” So in this way, Shiva can assist us in attaining devotion to Lord Krishna and His expansions.

       After Lord Shiva had spoken to the sons of King Pracinabarhi, he relates a particular mantra for their benefit, which is pure and auspicious for anyone who wants to attain the ultimate goal of life. This mantra is called Shiva’s Song, and consists of verses 33 to 79 of the Twenty-fourth Chapter of the Forth Canto in Srimad-Bhagavatam. He starts his prayer with this verse:

       “O Supreme Personality of Godhead, all glories unto You. You are the most exalted of all self-realized souls. Since You are always auspicious for the self-realized, I wish that You be auspicious to me. You are worshipable by virtue of the all perfect instructions You give. You are the Supersoul; therefore I offer my obeisances unto You as the supreme living bring.”

       Through the remaining 45 verses of this prayer, Lord Shiva praises the many qualities, characteristics, and powers of the Supreme Being in the form of Lord Krishna. At the end of many years in which the sons of the King, called the Pracetas, repeated this prayer everyday, Lord Vishnu Himself appeared to them. He said, “Those who will offer Me the prayers composed by Lord Shiva, both in the morning and in the evening, will be given benedictions by Me. In this way they can both fulfill their desires and attain good intelligence.”3

       Also in the Bhagavatam (4.6.42-53), we can see Lord Shiva’s greatness among the demigods. During the disastrous ritual of Daksha, who displayed great dislike toward Shiva and Shiva’s wife, Durga (Sati) immolated herself in fire. Sati was Daksha’s own daughter and could not tolerate the insults her father made toward her husband, Shiva. So while in meditation she burst into flames. Thereafter, Lord Brahma and the demigods went to pacify Lord Shiva. Brahma consoled Shiva and addressed him as “My dear Lord,” and called him the controller of the entire universe, the combination of mother and father of the universe, and the Supreme Brahman, beyond this creation. Therein we can see that Brahma, the partial creator of the universe, offers praises to Lord Shiva as a superior. This is to appease Lord Shiva, since it is known that his anger can annihilate the universe.

       When the ritual was able to continue and Daksha offered the clarified butter with the mantras from the Yajur-veda, Lord Vishnu appeared there in His original form as Narayana. As described in the Bhagavatam (4.7.18-29) as soon as Lord Vishnu appeared, all the demigods, including Lord Brahma, Shiva, the Gandharvas and sages, immediately offered their respectful obeisances. In the presence of Lord Vishnu’s glaring effulgence from His body, everyone else’s luster faded. Everyone offered their prayers to Him. Therein, Lord Shiva addresses Lord Vishnu, “My dear Lord, my mind and consciousness are always fixed on Your lotus feet, which, as the source of all benediction and the fulfillment of all desires, are worshiped by all liberated sages because Your lotus feet are worthy of worship. With my mind fixed on Your lotus feet, I am no longer disturbed by persons who blaspheme me, claiming that my activities are not purified. I do not mind their accusations, and I excuse them out of compassion, just as You exhibit compassion toward all living entities.”

       After all the personalities had offered their prayers to Lord Vishnu, He replied to Daksha, “Brahma, Shiva and I are the supreme cause of the material manifestation. I am the Supersoul, the self-effulgent witness. But impersonally there is no difference between Brahma, Lord Shiva and Me. I am the original Personality of Godhead, but in order to create, maintain and annihilate this cosmic manifestation, I act through My material energy, and according to different grades of activity, My representations are equally named. One who is not in proper knowledge thinks that the demigods like Brahma and Shiva are independent, or he even thinks that the living entities are independent. A person with average intelligence does not think the head and other parts of the body to be separate. Similarly, My devotee does not differentiate Vishnu, the all-pervading Personality, from anything or any living entity. One who does not consider Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or the living entities in general to be separate from the Supreme, and who knows Brahman, actually realizes peace; others do not.” 4

       What this indicates is the interdependence of the demigods on Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is the ultimate cause of the universal creation. Lord Brahma was born out of Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva was born from Lord Brahma. It is the energy that comes from Lord Vishnu, in the form of Lord Brahma and Shiva, that creates and annihilates the universe. Lord Brahma is manifested for the continuation of the creation, while Lord Shiva assists in the annihilation. In this way, they are interconnected and work together like parts of a single body. Yet, they all play distinct and significant roles in the affairs of the cosmos, but are dependent on Lord Vishnu. When we see that all living beings are expansions from the Supreme Lord and His energy, then one can achieve real peace.

       In fact, it is said that these sages and devotees who see with such equal vision become worshipable by Lord Shiva, Brahma and Lord Vishnu. Once when Lord Shiva was traveling, he met the great sage Markandeya as he was coming out of his yogic trance. At that time, Markandeya offered prayers to Lord Shiva who blessed the sage and then asked if there were any benedictions that the sage wanted. As described in the Bhagavatam (12.10.19-22) Suta Gosvami said: “Lord Shiva, the foremost demigod and the shelter of the saintly devotees, was satisfied by Markandeya’s praise. Pleased, he smiled and addressed the sage. Lord Shiva said: Please ask me for some benediction, since among all givers of benedictions, we three–Brahma, Vishnu and I–are the best. Seeing us never goes in vain, because simply by seeing us a mortal achieves immortality. The inhabitants and ruling demigods of all planets, along with Lord Brahma, the Supreme Lord Hari and I, glorify, worship and assist those brahmanas who are saintly, always peaceful, free of material attachment, compassionate to all living beings, purely devoted to us, devoid of hatred and endowed with equal vision. These devotees do not differentiate between Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma and me, nor do they differentiate between themselves and other living beings. Therefore, because you are this kind of saintly devotee, we worship you.”

 

LORD SHIVA’S POSITION

       In the Bhagavatam (4.3.23), Lord Shiva himself tells his wife, Sati, he is always engaged in worshiping the Supreme Personality known as Lord Vasudeva, Krishna, who is revealed in pure consciousness, by offering obeisances.

       Herein, we can see that in actuality Lord Shiva is subordinate to Lord Vishnu, Krishna, in that he is also a part of Lord Krishna’s universal form, as described in the Bhagavad-gita (11.15). Therein we find: “Arjuna said: My dear Lord Krishna, I see assembled together in Your [universal] body all the demigods and various other living entities. I see Brahma sitting on the lotus flower as well as Lord Shiva and many sages and divine serpents.”

       In the pastimes of Lord Krishna in Vrindavana, we find that Lord Shiva had also tried to enter the rasa-lila dance between Krishna and the gopis, the cowherd damsels. The Mahadeva Gopisvara temple in Vrindavana is said to mark where Lord Shiva desired to become a gopi in order to enter the dance with Lord Krishna. So Lord Shiva was trying to enter into the most confidential pastimes and devotion of Sri Krishna.

       In another light, Lord Shiva is Lord Krishna’s brother-in-law. At the time of Krishna’s birth pastime in Vrindavana, Yasoda bore a daughter, Katyayani or Durga, and Mother Devaki bore a son, Lord Krishna. To save Him from the nefarious King Kamsa, Krishna’s father, Vasudeva, brought Krishna from Mathura to Gokul and exchanged Him with the daughter of Mother Yasoda, taking the daughter back with him. When King Kamsa came to get the new born from Mother Devaki, the child rose into the air and exhibited her form as the eight-armed Durga and chastised Kamsa. Durga is Lord Shiva’s wife, and in this pastime Lord Krishna’s sister, so it can also be said that Shiva is the brother-in-law of Lord Krishna.

       In another place in the Bhagavatam (8.12.10), when Lord Shiva was bewildered by the Supreme Lord’s form as a beautiful woman, Mohini-Murti, Lord Shiva admits his weakness in being unable to fully understand the illusory nature of this material creation. “O My Lord, I, who am considered to be the best of the demigods, and Lord Brahma and the great rishis, headed by Marichi, are born of the mode of goodness. Nonetheless, we are bewildered by Your illusory energy and cannot understand what this creation is. Aside from us, what is to be said of others, like the demons and human beings, who are in the base modes of material nature [rajo-guna and tamo-guna]? How will they know You?”

       Later, Lord Shiva, who is often pictured in meditation, explains to his wife who it is that he meditates on while in trance. He says, “O Goddess, You have now seen the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the unborn master of everyone. Although I am one of the principal expansions of His Lordship, even I was illusioned by His energy. What then is to be said of others, who are fully dependent on maya? When I finished performing mystic yoga for one thousand years, you asked me upon whom was I meditating. Now, here is the Supreme Person to whom time has no entrance and who the Vedas cannot understand.”5

       Another time when Lord Shiva described his subservient position was when Lord Krishna was battling with Banasura, who was a devotee of Lord Shiva, and was cutting off his hundreds of arms. When it looked like Banasura was about to lose his life, Lord Shiva, who had also been a part of the battle scene, approached Lord Krishna to pacify Him and spare Banasura’s life. Therein (Bhagavatam 10.63.34-45) it is related, “Sri Rudra said: You alone are the absolute Truth, the supreme light, the mystery hidden within the verbal manifestation of the Absolute. Those whose hearts are spotless can see You, for You are uncontaminated, like the sky.” In the ten verses that follow, Lord Shiva also addresses Lord Krishna in other ways: “Your current descent into the material realm, O Lord of unrestricted power, is meant for upholding the principles of justice and benefitting the entire universe. We demigods, each depending on Your grace and authority, develop the seven planetary systems. You are the original person, one without a second, transcendental and self-manifesting. Uncaused, you are the cause of all, and You are the ultimate controller.”

       When Uddhava was praying to Lord Krishna, he said, “Even Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva act only as Your instruments in cosmic creation and annihilation, which are ultimately done by You, The Supreme Lord, in Your invisible aspect of time.”6

       One of the major differences between Shiva and Krishna is described as follows: “Sri Shukadeva Gosvami said: Lord Shiva is always united with his personal energy, the material nature. Manifesting himself in three features in response to the entreaties of nature’s three modes, he thus embodies the threefold principle of material ego in goodness, passion and ignorance. The sixteen elements have evolved as transformations of that false ego. When a devotee of Lord Shiva worships his manifestation in any one of these elements, the devotee obtains all sorts of corresponding enjoyable opulences. Lord Hari, however, has no connection with the material modes. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-seeing eternal witness, who is transcendental to material nature. One who worships Him becomes similarly free from the material modes.”7 Thus a worshiper of Lord Shiva gets the results that are conditional to the affects of material nature, while a worshiper of Lord Krishna gets released from the material nature rather than receiving material opulences.

       So in this regard, Sri Shukadeva Gosvami said, “Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and others are able to curse or bless one. Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are very quick to curse or bestow benedictions, my dear King, but the infallible Supreme Lord is not.”8

       Another aspect of understanding Shiva’s position has to do with his purpose, which is connected with how he appeared. This is clearly explained in the ancient text of the Brahmasamhita (verse 15). Therein we find it said “The same Maha-Vishnu created [His next expansion of] Vishnu [Garbhodakashayi Vishnu] from His left limb, Brahma, the first progenitor of beings, from His right limb and, from the space between His two eyebrows, Shambhu, the divine masculine manifested halo.”

       In an explanation of this, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta elaborates that when the mundane creation of the universe is manifested, then the principle of Shambhu in the form of Rudra is born from the space between the two eyebrows of Vishnu. Shambhu enshrines the principle of materialistic ego. This principle makes the living being identify with the material body, subject to the desires for material and bodily happiness. (Brahma-samhita, verse 16, purport)

       So the power of Lord Shiva comes from the potency of Lord Vishnu. This is described as follows in verse 10 of the Brahma-samhita: “The person embodying the material causal principle, viz., the great lord of this mundane world [Maheshvara] Shambhu, in the form of the male generating organ, is joined to his female consort, the limited energy [Maya] as the efficient causal principle. The Lord of the world Maha-Vishnu is manifest in him by His subjective portion in the form of His glance.”

       In this way, during the process of the material creation, and when Maha-Vishnu casts His glance onto the shadowy potency of Maya, Shambhu, lord of the pradhana (the unmanifest material ingredients), who is the same as Rudra, consummates his intercourse with Maya, the efficient principle of the cause of mundane energy. But Shambhu can do nothing independent of the energy of Maha-Vishnu, who represents the direct spiritual power of Krishna. In this way, the principle of the material creation is produced only when Maha-Vishnu, the plenary portion of Lord Krishna, is propitious towards the active endeavors of Maya, Shiva’s consort, and the principle of mundane causality. (Brahma-samhita, verse 10, purport)

So the difference between Maha-Vishnu and Shiva as Shambhu is more clearly described in the Brahma-samhita (verse 45) as follows: “Just as milk is transformed into curd by the action of acids, but yet the effect curd is neither the same as, nor different from, its cause, viz., milk, so I adore the primeval Lord Govinda of whom the state of Shambhu is a transformation for the performance of the work of destruction.”

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta goes on to explain in the purport to this verse that Shiva is not a second Godhead other than Krishna. In fact, those who entertain such a discriminating sentiment commit a great offense to the Supreme Lord. The position of Shambhu is subservient to that of Govinda, Krishna. Hence they are not really different from each other, as the above verse indicates. But as yogurt comes from its initial cause, so Shiva is manifest according to his initial cause, which is from Krishna through Maha-Vishnu. So God takes a subservient position to His direct forms when He attains a distinct personality by the addition of a particular element of adulteration, which is the form of Lord Shiva or Shambhu, through which the Lord comes in contact with the material energy, since Maha-Vishnu never does touch the mundane energy. However, Shiva has no independent initiative or ability.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta further describes that in this way, Govinda manifests Himself as a plenary portion which, in this case, is a guna-avatara in the form of Shambhu, lord of tamo-guna or the mode of darkness… Thus, Shambhu, in pursuance of the will of Govinda, works in union with his consort, Durga-devi, by his own time energy.

Therefore, the real difference between Govinda and Shiva or Brahma is that all the majestic attributes of God are fully present in the form of Govinda, Krishna. Shiva and Brahma are entities adulterated with mundane qualities, however slight they may be. Though Vishnu is also a divine appearance in the mode of goodness, still He is not adulterated. The appearance of Narayana as Maha-Vishnu, or as Garbhodakashayi Vishnu (Vishnu’s expansion in each universe) and Kshirodakashayi Vishnu (Vishnu’s expansion as the Supersoul), are examples of the ubiquitous function of the Supreme Divinity. Lord Vishnu is Godhead Himself, and the two other guna-avataras and all the other gods are entities possessing authority in subordination to Him. The different incarnations of the Supreme Being, Govinda, are the same as the same light appearing in different candles, all shining by the spiritual potency of Govinda, Krishna. (Brahma-samhita, verse forty-six, purport)

This makes it clear that the forms and positions of Shiva and Brahma are eternal, but only in the context of the endurance of the material creation. Lord Shiva is the lord of tamo-guna and material nature, but not of the spiritual world. It is Lord Krishna who is described as the Supreme Being and controller of both the spiritual and material energies.

It is explained further by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta that Lord Krishna has sixty divine qualities in their fullest measure. While 50 of the divine qualities of the jiva souls are present along with five additional qualities in Lord Brahma, yet in Shiva these fifty-five qualities are also present but in greater degrees than in Lord Brahma. (Brahma-samhita, verse 49, purport)  

Thus, the position of Lord Shiva has been described relative to his purpose and function within the material creation, and his form as an expansion of Lord Krishna.

SHAIVISM

        Shaivism is one of the major traditions of the Vedic system, and centers around the worship of Lord Shiva. Those who accept Shiva as the supreme deity are called Shaivites. Its origin predates recorded history, but references to the worship of Shiva can be found in the Vedas and Puranas.

       You will notice that a devotee of Shiva in India usually wears Vibhuti or bhasma, the sacred ash, on his forehead, and Radrakshamala around his neck and elsewhere. The Rudra bead represents the third eye on Lord Shiva’s forehead. He should worship the Shiva lingam with the leaves of the Bilva trees, and his meditation should consist of chanting the Panchakshara, “Om Namaha Shivaya”.

       The philosophy of Shaivism covers a wide range of Hindu thought, from idealistic monism to pluralistic realism, depending on the locality. As it changed through the years, a number of Shaivite sects were established, and the Pasupatas are considered the earliest. The Shaiva cults have had great popularity with village people throughout India, and use a form of asceticism for their means of spiritual advancement. This includes rising above anger and greed, engaging in deep meditation, and concentrating on the repetition of the sacred syllable om. Many Shaiva ascetics can be recognized by their long matted hair, which may also be wrapped and piled up on the head. They often wear a horizontal, three-lined tilok mark on their forehead. Many initiates smear their bodies with ashes which come from the sacred fire or crematoriums. They chant mantras to become free from the bondage of material existence, and sometimes dance and sing to induce trance-like states. Some of their practices are rather unorthodox, depending on the school of thought, and, thus, some have met opposition at various times. Much information about the practices of Shaivism is given in the Shiva Purana.

       The Pasupatas were the earliest sect of Shaivism. They based their ideas on two works, both said to be by Kaundinya: the Pasupatasutra (written around 100-200 A.D.) and the Pancarthabhasya (400-600 A.D.). They expanded primarily into Gujarat. The Pasupatas accept the idea of a Supreme controller, but do not use the Vedas. They establish the existence of the Supreme through inference and say that the Supreme, who they accept as Lord Shiva, is not the original cause of the material world, but is the operative cause in that he simply used the material ingredients which already existed to form the cosmic manifestation. Therefore, through a combination of the potency of Lord Shiva and the material energy, generally regarded as Shakti or Mother Durga, the universe is created.

       The conclusive Vedic literature, however, maintains that demigods such as Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are created by and subordinate to Lord Narayana, Vishnu, who is the creator of the material worlds and all ingredients thereof. The Varaha Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana and many others specifically state that Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and from Him Brahma was born, from whom Shiva was born. Therefore, the demigods are not the Supreme but only dependent agents of the Supreme who work under His direction. This is confirmed in many verses throughout the Vedic literature. Although in some places we may find that demigods like Shiva, Ganesh, Surya, Indra, etc., are described as the ruler and creator of all, we should understand that almost all prayers to the demigods use such terms. But the words should be taken in their etymological sense referring to Narayana, or Vishnu, who is the source of the power that the demigods have. Shiva’s name as Pasupati means “Lord of all souls,” Ganesh means “Lord of all beings,” Surya means “the goal of the wise,” Indra means “the supreme ruler,” all of which ultimately refer to the Supreme Lord and that these demigods are His agents and represent the power of the Supreme.

       The Vedanta-sutras point out many contradictions in the philosophy of the Pasupatas or Shaivites (Vedanta-sutras or Sri Bhasya 2.2.35-41). It concludes that if one is serious about attaining spiritual enlightenment and liberation, he must avoid this questionable philosophy, for in spite of the uncommon austerities and lifestyle of the Shaivites, their destination after death is not certain. The reason is that, though they may worship Shiva as the Supreme Being, they generally believe that God is an unembodied void into which they try to merge. Many of them accept Shiva or any other deity as simply being a material manifestation of that void or Brahman. Thus, their understanding of the Absolute Truth is faulty, and the process they use for spiritual realization is misdirected.

       We should point out, however, that the Vedic literature establishes Lord Shiva as one of the topmost devotees of Lord Vishnu or Krishna. Shiva is often pictured in meditation, and many verses from the Puranas explain that he is always meditating on the Supreme, Sri Krishna. This means that Shiva is a Vaishnava of the greatest caliber. Furthermore, he is also one of the most important demigods in the universe. Therefore, as long as one understands Lord Shiva’s real position and avoids the impersonalistic philosophy that most Shaivites follow, there certainly is no harm in worshiping or offering respects to Lord Shiva or visiting the temples dedicated to him. In this case, worshiping Lord Shiva is simply offering respects to a superior devotee of God who can help one along the way. In fact, as we have explained earlier, respect for Shiva is beneficial for such advancement.

       There are many other sects of the Shaivites besides the Pasupatas. The Pratyabhijna Shaiva sect is from Kashmir. They were systematized by Vasugupta (800 AD) based on the Shivasutra and Spandakarika. The latter was expanded by the commentaries of Somananda, Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta, and Kshemaraja, who wrote the summary teachings in his Pratyabhijnabridaya.

       The Virasaiva or Lingayatas was another sect. There was little notice of this sect until Basava, a brahmana from Kannada developed it. They may have developed from the Kalamukhas and worshiped the linga.

       The Shaiva Siddhantas was another sect in South India, having originated in the 11th and 13th centuries. They used Sanskrit texts, but these were later overshadowed by the Tamil texts of the Nayanmar poets, which lent to its bhakti or devotionally oriented system.

       Additionally, there was also the Lakulisha Pasupatas who were also ascetics. The Kapalikas dwelled in the cremation grounds. Kalamukhas were ascetics similar to the Pasupatas. The Kashmir or Trika Shaivites had a three-fold concept of God: namely Shiva, the shakti energy, and the anu or individual. The smarta or orthodox of Shaivism practiced the varnashrama system as enunciated in the smriti literature and the Manu-samhita and Kalpa Sutra. The Natha or Kanphata yogis were a Shaiva sect said to be founded by Goraknatha. This blended the Pasupata system with Tantric practices and hatha-yoga.

       Shaivism essentially consists of believing and accepting that Shiva is the Absolute, that he is transcendental to time and space, and pervades all energy and existence. Shaivites believe that once the influence of maya and karma are removed, they will be free from the bondage that prevents them from perceiving that their spiritual identity is equal to Shiva. They chant obeisances to Shiva on a regular basis, such as “Om Namaha Shivaya,” or simply “Namashivaya”. Shiva is known to bless his devotees with material opulence if he is pleased. And he can be easily pleased, or quickly angered. Yet many people offer worship of some kind to Shiva and Durga in hopes of acquiring blessings for material facility.

       The basic process of Shaivism, summarized as follows, particularly of the Saiva Siddhanta school, consists of 1) maintaining virtue, 2) doing service and worship, 3) yoga, meditation, 4) acquiring knowledge, and then enlightenment and Self-realization.

       To elaborate a little, the first step includes maintaining virtue and purity, which means to cause no injury to any creature, do no stealing, and maintain honesty, truthfulness, proper conduct, patience and dedication, compassion, and control of the appetite. These are the basics of karma-yoga as well as the building blocks of any spiritual process.

       The second step includes maintaining discipline in sadhana, or one’s spiritual practice and habits. This is when we control the mind and absorb our consciousness in the higher purpose of life and activities. This is also called kriya, regulated exercises or methods. There is also worship of the image of the divine or the deity to invoke the dormant spiritual love within us. Going to the temple or ashrama to participate in the puja, worship, and to joyfully absorb oneself in hearing the Vedic wisdom and chanting or singing is also included.

       The third step includes the performance of yoga in which a person practices pranayama and pratyahara, breath control to steady the mind and senses, and withdraw them from external distractions. Then through concentration and meditation the practitioner becomes aware of God within. Through this practice, the kundalini may also become active, rising through the chakras. One’s doubts, faults, mental weaknesses and ignorance, even past karma, becomes reduced. Then ecstasy and the divine energy is aroused. Ultimately, this is meant to give way, with practice, to nirvikalpa samadhi, or the experience of the timeless and formless Parashiva.

       The fourth step is when a person becomes enlightened and Self-realized. In this sate, divine wisdom is a part of one’s every move. Though still living in this mortal world, the person knows and also perceives that he is not of it. He is of a different, transcendental nature. This is a result of all his practice, austerity, sadhana, and devotional love. No more does such a yogi experience the limitations of the mind or ordinary intellect. He is free of it, or liberated, a jivanmukta, a liberated soul.

       This process, as described in the above paragraphs, includes the basic steps that you will find in most forms of yoga, no matter whether it is applied directly to Shaivism or not. However, in this day and age, being able to take this system to its full perfection is not easy, and to attempt it thinking one can do so may be misleading. Nonetheless, as anyone can see, the basic steps of this process includes qualities and practices that can enhance anyone’s life and assist in whatever spiritual path is being pursued.

 

THE SHIVARATRI FESTIVAL

       One festival that all worshipers of Shiva take part in is Shivaratri. The night of Shiva is a festival that is held in the typical pattern of preparation, purification, realization, and then celebration. On the day of the festival, people will fast and spend the day focused on Shiva, meditating and chanting “Om Namaha Shivaya.” Thus, offering their obeisances to Lord Shiva, the mind is held in such single-pointed concentration throughout the day. Then at the stroke of midnight Shiva is said to manifest as the inner light of purified consciousness. This climax at night represents our overcoming the dark ignorance and reaching the state of purified spiritual knowledge. Therein we conquer the influence of the mind and senses, exhibited by staying awake all night, and enter the state of steady awareness wherein there is spiritual awakening. If one can follow this process, then he or she can experience the real meaning of Shivaratri.

 

THE SHIVA-LINGAM

      One thing you may be questioning is why Lord Shiva is so often represented as a lingam. Linga basically means a sign or symbol. So the lingam is essentially a symbol of the shapeless universal consciousness of Lord Shiva. “Shiva” also means that in which the creation lies dormant after the annihilation. So, one explanation is that the lingam is a representative of the dormant universal consciousness in which all created things rest after the cosmic annihilation. It also represents the pradhana, the potential but unmanifest ingredients of the material world. Another explanation is that Shiva means auspicious. So the linga is the shapeless symbol for the great god of auspiciousness. It is intended to bring the shapeless unknown into our attention.

       The yoni upon which the lingam often sits represents the manifest universal energy. From the unmanifest comes the manifest energy, through which all other things are created. The yoni, which is a symbol of Shakti, combined with the lingam, is a symbol of the eternal union of the paternal and maternal principles, or the positive and negative, or the static and dynamic energies of the Absolute Reality. It is the communion of the eternal consciousness and dynamic power of the Shakti, the source of all actions and changes. It is also the symbol for the creation of the universe through the combination of the active energy of Lord Shiva and his Shakti. This is how Lord Shiva and Durga are considered the parents of the universe. The symbolism of the lingam and yoni also represents the base of the spine, meaning the Muladhara chakra, upon which the kundalini is resting, waiting for awakening.

       There are a few versions according to the Puranas of why Shiva is worshiped as a lingam and how this happened, of which I will relate one. There was a great sacrificial ceremony that was going to take place many hundreds of years ago. The great sage Narada Muni was invited to it and asked who would receive the effects of the sacrifice. No one could answer, so the sages who were present asked him who should receive it. Narada said that Sri Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva were all eligible, but they would have to find out which one had the most patience and purity to be the receiver of the sacrifice. So he chose the great sage Brighu to learn the answer.

      Brighu had many mystic powers and was able to travel to the domain of the demigods. So first he went to see Lord Brahma, but Brahma was preoccupied and did not notice Brighu’s presence. Feeling insulted, Brighu cursed Brahma, “You are so proud of your power of creation, you did not notice my arrival. For this you shall have no temples on earth.” Thus, there are very few temples of Brahma on earth. Next, Brighu went to see Shiva in Kailash, but Shiva also did not notice Brighu’s arrival. Brighu, again feeling offended, cursed Shiva to be worshiped only as a lingam on earth. This is the reason why Lord Shiva is primarily represented and worshiped as a lingam on this planet.

       Then, to continue the story, Brighu went to see Lord Vishnu, who also did not recognize Brighu’s presence. Brighu was so angered that he went forward and kicked Vishnu’s chest. Lord Vishnu apologized if He had hurt Brighu’s foot and began praising Brighu. Brighu immediately felt pleased and could understand that Vishnu was actually the most qualified to receive the offerings from the sacrifice. However, Lakshmidevi, the goddess of fortune and Lord Vishnu’s wife, was very displeased by Brighu’s action and, therefore, does not bestow much mercy on the brahmanas who, as a result, are often without much money.

       To explain the shape of the lingam, a Baana linga is egg-shaped and is meant to show that Ishvara has neither beginning nor end. The Lingobhavamurti is said to be the prime manifestation of the form of the formless, which Shiva is said to have manifested exactly at midnight on Shivaratri. This is why everyone stays up until midnight and then worships that form during the Shivaratri festival. A representation of the Lingobhavamurti can often be found in a niche on the outside wall of the sanctum in any important Shiva temple.

       The lingas in the temples are often formed in three parts. The lowest part is the base square called the Brahmabhaga or Brahma-pitha, which represents the creator Brahma. The next part in the middle is the octagonal Vishnubhaga or Vishnu-pitha, which signifies Lord Vishnu the sustainer. Both of these parts form the pedestal. The top cylindrical portion is the Rudrabhaga or Shiva-pitha, which is also called the Pujabhaga since this is the worshipable part. The top portion is also meant to symbolize the projecting flame of fire. This flame also represents the destructive aspects as well as the preserving power of God.

       There are twelve important Jyotirlinga temples scattered across India. They are found in Kedarnatha, Kashi Visvanatha, Somnatha, Baijnath, Ramesvare, Ghrisnesvar, Bhimasankar, Mahakala, Mallikarjuna, Amalesvar, Nagesvar, and Tryambakesvar. The five Pancha Bhuta Lingas in India are located at Kalahastisvar, Jambukesvar, Arunachalesvar, Ekambesvara at Kanchipuram, and Nataraja at Chidambaram. The temple of Lord Mahalinga at Tiruvidaimarudur (Madhyarjuna) is also a great temple in South India.

       The reason Lord Shiva is often worshiped by pouring Ganges water over the lingam is that it represents the Ganges descending from heaven on to Shiva’s head. The legend is that when the Ganges first began to flow to the earthly planet from the heavenly region, the force of it would have destroyed the earth. To prevent this, Lord Shiva agreed to let the river first fall on his head before forming into a river. It is also explained that when worshipers pour milk or Ganga water on the linga, it represents the pouring of ghee on the sacred fire in the fire ceremony, or yajna. It is the symbolic offering of ourselves to God.

       One story in connection with the Shiva linga is found in the Linga Purana. It describes that once Lord Brahma, the god of creation, and Lord Vishnu, the God of protection, engaged in an argument on who was greater. When those two great gods were fighting between themselves, Lord Shiva appeared as a huge pillar of fire that spread across the universe. He told Brahma and Vishnu that whoever finds the head or foot of his form of flame would be considered greater. Then Brahma took the form of a swan and set out to reach the top of the flame. Vishnu took the form of a boar to seek out the foot of the fire. But in spite of their efforts, they could not succeed in finding the limits. They realized their mistake and the peerless greatness of Lord Shiva. This shows how Shiva cannot be approached through ego, but responds with love to those who surrender to him. In this pastime, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of the fiery lingam for their benefit. So they were considered blessed with additional insight for worshiping that oldest form of him. This form of Shiva who appeared from the flame is called Lingodbhava. This story is found in the Shiva Purana and other texts.

       This further helps to show how the lingam is not formless nor really a form, but a symbol for the divinity of Lord Shiva. In Sanskrit, linga means “mark”. It is a symbol of Lord Shiva in the same way that large puddles of water are an indication of heavy rains. It is an inference for something else, like the form of that which is formless and omnipotent.

 

THE GODDESS DURGA

       Worship of the Goddess goes back at least 4000 years in India, and further back to the Vedic times. Durga is the Goddess of the universe, and Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva, is a form of Durga. She has up to 64 different forms, with different names for each form. Each form represents a different pastime, power, or aspect of the Goddess. Some of the names of these forms of Durga are Ambika, Bhadra, Bhadrakali, Aryadurga, Vedagarbha, Kshemakshemakari, Naikabahu, Bhagavati, Katyayani, and others, such as Sati, which means chastity. In her gentle aspects she is worshiped as Kanya, Kamakshi, or Mukamba. Uma (Parvati) is the maiden name for the consort of Lord Shiva. She represents matter (prakriti). Shiva is the god of destruction, which has no meaning without objects to destroy. Thus, he is paired with Uma.

       Durga is often pictured as a beautiful woman in red cloth. She has either four, eight, ten, eighteen or twenty hands and three eyes. Items in her hands can include a conch, disc, trident, bow, arrow, sword, dagger, shield, rosary, wine cup, and bell, all of which represent her various powers. She may also be standing on a lotus or riding a lion. The lion represents power, but also the animal tendency of greed for food and other sensual objects. Her riding on the lion represents that she keeps all such tendencies under complete control.

       The full details of Durga can be found in the Devibhagavat, or another text called the Durgasaptashati, which can be found as part of the Markandeya Purana. The name “Durga” means one who is difficult to know. Yet, being the mother of the universe, she can be approached through love. Love is also natural for her to give to her children.

       Durga is the personification of the material energy, in which all materially conditioned living beings are absorbed in thoughts, actions and identity. She is also considered the power of sleep, or the Yoganidra in which Lord Vishnu rests between creative cycles. She is also the personification of wisdom and knowledge. Her energy permeates the universe. She also embodies sacrifice or penance and the highest knowledge. She is most beautiful, but at the same time fierce and terrible. She can dispel difficulties as well as kill the demons.

       Another of her popular forms is Mahishasuramardini. In this form she is often pictured with eight arms, each with a weapon, and in the process of killing the demon Mahishasura in his form as a bull. She was generated out of the anger and powers of the gods, namely Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, and others. And their weapons became her weapons. Thus, riding on her fierce lion, she fought and killed Mahishasura and his army. This demon represents the egotistical propensity that brute strength is all that is needed to acquire selfish desires. While fighting amongst the gods, he was succeeding, until their combined powers and will to fight was manifest in the Devi as Mahishasuramardini, who then killed the demon.

       Symbolically, Durga destroys the buffalo demon which represents tamo-guna, the dark quality of laziness, ignorance and inertia. So she destroys the tamo-guna within each of us, which can be very difficult to overcome. Another one of her qualities is her wrath, which sometimes manifests as war. Such war cleanses the world of the many negative elements which accumulate from a sinful society.

       Later, when the gods were challenged by the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, they went to petition the Goddess again. This time, from the side of Parvati, she manifested herself as Kaushika Durga, also called Ambika. Ambika’s beauty attracted the demons who then wanted to marry her. She vowed to marry the one who could defeat her in battle, but all such attempts were disastrous. Even with the assistance of giants like Dhumralochana, Chanda, Munda, and Raktabija, they were unsuccessful.

       From the forehead of Durga manifested the fierce, dark goddess Kali, who became known as Chamunda for beheading the demons Chanda and Munda. When she fought with Raktabija, it took a special endeavor because of his powers that caused each drop of his spilled blood to become another demon. It was Kali who managed to drink all of his flowing blood and prevent any additional demons from manifesting. Thus, Durga was able to kill him. She then easily killed Nishumbha, but Shumbha accused her of accepting help. The Devi then withdrew all her emanations into her one form, and then proceeded to battle and kill Shumbha.

       Durga is also called Vaishnavishakti, the creative power from Lord Vishnu, the original cause. She is also called Vindhyavasini (the one who lives in the Vindhya mountains), Raktadanta (the one with the red teeth), Shatakshi (who is liked to having one hundred eyes), Shakambhari (who gives the life-force of vegetables), Durgaa (the slayer of the demon Durga), Bhima (the ferocious), and Bhramaramba (one who is liked to having a form of bees).

       Devi is also manifested as Maheshvari, which, according to the three modes of material nature, also manifests as Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasarasvati. These are different than the Goddesses Lakshmi and Sarasvati, which will be discussed later. In the aspect of Mahakali she is considered the personification of the tamo-guna, or mode of darkness and sleep or inertia. She is also maya, the illusory energy of Lord Vishnu. Thus, this maya must be removed for us to awaken to our real spiritual identity. It is within this maya in which the seeming powers of evil and divisiveness exist. She is often pictured as blue in color with ten hands, each holding a different weapon, including a sword, disc, mace, arrow, bow, iron club, lance, sling, a human head, and a conch.

       Mahalakshmi is the aspect of raja-guna, the passionate nature. In this aspect she is seen as red in color, signifying the will to fight evil forces. She has eighteen hands, holding a rosary, pot, club, lance, sword, shield, conch, bell, wine cup, trident, noose, and disc. She is the one who killed Mahishasura.

       Mahasarasvati represents the sattvic aspect, or that of goodness and purity. She is light in color and has eight hands that hold a bell, trident, plough, conch, pestle, disc, bow, and arrow. She is the manifestation of beauty, work, and organization. It is she, as Kaushika Durga, who manifested from Parvati. She is the one who destroyed the demons known as Dhumralochana, Chanda, Munda, Raktabija, Nishumbha, and Shumbha, all of which are certain aspects of the principle of ego.

       Kali is another form of the Goddess which is often seen in temples and pictures. She is usually pictured as nude except for being covered by her scattered hair. She has a dark complexion. She wears an apron of human hands and a garland of human skulls, and sometimes carries a human head in one hand, freshly severed and dripping with blood, and a long chopper in another hand. The other two hands are giving blessings and offering protection. Her tongue is protruding, dripping with blood. She is also often seen in a cremation ground or in a battlefield amidst dead and mutilated bodies. Sometimes she is standing on the white body or bluish body of her spouse, Shiva. He supplicates her in this way to keep her from destroying everything.

       The meaning of all this is that, first of all, Kali represents time, Kala, which devours everything in its terrifying ways. She is naked because she is free from the veil of ignorance that the universe represents, which hides our real spiritual identity. She is black because she represents tama-guna or the void which has swallowed everything, including space, time, and the ingredients of material nature. Her apron of hands indicates that she is pleased with the offerings of our work, so she wears them. It also represents the inward potential for outward manifestation waiting to take place. Her disheveled hair simply represents her freedom to do and go as she likes. The garland of 50 skulls represent the 50 letters of the alphabet, or sound from which the whole material manifestation has sprung, which is now in a state of destruction, indicated by her wearing them. Though she is an awesome form, she is also offering freedom from fear by her hand gestures.

       A further explanation of why Goddess Kali stands on Shiva is that once Kali engaged in a battle in which she destroyed all the demons. She danced in victory to such an extent that the worlds started to shake in destruction. Everyone became concerned and Shiva came to appease her from further dancing. Yet she was so worked up that she could not notice or listen to him. So Shiva lay like a corpse at her feet to absorb the shock of her movements, and when she finally noticed that she had stepped on her husband, she put her tongue out in shame.

 

THE IDENTITY OF DURGA AND DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MAHAMAYA AND YOGAMAYA

       Being the personification of the material energy, Durga is also the maidservant of Lord Krishna, and conducts herself in accordance to the will of the Supreme. Her shadow is the material energy, maya. In this form of Durga, she is pictured as a beautiful demigoddess with ten arms, representing the ten types of material activities. She rides on her lion, indicating her heroic activities. She is the subduer of vices, represented by the image of her trampling the demon Mahishasura. She is the mother of her sons Kartikeya and Ganesha, representing beauty and success. She is armed with twenty weapons, denoting the various pious activities enjoined by the Vedas for the suppression of vices. She also holds a snake, which signifies destructive time. The word durga also means a prison house or a fort. So the material world is like a prison from which it is hard to escape. “Dur” means difficulty and “Ga” means going. So it is very difficult to escape from this material world without undergoing many hardships. But one who takes shelter of the spiritual potency can get free from the illusory nature of the material world. So when the living beings forget their spiritual nature and the service of the Supreme Being, Krishna, they are confined in the material prison of the universe. This is the aspect of the cosmic creation which is presided over by Durga. However, those who are devotees of the Lord and who are on the spiritual path to regain their real nature are free from this prison-like environment of the universe. Durga does not affect them.

       The spiritual form of Durga is Yogamaya. The external form of Durga is Mahamaya, the illusory energy. The spiritual form of Durga who functions on the platform of shuddha-sattva, pure transcendental existence, is understood to be Krishna’s sister, known as Ekanamsha or Subhadra.9 The name Subhadra means auspicious. So Subhadra also paves the way for the devotee’s spiritual progress by supplying that which is auspicious and taking away all that is inauspicious. So this is the spiritual form of Durga, the shadow of whom is the external material energy. We should note, however, that Durga works in the material world. Subhadra plays the part of Lord Krishna’s sister and is the internal or spiritual energy, and does not work as Durga in the material world. So, originally their energy is one and the same, but through her expansion as Durga she works in a different capacity within the material realm.

       Furthermore, higher than Subhadra is Radharani, Lord Krishna’s consort and the quintessence of spiritual energy. She is the personification, essence, and origin of Lord Krishna’s pleasure potency, hladini-shakti. This pleasure potency of Lord Krishna expands to become Radharani for the sake of the most intimate spiritual pastimes in Goloka Vrinadavana, the topmost spiritual planet. This potency expands further into the forms of Krishna’s queens in the other Vaikuntha planets, and also as His sister, Subhadra, for other purposes and pastimes. And Durga is an expansion of this internal or spiritual energy. In this way, Durga also can be considered an expansion of Radharani. Therefore, Radharani is the source of the pleasure essence in the spiritual dimension, while Durga provides the means for all pleasure in the material realm.

       So herein we can understand that mahamaya in the material world is an expansion of yogamaya in the spiritual world. The difference in function is that yogamaya manages the spiritual sky, and in her partial expansion as mahamaya she manages the material world. Yogamaya covers the devotees in the spiritual world so that they can forget the Lord’s greatness and engage in loving pastimes with Him as His friends, parents, servants, and so on without being overwhelmed by His omnipotence. Mahamaya in the material world, on the other hand, keeps the living entities forgetful of their true eternal nature as long as they have no spiritual inclination. So yogamaya helps bring the devotees together with the Supreme Being in various relationships while mahamaya keeps them separate, or at least makes it seem they are separate through the principle of forgetfulness.

       Another way to understand this is that there are two divisions of energy, the material and spiritual. The original energy is the spiritual, in which is the hladini-shakti potency of Krishna, which is His pleasure potency. It is this pleasure potency from God through which all spiritual joy and happiness are felt. This is also the original form of Durga who is nondifferent from this spiritual energy, but Durga is her form in the material world. The partial expansion of the hladini-shakti potency is mahamaya, which also acts like a covering for the hladini-shakti potency, the pleasure of our spiritual nature. In the material world she bewilders the conditioned souls so they can think they are happy in material pursuits. In this way, the materialists remain covered over by their attraction to their desires for sense pleasure due to mahamaya, and the devotees and transcendentalists become absorbed in spiritual pleasure through yogamaya, or the hladini-shakti. It is through yogamaya that the religious become happy or joyous in their spiritual pursuits and liberated from the material realm. This is the work of Subhadra who provides what is auspicious and takes away what is inauspicious for the sincere seekers on the spiritual path. Thus, the material energy is like a testing ground that must be passed before one can gain entrance into the spiritual world. It also protects the spiritual atmosphere from those who are not sincere. This is one function of Durga.

       The Narada Purana (1.3.13-15) lists many names of Durga. Since she is considered one of the energies of the Lord, she is regarded as His shakti, and is called Uma, Bharati, Girija, and Ambika. The great sages designate her as Durga, Bhadrakali, Chandi, Mahesvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi (supreme potency of Lord Vishnu), Varahi (potency of Lord Varaha, an incarnation of Krishna), Aindra, Shambhavi, Brahmi (connected with Lord Brahma), Vidya (spiritual knowledge), Avidya (nescience), Maya (the illusory energy of the Lord), and Para Prakriti (the Supreme Primordial Nature).

       Other aspects of Durga are accompanied by a different name and often a story for each name. We will not relate each story, but some of the additional names can be summarized. These include Lalita, who is a beautiful Goddess, living eternally in the city of Shripura on Mount Meru with her spouse, Shiva Kameshvara. Annapurna is the form of Parvati who blesses the household with food. Aparajita means Durga as the invincible. Bala means the child. Bhadrakali is one of the aspects of Mahakali and the form that sprang from her wrath when her husband, Shiva, was insulted by Daksha, and who fought along with Virabhadra, the embodiment of Shiva’s wrath, to destroy Daksha’s sacrifice. Bhairavi is the Devi as the power to cause terror, one of the ten aspects of Shiva’s energy. Bhavani is another name. Bhutatma is the Mother of the Bhutas or ghosts. Dakshayani is Durga as the daughter of Daksha. Gauri, means yellow or golden wife of Shiva. Indrakshi has eyes similar to Lord Indra’s, and is often worshiped by Indra. She can also alleviate the incurable diseases when pleased by nice hymns. Jagadhatri is the one who sustains the world. Katyayani is the Devi who was once born as the daughter of Kata. Parvati is the daughter of Parvata, the personification of the Himalaya. Rudrani is wife of Rudra. Tripura Bhairavi is the shakti of Shiva when he is the ruler of death.

       In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana (Krishna-Janma-Khanda, 118.35) Durga talks with Shiva about how she is an expansion from the highest realms and explains herself in this way: “I am Mahalakshmi in Vaikuntha, Srimati Radha in Goloka, Shivaa [connected with Shiva] in the region of Shiva, and Sarasvati in the abode of god Brahma.” Thus, from the highest levels of the spiritual domain she expands herself to include all other shaktis, or potencies.

       The Narada Purana (1.3.27) also explains that in regard to Lord Vishnu, “His Shakti is the great Maya, the trustworthy upholder of the universe. In view of its being the material cause of the universe, it is [also] called prakriti by scholars.”

       This illusory energy, maya, plays an important part in the creative process of the cosmic manifestation. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.5.25), Maitreya explains to Vidura that the external energy works as both cause and effect in the cosmic manifestation. This external energy is known as maya or illusion, and through her agency only is the entire material manifestation made possible.

       Maya is the external energy of the Lord and is divided into two parts. Maya is the efficient cause, and the other part are the ingredients that create the cosmic manifestation, known as the pradhana or prakriti.10 The Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.63.26) relates that in the pradhana aspect, maya is composed of time, activity, providence (the destiny of the conditioned souls) and nature. These along with the vital force or energy, the subtle material ingredients, and the material nature, known as the field of activity for the conditioned souls, and the eleven senses (the senses of perception and organs of action) and five elements (earth, air, fire, water, and ether), are the ingredients of maya. Thus, Lord Krishna is the creator and maya only helps Him as an instrument. It is this maya, or material nature, which the Lord glances over which becomes agitated, and into which the Lord injects the seed of life as the original living entities. Thereafter, due to the reactions of the Lord’s glance and His energy which mixes with maya, the material energy gives birth to the myriad universes.11

       So maya, or material nature, is merely the secondary cause of the creation. Nonetheless, it serves two purposes: It contains the subtle material elements, and then through the changes that take place causes the material manifestation. The Brahma-samhita (5.19) also explains that the primary material elements were originally separated. Then through the spiritual power of the Supreme, in His knowledge potency, maya was moved. It is through this combination of the efficient or spiritual potency in conjunction with the inactive material causal principles of maya that the elements and the different entities develop into a state of cooperation. Thus, it is by this combination of energies that the material creation can manifest, and the spiritual living beings appear as the materially conditioned souls within the material elements of the creation. In a graphic description, it is explained that maya appears like a huge pot filled with the innumerable universes that are like mustard seeds within it.12

       Another function of maya is to cover the living beings with the material energy, and, thus, keep them in illusion as to what is their true identity. This sort of forgetfulness is one of the main principles of the material world, without which the living beings could not engage in material life. After all, if it was too obvious to the living beings that they are spiritual entities, they would not be satisfied with material pursuits or the engagement of bodily sense pleasures. So to help provide a playground for the materially conditioned souls who are rebellious and want to live outside of God’s kingdom, this forgetfulness must be there. This is the third function of maya, which covers the living entity in this way. As explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.14.10), “People in general are bewildered by the illusory energy [maya], and therefore they try to find the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, through various types of research and philosophical speculation. Nonetheless, they are unable to see the Supreme Lord.”

       This is further explained as follows: The internal potency of the Supreme Lord is spiritual. The marginal potency consists of the living beings who can lean toward the spiritual or material energy. The third potency of the Lord is the material energy, maya, also called nescience or darkness. It is this maya which makes the living entity godless and fills him with the desires for fruitive activity and sense pleasure. Thus, because of being influenced by the nescient potency, which covers his spiritual position, he suffers the threefold miseries of material existence.13 These three kinds of miseries of material existence include those that come from the body itself, those caused by other living beings, and those problems caused by natural occurrences.

       Because of being illusioned like this the living entities cannot understand the truth of the creation and, thus, they wander throughout the material world for many lifetimes. However, the living beings are independent in determining whether they want to engage in material or spiritual activities. Misusing this independence to turn toward the dark side separates the living beings in varying degrees from the spiritual light. Yet, when the living beings turn toward God and work to regain their spiritual nature, they can return to their normal spiritual state of being and be relieved of material existence.

       Actually, the spiritual living beings are merely covered by this cloud of maya, which affects their consciousness. Therefore, the goal of any genuine spiritual path is simply to remove this cloud and the influence of the illusory energy. If a religious system cannot do that, then it is incomplete.

       The Brahma-samhita (5.44) also explains that maya is like the shadow of the Lord’s chit or knowledge potency, and is also worshiped in the form of Durga, the creating, preserving, and destroying agency of this material world.

 

THE SHAKTAS AND TANTRISM

       The Shakta tradition is another of the three major traditions of the Vedic culture. The power or energy of Shiva is Shakti, the embodiment of power. She is the power and support of the entire universe. Thus, she is the Universal Mother. He who worships Shakti or the divine feminine energy is a Shakta. Shiva represents the eternal consciousness, while Shakti represents mind and mater. The Shaktas are those who believe that the original active and creative principle of existence is the divine energy called shakti. Shakti is the feminine energy inherent in everything throughout the universe and is considered the companion of Lord Shiva in her personified form.

       The original ideas of the Shakta belief can be traced back to the Rig-veda and other later works. However, the Vedanta-sutras (2.2.42-45) point out some essential faults with the Shakta philosophy. For example, to consider that Shakti or energy alone can be the independent cause of the world is not a complete understanding. The reason is that energy alone cannot create without the cooperation, direction, and facility from the energetic, which, in this case, is the Creator or Supreme Being. Energy must have a source, meaning the energetic. Thus, as we have explained in the previous section, this Shakti is ultimately the energy of the Supreme Lord. She is not nor can be the sole cause of the world. She works most closely with the energy of the Lord in the form of Lord Shiva.

       The Supreme is the energetic or source and controller of the energy, just as the powerhouse is the source of the electrical energy that is controlled to illuminate so many light bulbs. Thus, energy cannot exist without the energetic. Therefore, the followers of the Shakti cult who have imagined that energy is the cause of the world are not supported by conclusive Vedic authority. It is not possible that merely by energy alone all the elements of the universe can be produced. In the same manner, we do not see a woman produce children without the contact of a man. Only through the energy given by the seed of a man can there be conception in a woman. Similarly, only if Shakti or nature is controlled and directed by the contact of the purusha, God, can there be the organized formation of the material elements. In this way, everything proceeds from the Supreme Being, as explained elsewhere in Vedic literature, and Shakti is not independent.

       The Shaktas are divided into two groups, one called the Right-hand, the other called the Left-hand group. The Right-hand or dakshinachara are the ascetic group, while the Left-hand or vamachara are those who combine their yogic exercises with practices that are often considered more unorthodox, called the panchamakara, or the five Ms. These are madya (wine drinking), mamsa (meat-eating), matsya (fish), mudra (parched grain), maithuna (ritual sex), and also ceremonial songs. In most cases, the drinking of wine, eating meat, and sexual activities are meant to be used as part of a sacrificial rite used in the worship of goddess Kali or Durga.

        Tantraism is linked with yoga and the magical formulas of the Atharva-veda. The ascetic process of the Tantric path is very similar to the raja-yoga and kundalini-yoga systems. But before going on to the advanced stages, one must perfect the basics, such as simplicity, kindness, devotion, prayer, and self-analysis, along with the yama and niyama principles as described in raja-yoga.

       Tantra is a path meant to utilize all the sciences to develop psychic power, understand reality, and expand one’s awareness in all states of consciousness. In this way, all levels of consciousness are to be explored by performing various kinds of exercises and techniques. However, the training and procedures that some Tantric yogis may have to do as a sign of advancement can be a dreadful experience for one who is psychologically unprepared. Detachment from the body and advancement on the path is attained by the performance of what most people would consider unusual if not bizarre practices. In Tantrism, particularly the Left-hand path, progress and liberation are achieved primarily through direct experience rather than through meditation. The ingredients and experiences in the rituals are to induce different levels of consciousness.

       Once the Tantric yogi has mastered all the basic requisites of yoga, such as the sitting postures, controlling the external and internal organs, and keeping the mind from all material attractions and repulsions, then he can continue with more arduous austerities. He may be instructed to go to the cremation grounds and search through the ashes to find and eat particular parts of a corpse which do not burn. He must do this without the slightest disgust. These more extreme practices were mostly for the adepts who were experienced in the Left Hand path. These would induce a deep level of detachment from praise, pride, or even shame or disgust, and all that might keep one from entering the Supreme bliss. These practices are metaphorically called “removing a thorn with a thorn”. It is to break social norms in order to transcend limitations of body consciousness and attain Shiva. The path of the Right Hand Tantric is not as extreme and uses tamer or more harmless symbolism in rituals, or ignores the severe rituals altogether.

       Some of the Tantric followers also practice magic and alchemy in their techniques. It is well known that Tantrics who know the art of magic can possess amazing but dark powers. The apparel of such sorcerers usually include items like flayed animal or human skin as coverings, necklaces of teeth or bone, a girdle of snake skin, and they sometimes cover themselves with the ashes of cremated bodies or the dirt from an exhumed corpse. Elements used in their rituals may consist of charred bones, eyeballs, fat, marrow, and even excrement from corpses, along with mantras used to call or address the dead or even demons and ghouls. The Tantric may also make a human skull into his eating bowl, or the top of a monkey skull as a drinking cup. The human thigh bone is also used among some as a horn for calling spirits. With these kinds of items they perform ceremonies such as the black ritual that is a secret and dangerous short path to attaining occult power. One ritual in Tibetan is called the chod, in which the Tantric practitioner goes to the crematorium and invites spirits to feast on his body, which symbolizes destruction of ego, pride, selfishness, fear, etc. The Tantric should be so focused on this that he can actually hear the ghouls masticating as they devour his flesh. After the spirits have dined and departed, the Tantric, recovering from the ordeal, mentally reassembles his bones and organs until he is whole again. Another aspect of this black ritual is known in Tibet as rolangs, in which the Tantric, through occult powers, animates a dead corpse by calling spirits to possess it and then asks it questions or uses it for magical purposes.

       If the yogi remains sane and continues on the Left-hand Shakta or Tantric path, he may also try to perform the sex ritual. In this case, the Tantric yogi worships the woman as a representation of Shakti and accepts the role as Shiva and has intercourse with her, but does not ejaculate any semen. The Tantric controls his mind and senses, and during intercourse constricts his stomach muscles in particular ways so that he takes in the fluid and energy released by the woman. Thus, he keeps the combination of his male energy and the female energy at the base of his spine. By combining the male and female energy in such a way, the practitioner is said to get special power and enlightenment. This is also supposed to help awaken the kundalini at the base of the spine when it is time for the yogi to begin meditation. However, some descriptions of these sex practices are very strange, and the texts that describe them are quite graphic. It has also been said that even Marco Polo, while witnessing these Tantric practices and acts of sorcery during his explorations of the world, did not consider it fit to give a full account of what he saw. This, however, is only one aspect of the Tantric cult. Other more prominent techniques include mantra, pranayama, meditation, etc, as has already been described.

       These days in the West people use certain Tantric practices as an excuse to simply engage in sex in the name of so-called spiritual exercises, religion, or yoga. Although they hardly know anything about the real Tantric practices or bother to reach any of the initial yogic qualifications one must attain, they are very eager to engage in so-called Tantric sex with the hopes of increasing the duration of their orgasm. This, however, was the exact opposite of the real purpose of the ritual. Extended orgasm is considered to deplete the yogi of his mystic powers and mental and psychic capacity. Even Buddhist texts mention that keeping the seed (semen) is life, while the falling of the seed is death. In this way, by retaining one’s semen, a man can become very powerful.

 

THE TANTRAS

        When explaining the Tantras, the root tan means to expand. Thus, tantra means to expand the meaning of the Vedic knowledge. The Tantras are the texts studied by those, especially amongst the Shaiva and Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana cults, who worship Shakti, the Goddess personification of the universal feminine energy. These Tantras can be dialogues between the Goddess Durga and Shiva. When the Goddess asks Shiva questions, they are called Agamas, and when Shiva asks the Goddess questions, they are Nigamas. The Agamas contain descriptions of a variety of topics such as deity making, temple and altar construction, etc. They may also elaborate on the five main topics which include the creation, universal annihilation, worship of the gods, the attainment of the six superhuman faculties, and the main methods of meditation that bring union with the Supreme. Certain Tantras also contain magical or mystical formulas that some practitioners use for their own purposes.

       The Tantras generally accept Shakti as the creative force, worshipable as an aspect of the Divine but inseparable from the masculine principle, which is called Brahman by some and Shiva by others. However, the Tantras are often composed of irregular Sanskrit to obscure their secrets in the language. Also, in order to allow only the initiates to understand its meaning, some of them used much erotic symbolism and esoteric terminology. This has led to a misunderstanding of its ideology as well as its practices, especially among westerners who perceive an overabundance of sexual connotation in it, which is not really there.

       It is not easy to date the formation or appearance of the Tantras. It is suggested that they were predominately developed in North India and Assam. Some scholars have not been able to determine whether Tantrism originated in Buddhism or Hinduism, but evidence suggests that Tantrism was first systematized by particular Buddhist schools. This systematization seemed to have resulted in dividing Buddhism into several major and minor groups because of philosophical differences. All such groups assisted in laying the groundwork for various radical ideas, among which was Tantrism. Tantrism greatly influenced the Vajrayana and Mahayana sects. Some scholars date the Buddhist Tantras, like the Hevajra, to sometime earlier than 400-700 AD. Other Tantras include the Nityashoda-shikarnava, Yoginihridaya, Tantraraja, and Kularnava, all dated between 1000-1400 AD., and the later Mahanirvana Tantra. However, those Tantras that are related to the older Vedic texts had to have been of an earlier date. For example, the Narada-Pancharatra is said to have been spoken by Lord Shiva to Narada Muni, and later compiled by Srila Vyasadeva 5,000 years ago.

       There are, however, different Tantras for different people. There are specific Tantras for those who are in the mode of darkness or tamo-guna, others for those in the mode of passion or rajo-guna, and still more for those in the mode of goodness, sattva-guna. There are the Shaiva Agamas, the Shakta Agamas, and the later Tibetan Buddhist Agamas, as well as the Linga, Kalika, and Devi Puranas. The Agamas are divided in four parts: metaphysical knowledge, yoga, ritual practices, and conduct. There are 28 Shaiva Agamas, 77 Shakta Agamas, and 108 Pancharatra or Vaishnava Agamas. The Vaishnava Tantras include the Narada-pancharatra, Pancharatra, Vaikhanasa, the Gautamiya Tantra, Brihad-Gautamiya Tantra, and others like the Lakshmi Tantra. These contain rules and regulations for engaging in the process for purifying the mind of the stumbling blocks of material attachments and for fixing the consciousness on the qualities and spiritual pastimes of the Supreme. The Narada-Pancharatra deals with Lord Krishna and some about Radha. Ramanuja wrote his Agama-pramanya to show the Vedic connection of the Vaishnava Pancharatra texts.

       The difference in the Vaishnava Tantras from the Tantras of the Left-hand Shaktas is that they remove the illusion that the physical body is the self, along with the need for performing unorthodox bodily activities for spiritual advancement, while the Left-hand Shaktas are attached to the means of using the body to attain magical powers, rapid illumination, wealth, high position, or quick liberation. To be successful on the Left-hand path is very difficult and the aspirant can rarely persevere to the end. As we can easily see from our partial description of the Tantric Left-hand path, such philosophy and activities are deeply imbedded in the mode of darkness, tamo-guna. This may be the level of experience that some people need in this life, but by tampering with this path, one usually increases his illusion, selfishness, and pride, or it can bring disease, evil-mindedness, even insanity, and sometimes sudden death. This is not surprising since what is associated with the dark modes produces intense, dark, or questionable results.

       The Vaishnava Tantras, on the other hand, are aimed at bringing one to a higher state of consciousness, a loftier awareness of our real identity as spiritual beings and our relationship with God, without the unorthodox activities. It enables one to feel an inner joy and happiness by reawakening one’s awareness of his or her spiritual identity. Soon the obstacles or material attachments and desires that seemed insurmountable have no effect. A serious follower can feel himself progressing very rapidly. As a person attains a higher spiritual taste, he becomes less concerned for bodily attractions and is content in any situation, whether it be in gain or in loss. His unity with God increases and he becomes perfectly satisfied. In this way, he soon leaves material consciousness behind and through his spiritual realizations reaches the perfectional stage of life.

 

HOW SHIVA AND DURGA ARE CONSIDERED

THE MOTHER AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSE

       Since it is the glance of the Supreme Being over the energy of Durga, maya, which sets in motion the creation of the universes, Durga is therefore known as the universal mother.14 This is why when people speak of the material nature, it is always referred to as a female, as “she,” Mother Nature, and as the goddess. And the essence of Mother Nature is represented as Durga. She is united with her husband, known as Lord Shiva, who is then considered the father of the universe.

       It is explained in the Vayu Purana that Shiva is an expansion of Sadashiva, who is a direct expansion of Lord Krishna. Sadashiva appears in order to perform various pastimes. Sadashiva is a resident of one of the Vaikuntha planets of the spiritual world. His consort there is Ramadevi, a form of Lakshmi. She expands into mahamaya in the material worlds, where she is then known as Durga. Thus, the spiritual Sadashiva and Ramadevi again become related as Shiva and Durga, who are the origin of material nature.

       The part that is played by Lord Shiva during the creation is more fully explained in the Brahma-samhita (5.6-8). Therein it states that Lord Krishna, the Lord of Gokula, the topmost planet in the spiritual sky, is the Supreme Godhead, the very Self of eternal ecstasies. He is busily engaged in the enjoyments of the transcendental realm and has no association with the mundane, illusory material energy. He does not stop His spiritual engagements. When He intends to create the material manifestation, He merely sends His glance over the deluding energy in the form of His time potency. Krishna’s expansion in the form of Maha-Vishnu in the Causal Ocean carries this glance to the material energy. This glance from Maha-Vishnu is the efficient cause of the creation. The dim halo of this glance, the reflected effulgence, is Shiva in his form as Shambhu, who is the symbol of masculine mundane procreation. It is through this form of Shiva that the Supreme Lord associates with the material energy. In his role as Shambhu, he is the principle by which Maha-Vishnu impregnates the material nature with the seeds of the innumerable living entities. Otherwise, the Supreme Being has no association with the material energy.

       The Brahma-samhita (5.10) goes on to explain that it is Shambhu, Maheshvara, who is the dim reflection of the Lord’s glance, and lord of the pradhana who embodies the seed of all living beings. The pradhana is the unmanifest material ingredients that later form the cosmic manifestation. It is Shambhu who comes forth from the glance of the Lord. Shambhu is created from the space in between the two eyebrows of Maha-Vishnu. Furthermore, Shambhu then joins with maya in the form of the male organ or power of regeneration. But he can do nothing independent of the power of Maha-Vishnu, who represents the direct spiritual power of Krishna. Therefore, the necessary changes in the material energy cannot happen unless facilitated by the will of the Supreme Lord, Krishna. (Bs.5.15)

       As further described (Brahma-samhita 5.16), the function of Shambhu in relation to the conditioned souls is that the mundane egoistic principle has originated from Shambhu. What this means, without trying to get complicated about it, is that the tendency for the individual living being to forget his spiritual identity comes from Shambhu. This forgetfulness makes the individual in this material world want to be an enjoyer of the material experience. This is because he thinks he is the material body. This false identity makes all conditioned souls want to continue with their existence in the temporary, mundane world. This is the function of Shambhu, Shiva, in relation with the Supreme Lord Krishna’s creative process. This forgetfulness is then carried further by mahamaya, Durga, as previously explained.

       However, to make it more clearly understood, Shiva is an expansion of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, as described above. He is not a second god that acts in place of Krishna. Those who think he is make an offense against the Supreme Being. Neither is he a jiva, a marginal spirit soul. As clearly explained in the Brahma-samhita (5.45), just as milk is transformed into curd by the action of acids, it is nonetheless neither the same as nor completely different from its cause, namely milk. So I adore the primeval Lord Govinda of whom the state of Shambhu is a transformation for the work of destruction.

       In other words, Lord Krishna manifests His energy through Maha-Vishnu into the form of Shambhu, Shiva, in order to perform various tasks without having to give up His completely spiritual activities. It is through Shiva that the Supreme Being associates with His material energy in the form of maya. He does not do so directly. Thus, Shiva is not really different from Krishna, yet remains subservient to Him. The difference is like that of yogurt and milk. Yogurt is simply a changed form of milk, different in function simply by adding a certain acid. Similarly, the Supreme Being expands and changes into the distinct personality of Shambhu by the addition of a certain adulterated element to perform a particular function. It is also this form of Shambhu from whom Rudra, another form of Shiva, is created from Lord Brahma later on in the creative process. [This is more thoroughly discussed in my book How the Universe was Created and Our Purpose In It.]

       So here we have learned another aspect of how the spiritual energy expands to create the material energy. Thus, ultimately everything comes from Lord Krishna. It is He who expands into the forms of Maha-Vishnu and then Shiva and Durga, who are considered the indirect mother and father of the universe, and are themselves expansions of Sadashiva and Ramadevi from the Vaikuntha realm.

 

HOW LORD SHIVA APPEARED IN THIS WORLD

       The previous paragraphs point out how Lord Shiva participated in the creation process as Shambhu, and it is also related how Lord Shiva appeared in this world in a personal form from Lord Brahma. It is explained in the Bhagavatam (3.12.4), that in the beginning of the creation process, Lord Brahma manifested four great sages named Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana and Sanat-kumara. Brahma expected them to assist in filling the universe with varieties of living beings. However, they were unwilling to adopt materialistic activities because they were highly elevated beings. Brahma requested that they begin to produce progeny, but they refused because they were already attached to Lord Vasudeva, the Supreme Lord, and were focused on achieving liberation. So they expressed their unwillingness, which made Lord Brahma extremely angry.

       The anger generated in the mind of Lord Brahma, though he tried to control it, came out from between his eyebrows. Immediately there was produced a child of mixed red and blue color. This child immediately began to cry and requested to Lord Brahma, “O destiny maker, teacher of the universe, kindly designate my name and place.” Lord Brahma then pacified the boy and said, “O chief of the demigods, you shall be called Rudra because you have cried so anxiously.” Then Brahma gave Rudra the following places for his residence: the heart, the senses, the life-air of the body, the sky, the air, the fire, water, earth, sun, the moon and austerity. He then told Rudra that he would be known by eleven other names: Manyu, Manu, Mahan, Shiva, Ritadhvaja, Ugrareta, Bhava, Kala, Vamadeva and Dhritavrata. These names represent the other aspects of Lord Shiva, each having different appearances and activities. Rudra is often shown as tall, well built, with long hair, wielding the thunderbolt, bow and arrow. He is viewed as the protector of humanity against its enemies. He is also known as an excellent physician and has numerous medicines which can cure diseases. Brahma also told Rudra that he would have eleven wives, namely Dhi, Dhriti, Rasala, Uma, Niyut, Sarpi, Ila, Ambika, Iravati, Svadha and Diksha.

       Brahma then told Rudra to accept these names and wives, and that since he was one of the masters of the living beings, he should now increase the population on a large scale. Rudra then created many offspring that resembled him in color, strength, and furious nature. They were unlimited in number, and when they gathered together, they attempted to devour the universe. Brahma, becoming alarmed at the situation, then requested Rudra not to generate living beings of this nature. It would be better if Rudra engaged himself in penance, or meditation, which is auspicious for all. Through penance he could create the universe as it was before. By penance only can one approach the Supreme Lord, who is within the heart of every living being and at the same time beyond the reach of the senses. Thus Rudra accepted the advice of his father, Brahma, and went to the forest to perform austere penances. This is why we so often see Shiva pictured in the mountain forests engaged in meditation.

       Some of Shiva’s other names include Dakshinamurti, meaning a universal teacher. Then there is Trilochana (Three-eyed), Nila-kantha (Blue-throated), Pancha-anana (Five-faced), Chandrashekhara (Moon-crested), Gangadhara (Bearer of the Ganga), Girisha (Mountain Lord), Jatadhara (Wearer of matted hair), Sthanu (Immutable), Visvanatha (Lord of the Universe), Bhairava (the Terrible, destructive aspect of Shiva), Bhutesha or Bhuteshvara (Lord of ghosts or elements), Hara (remover of death), Shambhu (abode of joy), Shankara (giver of joy), Bhava (existence), Mahadeva (great God), Ashani (thunderbolt), Isha or Ishana (the ruler), Pashupati (the herdsman or friend of animals), Mritunjaya (conqueror of death), Aghora (non-fearful), Ugra (the fearful), Bhima (the tremendous), Rudra (Lord of tears), Shuli, Maheshvara, Ishvara, Sharva, Khandaparashu, Mrida, Krittivasas, Pinaki, Pramathadhipa, Kapardi, Shrikantha, Shitikantha, Kapalabhrit, Vamadeva, Mahadeva, Virupaksha, Krishanuretas, Sarvajna, Dhurjati, Nilalohita, Smarahara, Bharga, Tryambaka, Tripurantaka, Antakaripu, Kratudhvamsi, Vrishadhvaja, Vyomakesha, Umapati, Ahirbudhnya, Ashtamurti, Gajari, Mahanata, and others. The 1000 names of Shiva can be found in Chapter 17 of the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata, as well as the Linga Purana (1.65-98).

 

HOW LORD SHIVA ASSISTS IN THE UNIVERSAL DESTRUCTION

       Another point, as previously mentioned, is that within the glance of Maha-Vishnu over maya is the element of time, which starts the agitation within the energy of maya, or the pradhana. This is what starts the process of creating and separating the various material elements. This element of time has been identified as Shambhu, the personality of the destructive principle. It is also this Shambu in the form of Rudra who later appears at the end of time to bring about the destruction of the universe.

       So, Shiva is considered to be an expansion of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, Krishna, and is called Hara as such, and is transcendental to the material qualities. However, in his activities of destroying the world at the end of time, he is in touch with the mode of ignorance, or tamo-guna, and then he is considered as one of the living entities, called Rudra.

       It is further explained that Lord Krishna expands a portion of His plenary portion, Lord Vishnu, who assumes the form of Rudra when it is time to dissolve the cosmic manifestation. Lord Vishnu does this for accepting the association of the material mode of ignorance. Thus, Rudra is but another expansion of the energy of Lord Krishna, although not a personal expansion. Rudra, Lord Shiva, has various forms, which are transformations brought about by the different degrees of association with maya. Although Rudra is on a higher level than the jiva-tattvas, the individual living beings, he still cannot be considered a personal expansion of Krishna. Thus he is considered like a jiva.15

       Although many people worship Lord Shiva, Shiva worships Lord Krishna. The Shiva Purana states that Shiva is the Supreme, however, this is in regard to his power over the material world. After all, it is he who assists in the annihilation of the material creation, so he has power over the universe. But no scripture ever says that Shiva is the Supreme Lord of any of the Vaikuntha planets or of Goloka Vrinadavana, or any part of the spiritual domain. Such precincts belong only to Lord Krishna and His personal expansions. That is why Lord Shiva is always pictured absorbed in meditation. He is meditating on Lord Sankarshana, who is represented by the snakes on Shiva’s body. Since Shiva is the origin of the mundane egoistic principle, one who is a worshiper of Lord Shiva as a devotee of Sankarshana can be freed from the false, material ego.16

       Shiva is often pictured doing his Tandava dance of destruction. He is seen with four hands and one leg up, as an expert dancer, and one leg dancing on a small person called the Apasmara-purusha. In two of his hands he holds the damaru drum and fire. The drum represents sound which is supported by ether. This is a sign of further creation after the annihilation or destruction. Fire represents the Pralayagni, or the fire of universal destruction. Thus, Shiva holds the symbols of cyclical universal creation and annihilation. The other two hands represent protection and blessing for those who take refuge of him or of his spiritual knowledge. The Apasamara upon whom Shiva stands symbolizes the ignorance which make us lose our clarity and consciousness of our real identity. This also signifies our succumbing to the process of death without spiritual preparation. Shiva is shown dancing on this ignorance for the good of the devotees who take refuge.

       How Shiva assists in the cosmic annihilation is described in the Puranas. This process of cyclical destruction at the end of each day of Brahma is explained in the Vishnu Purana (Book Six, Chapters Three & Four). It states that at the end of 1,000 cycles of the four yugas the earth is almost exhausted. A great scarcity of food ensues, which lasts 100 years. Because of the lack of food, all beings become weak and slow, and finally perish entirely. Lord Vishnu then assumes the character of Rudra (a form of Lord Shiva), the destroyer, and descends to reunite all of His creatures within Himself. He enters into the seven rays of the sun, causing all moisture in the oceans, rivers, soil, and living bodies to evaporate. The whole earth is dried up. Thus fed with abundant moisture, the seven rays dilate into seven suns, whose radiance glows everywhere and sets the three planetary systems and the lower system of Patala on fire. The three planetary systems become rugged and deformed throughout their mountains, rivers, and seas as they are consumed by these suns. The earth alone remains, destitute of moisture, resembling the back of a turtle.

       Then Lord Hari, in the form of Rudra, who is the fire of time, destroyer of all things, becomes the scorching breath of Ananta Sesha, Sankarshana, and reduces the lower planetary system of Patala to ashes. The great roaring fire makes its way up through the universe to earth and destroys it. A vast whirlpool of flame then spreads to the higher region of the demigods and puts them all to ruin. The three planetary systems appear like a frying pan surrounded by flames that consume all things. The inhabitants of the upper planetary systems then move higher to Maharloka, and when that becomes too hot, those who desire final liberation depart for the higher regions of Janaloka.

       Elsewhere in the Bhagavatam (5.25.3), it states that Lord Shiva plays a significant role in the final and ultimate annihilation of the universe, which takes place at the end of Brahma’s life. “At the time of devastation, when Lord Anantadeva [Ananta Sesha, Sankarshana] desires to destroy the entire creation, He becomes slightly angry. Then from between His two eyebrows appears three-eyed Rudra, carrying a trident. This Rudra, who is known as Sankarshana, is the embodiment of the eleven Rudras, or incarnations of Lord Shiva. He appears in order to devastate the entire creation.”

       The Brahma Purana (124.16) explains that it is the imperishable Lord Krishna who assumes the form of Rudra to bring all the elements and living beings back into Himself in the process of annihilation.

       After Shiva appears in this way, he begins to do his dance of dissolution, dancing wildly to the beat of his drum. “At the time of dissolution, Lord Shiva’s hair is scattered, and he pierces the rulers of the different directions with his trident. He laughs and dances proudly, scattering their hands like flags, as thunder scattered the clouds all over the world.”17 Lord Shiva’s dancing causes such a commotion that it brings in the clouds that cause the universe to become inundated with water, which is what happens next as the process of annihilation continues (which I have fully described in my book The Vedic Prophecies).

 

LORD SHIVA’S ULTIMATE SPIRITUAL ADVICE

       In the Sri Sanatkumara-samhita, from the ancient Skanda Purana, we find a conversation between the great sage Sri Narada and Lord Sadashiva, the master of the demigods. Starting at text number 26 to text 30, Narada Muni asks Lord Sadashiva, “O master please tell what method the people of Kali-yuga may adopt to easily attain the transcendental abode of Lord Hari [Krishna]. O Lord, what mantra will carry the people from this world of birth and death? So everyone may benefit, please tell it to me. O Lord, of all mantras what mantra needs no purashcharana, no nyasa, no yoga, no samskara, and no other thing? A single utterance of the Lord’s holy name gives the highest result. O master of the demigods, if I am competent to hear it, please kindly tell me the Lord’s holy name.”

       In texts 31-35 , Lord Sadashiva gives his answer: Lord Sadashiva said: “O fortunate one, your question is excellent. O you who wish for the welfare of all, I will tell you the secret chintamani [wish-fulfilling] jewel of all mantras. I will tell you the secret of secrets, the most confidential of all confidential things. I will tell you what I have not told either the goddess or your elder brothers. I will tell you two peerless Krishna mantras that are the crest-jewels of all mantras. One is:

       “‘Gopijana-vallabha-charanau sharanam prapadye.’ (I take shelter of the feet of He who is the gopi’s beloved.) This mantra has three compound words, five individual words and sixteen syllables.

       “The second mantra is: ‘Namo gopijana-vallabhabhyam.’ (Obeisances to the divine couple, who are dear to the gopis) This mantra has two words and ten syllables.

       In texts 36-41, Lord Sadashiva continues: “One who either with faith or without faith once chants this five-word mantra resides among Lord Krishna’s gopi-beloveds. Of this there is no doubt. In chanting these mantras there is no need of purshcharana, nyasa, ari-shuddhi, mitra-shuddhi, or other kinds of purification. In chanting these mantras there is no restriction of time or place. All, from the lowest outcaste to the greatest sage, are eligible to chant this mantra. Women, shudras, and all others are eligible. The paralyzed, mute, blind, and lame are eligible. The Andhras, Hunas, Kiratas, Pulindas, Pukkashas, Abhiras, Yavanas, Kankas, Khashas, and all others even if born from sinful wombs are also eligible. They who are overcome with pride and ego, who are intent on committing sins, who are killers of cows and brahmanas, and who are the greatest of sinners, are also eligible. They who have neither knowledge nor renunciation, they who have never studied the shruti-shastra and other scriptures, and all others, whoever they may be, are also eligible to chant these mantras.”

       Then in texts 42-48 Lord Sadashiva explains who is not eligible and who should not be told these sacred mantras or the purpose of them: “Anyone who has devotion to Lord Krishna, the master of all masters, is eligible to chant these mantras, but they who have no devotion, even they may be the greatest of sages, are not eligible. They who have performed many yajnas (rituals), given charity, visited all holy places, been devoted to speaking the truth, accepted the renounced order, traveled to the farther shore of the Vedas and Vedangas, devotedly served the brahmanas, taken birth in good families, and performed austerities and vows, but are not devoted to Lord Krishna, are not eligible to chant these mantras. Therefore these mantras should not be spoken to one who is not devoted to Lord Hari, nor to one who is ungrateful, proud, or faithless, nor to an atheist or a blasphemer. One should not speak these mantras to one who does not wish to hear them, nor to one who has not stayed for one year in the speaker’s ashrama. One should carefully give these mantras to one who is free from hypocrisy, greed, lust, anger, and other vices, and who is sincerely devoted to Lord Krishna. The sage of this mantra is Lord Sadashiva. The meter is Gayatri. The Deity is Lord Krishna, the beloved of the gopis. The purpose is to attain service to dear Lord Hari.”

       In text 53 Lord Sadashiva says: “By once chanting this mantra one attains success. Of this there is no doubt. Still, for the purpose of chanting japa one should chant this mantra ten times daily.”

       In texts 54-77 of the Sri Sanatkumara-samhita, Lord Sadashiva describes the most nectarean meditation of the mantras, after which he continues with many additional topics in regard to the pastimes of Radha and Krishna and the importance of the land of Vrindavana:

       “O best of brahmanas, now I will tell you the meditation of this mantra. I meditate on two-armed Lord Krishna, who is dark like a monsoon cloud, dressed in yellow garments, garlanded with forest flowers… crowned with a peacock feather, and garlanded with lotus whorls, whose face is splendid like ten million moons, whose eyes move restlessly… whose forehead is marked with the tilaka of sandal paste and musk… who is splendid with earrings like two rising suns, whose perspiration-anointed cheeks are like two glistening mirrors… who with raised eyebrows playfully glances at His beloved’s face, the tip of whose graceful raised nose is decorated with a glistening pearl… whose bimba-fruit lips are splendid in the moonlight of His teeth, whose hands are splendid with bracelets, armlets, and jewel rings… who holds a flute in His left lotus hand, whose waist is splendid with a graceful belt, whose feet are splendid with graceful anklets… whose eyes are restless with the nectar of amorous pastimes, who jokes with His beloved, making Her laugh again and again… and who stays with Her on a jewel throne under a kalpa-vriksha [wish-fulfilling] tree in Vrindavana forest. In this way one should meditate on Lord Krishna and His beloved.”

       “On the Lord’s left side one should meditate on Sri Radha, who is dressed in blue garments, who is splendid like molten gold… who with the edge of Her garment covers Her graceful lotus smile, whose restless chakori-bird eyes dance on Her beloved’s face… who with Her forefinger and thumb places betel nuts and crushed betel leaves in Her beloved’s lotus mouth… whose full, raised breasts are decorated with a glistening pearl-necklace, whose waist is slender, whose broad hips are decorated with tinkling ornaments… who is decorated with jewel earrings, finger rings, toe rings, bracelets, armlets, and tinkling golden anklets… whose limbs are graceful with the best of beauty, who is always in the prime of youth, and who is always plunged in the nectar of bliss. O king of brahmanas, Her friends, whose age and qualities are like Hers, devotedly serve Her with chamaras, fans, and other articles.”

       “Please hear, O Narada, and I will tell you the meaning of these mantras. The material world is manifested by the Lord’s maya potency and other external potencies. The spiritual world is manifested by the Lord’s chit potency and other internal and everlasting spiritual potencies. The protector of these potencies is said to be the gopi Sri Radha, who is Lord Krishna’s beloved. The transcendental goddess Sri Radha is the direct counterpart of Lord Sri Krishna. She is the central figure for all the goddesses of fortune. She is the pleasure potency of Lord Krishna. The wise say that She is the pleasure potency of Lord Krishna. Durga and the other goddesses in the world of the three modes are a million-millionth part of one of Her expansions. She is directly Goddess Maha-Lakshmi and Lord Krishna is Lord Narayana. O best of sages, there is not the slightest difference between Them. O best of sages, what more can I say? Nothing can exist without them. This universe made of spirit and matter together is Their potency. She is Durga and Lord Hari is Shiva. Lord Krishna is Indra and She is Shachi. She is Savitri and Lord Hari is Brahma. She is Dhumorna and Lord Hari is Yama. O Narada, please know that everything is Their potency. Even if I had many hundreds of years, I could not describe all Their glories.”

 

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.24.22-28

2. Ibid., 4.24.29-30

3. Ibid., 4.30.10

4. Ibid., 4.7.50-54

5. Ibid., 8.12.43-44

6. Ibid., 10.71.8

7. Ibid., 10.88.3-5

8. Ibid., 10.88.12

9. Ibid., 10.22.4, pur.

10. Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 5.58 & Madhya-lila, 20.271

11. Ibid., Cc.Adi-lila, 5.64-66

12. Ibid., Madhya-lila, 15.176

13. Ibid., Madhya-lila, 6.154-156

14. Ibid., Madhya-lila, 21.53

15. Ibid., Madhya-lila, 20.307-8

16. Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.2.21,pur.

17. Ibid., 4.5.10

Death of the Aryan Invasion Theory

Death of the Aryan

 Invasion Theory

By Stephen Knapp

                                         

      With only a small amount of research, a person can discover that each area of the world has its own ancient culture that includes its own gods and legends about the origins of various cosmological realities, and that many of these are very similar. But where did all these stories and gods come from? Did they all spread around the world from one particular source, only to change according to differences in language and customs? If not, then why are some of these gods and goddesses of various areas of the world so alike?

      Unfortunately, information about prehistoric religion is usually gathered through whatever remnants of earlier cultures we can find, such as bones in tombs and caves, or ancient sculptures, writings, engravings, wall paintings, and other relics. From these we are left to speculate about the rituals, ceremonies, and beliefs of the people and the purposes of the items found. Often we can only paint a crude picture of how simple and backwards these ancient people were while not thinking that more advanced civilizations may have left us next to nothing in terms of physical remains. They may have built houses out of wood or materials other than stone that have since faded with the seasons, or were simply replaced with other buildings over the years, rather than buried by the sands of time for archeologists to unearth. They also may have cremated their dead, as some societies did, leaving no bones to discover. Thus, without ancient museums or historical records from the past, there would be no way of really knowing what the prehistoric cultures were like.

      If a few thousand years in the future people could uncover our own houses after being buried for so long and find television antennas on top of each house wired to a television inside, who knows what they would think. Without a recorded history of our times they might speculate that the antennas, being pointed toward the heavens, were used for us to commune with our gods who would appear, by mystic power, on the screen of the television box inside our homes. They might also think that we were very much devoted to our gods since some houses might have two, three, or more televisions, making it possible for us to never be without contact with our gods through the day. And since the television was usually found in a prominent area, with special couches and reclining chairs, this must surely be the prayer room where we would get the proper inspiration for living life. Or they might even think that the television was itself the god, the idol of our times. This, of course, would not be a very accurate picture, but it reflects the difficulty we have in understanding ancient religion by means of analyzing the remnants we find. However, when we begin comparing all the religions of the world, we can see how they are all interrelated and have a source from which most of them seem to have originated. And most of them can be traced to the East.

      Most scholars agree that the earliest of religions seems to have arisen from the most ancient of organized cultures, which are either the Sumerians along the Euphrates, or the Aryans located in the region of the Indus Valley. In fact, these two cultures were related. C. L. Woolley, one of the world’s foremost archeologists, establishes in his book, The Sumerians, that the facial characteristics of the Sumerian people can be traced to Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and on to the Indus region. The early Indus civilization, which was remarkably developed, has many similarities with Sumer over 1500 miles away, especially in regard to the rectangular seals that have identical subjects on them, and are similar in the style of engraving and inscriptions. There are also similarities in the methods used in the ground plans and construction of buildings. Woolley suggests that, rather than concluding too quickly that the Sumerians and Indus civilization shared the same race or political culture, which may actually have been the case, or that such similarities were merely from trade connections, the evidence at least indicates that the two societies shared a common source.

      The researcher and scholar L. A. Waddell offers more evidence to show the relation between the Aryans and the Sumerians. He states in his book, The Indo Sumerian Seals Deciphered, that the discovery and translation of the Sumerian seals along the Indus Valley give evidence that the Aryan society existed there from as long ago as 3100 B.C. Several Sumerian seals found along the Indus bore the names of famous Vedic Aryan seers and princes familiar in the Vedic hymns. Therefore, these Aryan personalities were not merely part of an elaborate myth, like some people seem to proclaim, but actually lived five thousand years ago as related in the Vedic epics and Puranas.

      Waddell also says that the language and religion of the Indo-Aryans were radically similar to that of the Sumerians and Phoenicians, and that the early Aryan kings of the Indian Vedas are identical with well-known historical kings of the Sumerians. He believes that the decipherment of these seals from the Indus Valley confirms that the Sumerians were actually the early Aryans and authors of Indian civilization. He concludes that the Sumerians were Aryans in physique, culture, religion, language, and writing. He also feels that the early Sumerians on the Persian Gulf near 3100 B.C. were Phoenicians who were Aryans in race and speech, and were the introducers of Aryan civilization in ancient India. Thus, he concludes that it was the Aryans who were the bearers of high civilization and who spread throughout the Mediterranean, Northwest Europe, and Britain, as well as India. However, he states that the early Aryan Sumero-Phoenicians did not become a part of the Aryan Invasion of India until the seventh century B.C. after their defeat by the Assyrian Sargon II in 718 B.C. at Carchemish in Upper Mesopotamia. Though the Sumerians indeed may have been Aryan people, some researchers feel that rather than being the originators of Vedic Aryan culture, or part of an invasion into India, they were an extension of the Vedic culture that originated in India and spread through Persia and into Europe.                    

 

THEORIES ON THE ARYAN ORIGINS

      This brings us to the different theories that scholars have about the origins of the Aryan society. Though it seems evident that an Aryan society was in existence in the Indus Valley by 3100 B.C., not everyone agrees with the dates that Waddell has presented for the Aryan Invasion into India, and whether the Aryans were actually invaders is doubtful. Obviously, different views on the Aryanization of India are held by different historians. Some scholars say that it was about 1000 B.C. when Aryans entered Iran from the north and then occupied the Indus region by 800 B.C. In this scenario, the Aryans had to have entered India sometime after this. But others say that it was between 1500 and 1200 B.C. that the Aryans entered India and composed hymns that make up the Rig-veda. So some people calculate that the Rig-veda must have been composed around 1400 B.C.

      Mr. Pargiter, another noted scholar, contends that Aryan influence in India was felt long before the composition of the Vedic hymns. He states that the Aryans entered India near 2000 B.C. over the Central Himalayas and later spread into the Punjab. Brunnhofer and others argue that the composition of the Rig-veda took place not in the Punjab, but in Afghanistan or Iran. This theory assumes that Aryan entrance into India was much later.

      Even Max Muller, the great orientalist and translator of Eastern texts, was also a great proponent of speculating on the dates of the compilations of the Vedas. He admitted that his ideas on the dates of the Vedas could not be dependable. He had originally estimated that the Rig-veda had been written around 1000 B.C. However, he was greatly criticized for that date, and he later wrote in his book, Physical Religion (p.91, 1891), “Whether the Vedic hymns were composed 1000, 1500 or 2000 BCE, no power on earth will ever determine.”

      So, as we can see from the above examples, which are just a few of the many ideas on the Aryan origins, analyzing these theories can get rather confusing. In fact, so many theories on the location of the original Aryans or Indo-Europeans have been presented by archeologists and researchers that for a time they felt the location could change from minute to minute, depending on the latest evidence that was presented. In many cases over the years, archeologists presumed they had located the home of the Sumerians or Aryans any time they found certain types of metal tools or painted pottery that resembled what had been found at the Sumerian or Indus Valley sites. Though such findings may have been of some significance, further study proved that they were of considerably less importance than had been originally thought, and, thus, the quest for locating the original Aryan home could not be concluded.

WAS THERE EVER AN ARYAN INVASION?

 

      One of the major reasons why a consideration of the idea of an Aryan invasion into India is prevalent among some Western researchers is because of their misinterpretation of the Vedas, deliberate or otherwise, that suggests the Aryans were a nomadic people. One such misinterpretation is from the Rig-veda, which describes the battle between Sudas and the ten kings. The battle of the ten kings included the Pakthas, Bhalanas, Alinas, Shivas, Vishanins, Shimyus, Bhrigus, Druhyas, Prithus, and Parshus, who fought against the Tritsus. The Prithus or Parthavas became the Parthians of latter-day Iran (247 B.C.–224 A.D.). The Parshus or Pashavas became the latter-day Persians. These kings, though some are described as Aryans, were actually fallen Aryans, or rebellious and materialistic kings who had given up the spiritual path and were conquered by Sudas. Occasionally, there was a degeneration of the spiritual kingdom in areas of India, and wars had to be fought in order to reestablish the spiritual Aryan culture in these areas. Western scholars could and did easily misinterpret this to mean an invasion of nomadic people called Aryans rather than simply a war in which the superior Aryan kings reestablished the spiritual values and the Vedic Aryan way of life.

      Let us also remember that the Aryan invasion theory was hypothesized in the nineteenth century to explain the similarities found in Sanskrit and the languages of Europe. One person who reported about this is Deen Chandora in his article, Distorted Historical Events and Discredited Hindu Chronology, as it appeared in Revisiting Indus-Sarasvati Age and Ancient India (p. 383). He explains that the idea of the Aryan invasion was certainly not a matter of misguided research, but was a conspiracy to distribute deliberate misinformation that was formulated on April 10, 1866 in London at a secret meeting held in the Royal Asiatic Society. This was “to induct the theory of the Aryan invasion of India, so that no Indian may say that English are foreigners. . . India was ruled all along by outsiders and so the country must remain a slave under the benign Christian rule.” This was a political move and this theory was put to solid use in all schools and colleges.

      So it was basically a linguistic theory adopted by the British colonial authorities to keep themselves in power. This theory suggested, more or less, that there was a race of superior, white Aryans who came in from the Caucasus Mountains and invaded the Indus region, and then established their culture, compiled their literature, and then proceeded to invade the rest of India.

      As can be expected, most of those who were great proponents of the Aryan invasion theory were often ardent English and German nationalists, or Christians, ready and willing to bring about the desecration of anything that was non-Christian or non-European. Even Max Muller believed in the Christian chronology, that the world was created at 9:00 AM on October 23, 4004 B.C. and the great flood occurred in 2500 B.C. Thus, it was impossible to give a date for the Aryan invasion earlier than 1500 B.C. After all, accepting the Christian time frame would force them to eliminate all other evidence and possibilities, so what else could they do? So, even this date for the Aryan invasion was based on speculation.

      In this way, the Aryan invasion theory was created to make it appear that Indian culture and philosophy was dependent on the previous developments in Europe, thereby justifying the need for colonial rule and Christian expansion in India. This was also the purpose of the study of Sanskrit, such as at Oxford University in England, as indicated by Colonel Boden who sponsored the program. He stated that they should “promote Sanskrit learning among the English, so as ‘to enable his countrymen to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion.’”

      Unfortunately, this was also Max Muller’s ultimate goal. In a letter to his wife in 1866, he wrote about his translation of the Rig-veda: “This edition of mine and the translation of the Veda, will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years.” (The Life and Letters of Right Honorable Friedrich Max Muller, Vol. I. p.346)

      So, in essence, the British used the theory of the Aryan invasion to further their “divide and conquer” policy. With civil unrest and regional cultural tensions created by the British through designations and divisions among the Indian society, it gave a reason and purpose for the British to continue and increase their control over India.                                   

      However, under scrutiny, the Aryan invasion theory lacks justification. For example, Sir John Marshall, one of the chief excavators at Mohenjo-Daro, offers evidence that India may have been following the Vedic religion long before any so-called “invaders” ever arrived. He points out that it is known that India possessed a highly advanced and organized urban civilization dating back to at least 2300 B.C., if not much earlier. In fact, some researchers suggest that evidence makes it clear that the Indus Valley civilization was quite developed by at least 3100 B.C. The known cities of this civilization cover an area along the Indus river and extend from the coast to Rajasthan and the Punjab over to the Yamuna and Upper Ganges. At its height, the Indus culture spread over 300,000 square miles, an area larger than Western Europe. Cities that were a part of the Indus culture include Mohenjo-Daro, Kot Diji east of Mohenjo-Daro, Amri on the lower Indus, Lothal south of Ahmedabad, Malwan farther south, Harappa 350 miles upstream from Mohenjo-Daro, Kalibangan and Alamgirpur farther east, Rupar near the Himalayas, Sutkagen Dor to the west along the coast, Mehrgarh 150 miles north of Mohenjo-Daro, and Mundigak much farther north. Evidence at Mehrgarh shows a civilization that dates back to 6500 B.C. It had been connected with the Indus culture but was deserted in the third millennium B.C. around the time the city of Mohenjo-Daro became prominent.

      The arrangement of these cities and the knowledge of the residents was much superior to that of any immigrating nomads, except for military abilities at the time. A lack of weapons, except for thin spears, at these cities indicates they were not very well equipped militarily. Thus, one theory is that if there were invaders, whoever they may have been, rather than encouraging the advancement of Vedic society when they came into the Indus Valley region, they may have helped stifle it or even caused its demise in certain areas. The Indus Valley locations may have been one area where the Vedic society disappeared after the arrival of these invaders. Many of these cities seemed to have been abandoned quickly, while others were not. However, some geologists suggest that the cities were left because of environmental changes. Evidence of floods in the plains is seen in the thick layers of silt which are now thirty-nine feet above the river in the upper strata of Mohenjo-Daro. Others say that the ecological needs of the community forced the people to move on, since research shows there was a great reduction in rainfall from that period to the present.

      We also have to remember that many of the Indus sites, like Kalibangan, were close to the region of the old Sarasvati River. Some Hindu scholars are actually preferring to rename the Indus Valley culture as the Indus-Sarasvati culture because the Sarasvati was a prominent river and very important at the time. For example, the Sarasvati River is glowingly praised in the Rig-veda. However, the Sarasvati River stopped flowing and later dried up. Recent scientific studies calculate that the river stopped flowing as early as around 8000 B.C. It dried up near the end of the Indus Valley civilization, at least by 1900 B.C. This was no doubt one reason why these cities were abandoned. This also means that if the Vedic people came after the Indus Valley culture, they could not have known of the Sarasvati River. This is further evidence that the Vedas were from many years before the time of the Indus Valley society and were not brought into the region by some invasion.

      As a result of the latest studies, evidence points in the direction that the Indus sites were wiped out not by acts of war or an invasion, but by the drought that is known to have taken place and continued for 300 years. Whatever skeletons that have been found in the region may indicate deaths not by war but by starvation or lack of water. Deaths of the weak by starvation are normal before the whole society finally moves away for better lands and more abundant resources. This is the same drought that wiped out the Akkadians of Sumeria, and caused a sudden abandonment of cities in Mesopotamia, such as at Tell Leilan and Tell Brock. The beginning of the end of these civilizations had to have been near 2500 B.C. This drought no doubt contributed to the final drying up of the Sarasvati River.

      Regarding Mohenjo-Daro, archeologists have discovered no sign of attack, such as extensive burning, or remains of armor-clad warriors, and no foreign weapons. This leaves us to believe that the enemy of the people in this region was nature, such as earthquakes, flooding, or the severe drought, or even a change in the course of rivers, and not warrior invaders. So again, the invasion theory does not stand up to scrutiny from the anthropological point of view.

      The best known archeological sites of the Indus cities are Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Excavation work at Mohenjo-Daro was done from 1922 to 1931 and 1935 to 1936. Excavation at Harappa took place from 1920 to 1921 and 1933 to 1934. Evidence has shown that temples played an important part in the life of the residents of these cities. The citadel at Mohenjo-Daro contains a 39-by-23 foot bath. This seems to have been used for ceremonial purposes similar in the manner that many large temple complexes in India also have central pools for bathing and rituals. Though deities have not been found in the ruins, no doubt because they were too important to abandon, images of a Mother goddess and a Male god similar to Lord Shiva sitting in a yoga posture have been found. Some of the Shiva seals show a man with three heads and an erect phallus, sitting in meditation and surrounded by animals. This would be Shiva as Pashupati, lord or friend of the animals. Representations of the lingam of Shiva and yoni of his spouse have also been easily located, as well as non-phallic stones such as the shalagram-shila stone of Lord Vishnu. Thus, the religions of Shiva and Vishnu, which are directly Vedic, had been very much a part of this society long ago and were not brought to the area by any invaders who may have arrived later.

      Another point that helps convince that the Vedic religion and culture had to have been there in India and pre-Harappan times is the sacrificial altars that have been discovered at the Harappan sites. These are all of similar design and found from Baluchistan to Uttar Pradesh, and down into Gujarat. This shows that the whole of this area must have been a part of one specific culture, the Vedic culture, which had to have been there before these sites were abandoned.

      More information in this regard is found in an article by J. F. Jarrige and R. H. Meadow in the August, 1980 issue of Scientific American called “The Antecedents of Civilization in the Indus Valley.” In the article they mention that recent excavations at Mehrgarh show that the antecedents of the Indus Valley culture go back earlier than 6000 B.C. in India. An outside influence did not affect its development. Astronomical references established in the Vedas do indeed concur with the date of Mehrgarh. Therefore, sites such as Mehrgarh reflect the earlier Vedic age of India. Thus, we have a theory of an Aryan invasion which is not remembered by the people of the area that were supposed to have been conquered by the Aryans.

      Furthermore, Dr. S. R. Rao has deciphered the Harappan script to be of an Indo-Aryan base. In fact, he has shown how the South Arabic, Old Aramic, and the ancient Indian Brahmi scripts are all derivatives of the Indus Valley script. This new evidence confirms that the Harappan civilization could not have been Dravidians that were overwhelmed by an Aryan invasion, but they were followers of the Vedic religion. The irony is that the invasion theory suggests that the Vedic Aryans destroyed the Dravidian Indus townships which had to have been previously built according to the mathematical instructions that are found in the Vedic literature of the Aryans, such as the Shulbasutras. This point helps void the invasion theory. After all, if the people of these cities used the Vedic styles of religious altars and town planning, it would mean they were already Aryans.

      In a similar line of thought in another recent book, Vedic Glossary on Indus Seals, Dr. Natwar Jha has provided an interpretation of the ancient script of the numerous recovered seals of the Indus Valley civilization. He has concluded that the Indus Valley seals, which are small soapstone, one-inch squares, exhibit a relation to the ancient form of Brahmi. He found words on the seals that come from the ancient Nighantu text, which is a glossary of Sanskrit compiled by the sage Yaksa that deals with words of subordinate Vedic texts. An account of Yaksa’s search for older Sanskrit words is found in the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata. This may have been in relation to the Indus Valley seals and certainly shows its ancient Vedic connection.

      The point of all this is that the entire Rig-veda had to have been existing for thousands of years by the time the Indus Valley seals were produced. Therefore, the seals were of Vedic Sanskrit origin or a derivative of it, and the Indus Valley sites were part of the Vedic culture. This is further evidence that there was no Aryan invasion. No Aryan invasion means that the area and its residents were already a part of the Vedic empire. This also means that the so-called Indo-Aryan or Indo-European civilization was nothing but the worldwide Vedic culture. From this we can also conclude, therefore, that the so-called Indo-Aryan group of languages is nothing but the various local mispronunciations of Sanskrit which has pervaded the civilized world for thousands of years.

      Another interesting point is that skeletal remains found in the Harappan sites that date back to 4000 years ago show the same basic racial types in the Punjab and Gujarat as found today. This verifies that no outside race invaded and took over the area. The only west to east movement that took place was after the Sarasvati went dry, and that was involving the people who were already there. In this regard, Sir John Marshall, in charge of the excavations at the Harappan sites, said that the Indus civilization was the oldest to be unearthed, even older than the Sumerian culture, which is believed to be but a branch of the former, and, thus, an outgrowth of the Vedic society.

      One more point about skeletal remains at the Harappan sites is that bones of horses are found at all levels of these locations. Thus, the horse was well known to these people. The horse was mentioned in the Rig-veda, and was one of the main animals of Vedic culture in India. However, according to records in Mesopotamia, the horse was unknown to that region until only about 2100 B.C. So this provides further proof that the direction of movement by the people was from India to the west, not the other way around as the invasion theory suggests.

      Professor Lal has written a book, The Earliest Civilization of South Asia, in which he also has concluded that the theory of an Aryan invasion has no basis. An invasion is not the reason for the destruction of the Harappan civilization. It was caused by climactic changes. He says the Harappan society was a melting pot made up of people from the Mediterranean, Armenia, the Alpine area, and even China. They engaged in typical Vedic fire worship, ashwamedha rituals. Such fire altars have been found in the Indus Valley cities of Banawali, Lothal, and Kalibangan.

      He also explains that the city of Kalibangan came to ruin when the Saraswati River dried up, caused by severe climactic changes around 1900 B.C. Thus, the mention of the Sarasvati River also helps date the Vedas, which had to have existed before this. This would put the origin of Sanskrit writing and the earliest portions of Vedic literature at least sometime before 4000 B.C., 6000 years ago.

      In conclusion, V. Gordon Childe states in his book, The Aryans, that though the idea of an Asiatic origin of the Aryans, who then migrated into India, is the most widely accepted idea, it is still the least well documented. And this idea is only one of the unfounded generalizations with which for over seventy years anthropology and archeology have been in conflict. In fact, today the northern Asiatic origin of the Aryans is a hypothesis which has been abandoned by most linguists and archeologists.

THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION

WAS A PART OF THE ADVANCED VEDIC CULTURE

 

      Besides what we have already discussed, more light is shed on the advanced civilization of the Indus Valley and how it influenced areas beyond its region when we consider the subject of Vedic mathematics. E. J. H. Mackay explains in his book, Further Excavations at Mohenjo-Daro, that the whole basis of Vedic mathematics is geometry, and geometrical instruments have been found in the Indus Valley which date back to at least 2800 B.C. The Vedic form of mathematics was much more advanced than that found in early Greek and Egyptian societies. This can be seen in the Shulbasutras, supplements of the Kalpasutras, which also show the earliest forms of algebra which were used by the Vedic priests in their geometry for the construction of altars and arenas for religious purposes. In fact, the geometrical formula known as the Pythagorean theorem can be traced to the Baudhayans, the earliest forms of the Shulbasutras dated prior to the eighth century B.C.

      The Shulbasutras are the earliest forms of mathematical knowledge, and certainly the earliest for any religious purpose. They basically appear as a supplement to the ritual (Shrauta) aspect of the Kalpasutras. They essentially contain the mathematical formulas for the design of various altars for the Vedic rituals of worship, which are evident in the Indus Valley sites.

      The date of the Shulbasutras, after comparing the Baudhayana, Apastamba and Katyayana Shulbas with the early mathematics of ancient Egypt and Babylonia, as described by N. S. Rajaram in Vedic Aryans and The Origins of Civilization (p.139), is near 2000 B.C. However, after including astronomical data from the Ashvalayana Grihyasutra, Shatapantha Brahmana, etc., the date can be brought farther back to near 3000 B.C., near the time of the Mahabharata War and the compilation of the other Vedic texts by Srila Vyasadeva.

      With this view in mind, Vedic mathematics can no longer be considered as a derivative from ancient Babylon, which dates to 1700 B.C., but must be the source of it as well as the Greek or Pythagorean mathematics. Therefore, the advanced nature of the geometry found in the Shulbasutras indicates that it provided the knowledge that had to have been known during the construction of the Indus sites, such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, as well as that used in ancient Greece and Babylon.

      It is Vedic mathematics that originated the decimal system of tens, hundreds, thousands, and so on, and in which the remainder of one column of numbers is carried over to the next column. The Indian number system was used in Arabia after 700 A.D. and was called Al-Arqan-Al-Hindu. This spread into Europe and became known as the Arabic numerals. This, of course, has developed into the number system we use today, which is significantly easier than the Egyptian, Roman, or Chinese symbols for numbers that made mathematics much more difficult. It was the Indians who devised the methods of dividing fractions and the use of equations and letters to signify unknown factors. They also made discoveries in calculus and other systems of math several hundred years before these same principles were understood in Europe. Thus, it becomes obvious that if the Europeans had not changed from the Roman numeral system to the form of mathematics that originated in India, many of the developments that took place in Europe would not have been possible. In this way, all evidence indicates that it was not any northern invaders into India who brought or originated this advanced form of mathematics, but it was from the Vedic Aryan civilization that had already been existing in India and the Indus Valley region. Thus, we can see that such intellectual influence did not descend from the north into India, but rather traveled from India up into Europe.

      Additional evidence that it was not any invaders who originated the highly advanced Vedic culture in the Indus Valley is the fact that various seals that Waddell calls Sumerian and dates back to 2800 B.C. have been found bearing the image of the water buffalo or Brahma bull. Modern zoologists believe that the water buffalo was known only to the Ganges and Brahmaputra valleys and did not exist in Western India or the Indus Valley. This would suggest a few possibilities. One is that the Sumerians had traveled to Central and Eastern India for reasons of trade and for finding precious stones since Harappa was a trading center connected by way of the Indus river with the gold and turquoise industry of Tibet. Thus, they learned about the water buffalo and used images of them on their seals. The second and most likely possibility is that the Aryan civilization at the time extended from Eastern India to the Indus region and farther west to Mesopotamia and beyond, and included the Sumerians as a branch. So, trade and its Vedic connections with India naturally brought the image of the water buffalo to the Indus Valley region and beyond.

      Further evidence showing the Vedic influence on the region of Mohenjo-Daro is a tablet dating back to 2600 B.C. It depicts an image of Lord Krishna as a child. This positively shows that the Indus Valley culture was connected with the ancient Vedic system, which was prevalent along the banks of the Rivers Sarasvati and Sindhu thousands of years ago.

THE VEDIC LITERATURE SUPPLIES NO EVIDENCE

OF AN ARYAN INVASION

 

      As we can see from the above information, the presence of the Vedic Aryans in the Indus region is undeniable, but the evidence indicates they had been there long before any invaders or immigrating nomads ever arrived, and, thus, the Vedic texts must have been in existence there for quite some time as well. In fact, the Vedic literature establishes that they were written many years before the above mentioned date of 1400 B.C. The age of Kali is said to have begun in 3102 B.C. with the disappearance of Lord Krishna, which is the time when Srila Vyasadeva is said to have begun composing the Vedic knowledge into written form. Thus, the Rig-veda could not have been written or brought into the area by the so-called “invaders” because they are not supposed to have come through the area until 1600 years later.

      One of the problems with dating the Vedic literature has been the use of linguistic analysis, which has not been dependable. It can be safe to say, as pointed out by K. C. Verma in his Mahabharata: Myth and Reality–Differing Views (p.99), “All attempts to date the Vedic literature on linguistic grounds have failed miserably for the simple reason that (a) the conclusions of comparative philology are often speculative and (b) no one has yet succeeded in showing how much change should take place in a language in a given period. The only safe method is astronomical.”

      With this suggestion, instead of using the error prone method of linguistics, we can look at the conclusion a few others have drawn by using astronomical records for dating the Vedas. With the use of astronomical calculations, some scholars date the earliest hymns of the Rig-veda to before 4500 B.C. Others, such as Lokmanya Tilak and Hermann Jacobi, agree that the major portion of the hymns of the Rig-veda were composed from 4500 to 3500 B.C., when the vernal equinox was in the Orion constellation. These calculations had to have been actual sightings, according to K. C. Verma, who states, “it has been proved beyond doubt that before the discoveries of Newton, Liebnitz, La Place, La Grange, etc., back calculations could not have been made; they are based on observational astronomy.” (Mahabharata: Myth and Reality–Differing Views, p.124)

      In his book called The Celestial Key to the Vedas: Discovering the Origins of the World’s Oldest Civilization, B. G. Sidharth provides astronomical evidence that the earliest portions of the Rig-veda can be dated to 10,000 B.C. He is the director of the B. M. Birla Science Center and has 30 years of experience in astronomy and science. He also confirms that India had a thriving civilization capable of sophisticated astronomy long before Greece, Egypt, or any other culture in the world.

      In his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.8), A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, one of the most distinguished Vedic scholars of modern times, also discusses the estimated date of when the Vedic literature was written based on astronomical evidence. He writes that there is some diversity amongst mundane scholars as to the date when Srimad-Bhagavatam was compiled, the latest of Vedic scriptures. But from the text it is certain that it was compiled after Lord Krishna disappeared from the planet and before the disappearance of King Pariksit. We are presently in the five thousandth year of the age of Kali according to astronomical calculation and evidence in the revealed scriptures. Therefore, he concludes, Srimad-Bhagavatam had to have been compiled at least five thousand years ago. The Mahabharata was compiled before Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the major Puranas were compiled before Mahabharata.

      Furthermore, we know that the Upanishads and the four primary Vedas, including the Rig-veda, were compiled years before Mahabharata. This would indicate that the Vedic literature was already existing before any so-called invasion, which is said to have happened around 1400 B.C. In fact, this indicates that the real Aryans were the Vedic kings and sages who were already prevalent in this region, and not any uncertain tribe of nomadic people that some historians inappropriately call “invading Aryans” who came into India and then wrote their Vedic texts after their arrival. So this confirms the Vedic version.

       Another point of consideration is the Sarasvati River. Some people feel that the Sarasvati is simply a mythical river, but through research and the use of aerial photography they have rediscovered parts of what once was its river bed. As the Vedas describe, and as research has shown, it had once been a very prominent river. Many hundreds of years ago it flowed from the Himalayan mountains southwest to the Arabian Sea at the Rann of Kutch, which is north of Mumbai (Bombay) in the area of Dwaraka. However, it is known to have changed course several times, flowing in a more westerly direction, and dried up near 1900 B.C.

      Since the Rig-veda (7.95.1) describes the course of the river from the mountains to the sea, as well as (10.75.5) locates the river between the Yamuna and the Shutudri (Sutlej), it becomes obvious that the Vedic Aryans had to have been in India before this river dried up, or long before 2000 B.C. The Atharva-veda (6.30.1) also mentions growing barley along the Sarasvati. And the Vajasaneya Samhita of the Yajur-veda (Shuklayajur-veda 34.11) relates that five rivers flow into the Sarasvati, after which she becomes a vast river. This is confirmed by satellite photography, archeology, and hydrological surveys that the Sarasvati was a huge river, up to five miles wide. Not only does this verify the antiquity of the Aryan civilization in India, but also of the Vedic literature, which had to have been in existence many hundreds of years before 1900 B.C. So this helps confirm the above date of 3102 B.C. when the Vedic texts were compiled.

      Furthermore, the ancient Rig-veda (10.75.5; 6.45.31; 3.59.6) mentions the Ganges, sometimes called the Jahnavi, along with the Yamuna, Sarasvati, and Sindhu (Indus) rivers (Rig-veda, 10.75.1-9). So the rivers and settlements in the Ganges region did have significance in the Vedic literature, which shows that the Vedas were written in India and not brought into the Ganges area after they had been written at some other location.

      The Manu-samhita (2.21-22) also describes Madhyadesa, the central region of India, as being where the Aryans were located between the Himavat and Vindhya mountains, east of Prayaga and west of Vinasana where the Sarasvati River disappears. It also says the land that extends as far as the eastern and western oceans is called Aryavata (place of the Aryans) by the wise. This means that the center of Vedic civilization at the time was near the Sarasvati River.

      The point of this is that here is more evidence that the Vedic Aryans could not have invaded India or written the Rig-veda after 1800 B.C. and known about the Sarasvati River. In fact, for the river to have been as great as it is described in the Vedas and Puranas, the Aryans had to have been existing in the area for several thousand years, at least before the river began to dry up. And if the Aryans were not the first people in this area, then why are there no pre-Aryan names for these rivers? Or why has no one discovered the pre-Indus Valley language if it had been inhabited by a different people before the Aryans arrived? And why is there no record of any Aryan invasion in any of the Vedic literature?

      In this regard, Mr. K. D. Sethna points out on page 67 of his book, The Problem of Aryan Origins From an Indian Point of View, that even scholars who believe in an Aryan invasion of India around 1500 B.C. admit that the Rig-veda supplies no sign of an entry into the Indian subcontinent from anywhere. There is no mention of any such invasion. From our research and evidence, the Rig-veda can be dated to at least around 3000 B.C. or much earlier. Thus, for all practical purposes, there is little reason to discuss any other origination of the Vedic Aryans than the area of Northern India.

      This is corroborated in The Cultural Heritage of India (pp. 182-3) wherein it explains that Indian tradition knows nothing of any Aryan invasion from the northwest or outside of India. In fact, the Rig-veda (Book Ten, Chapter 75) lists the rivers in the order from the east to the northwest, in accordance with the expansion of the Aryan outflow from India to the northwest. This would concur with the history in the Puranas that India was the home of the Aryans, from where they expanded to outside countries in various directions, spreading the Vedic culture. The Manu-samhita (2.17-18) specifically points out that the region of the Vedic Aryans is between the Sarasvati and the Drishadvati Rivers, as similarly found in the Rig-veda (3.24.4).

      Any wars mentioned in the Vedic literature are those that have taken place between people of the same culture, or between the demigods and demons, or the forces of light and darkness. The idea that the term “Aryan” or “Arya” refers to those of a particular race is misleading. It is a term that means anyone of any race that is noble and of righteous and gentle conduct. To instill the idea of an Aryan invasion into the Vedic texts is merely an exercise of taking isolated verses out of context and changing the meaning of the terms. Even the oldest written Vedic book, the Rig-veda, contains no mention of a wandering tribe of people coming from some original holy land or any mountainous regions from outside India. In fact, it describes the Indian subcontinent in recognizable terms of rivers and climate. The Sarasvati River is often mentioned in the Rig-veda, which makes it clear that the region of the Sarasvati was a prime area of the Vedic people. Furthermore, it describes no wars with outsiders, no capturing of cities, and no incoming culture of any kind that would indicate an invasion from a foreign tribe. Only much later after the Vedic period do we have the invasion of India by the Muslims and the British, for which there is so much recorded evidence.

      The Vedic literature is massive, and no other culture has produced anything like it in regard to ancient history. Not the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, or Chinese. So if it was produced outside of India, how could there not be some reference to its land of origination? For that matter, how could these so-called primitive nomads who came invading the Indus region invent such a sophisticated language and produce such a distinguished record of their customs in spite of their migrations and numerous battles? This is hardly likely. Only a people who are well established and advanced in their knowledge and culture can do such a thing. In this way, we can see that the Vedic texts give every indication that the Vedic Aryans originated in India.

      Therefore, we are left with much evidence in literary records and archeological findings, as we shall see, that flies in the face of the Aryan invasion theory. It shows how the Vedic Aryans went from India to Iran, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and on toward Europe in a westward direction rather than toward the east. The invasion theory is but a product of the imagination.

MORE EVIDENCE FOR THE ORIGINAL HOME

OF THE VEDIC ARYANS

 

      The Brahmin priests and Indian scholars believe that the Sarasvati and Ganges valley region are the origin of Indian civilization and the Aryan society. This can be given some credence when we look at the cities in this region. For example, North of Delhi is the town of Kuruksetra where the great battle of the Mahabharata took place when Sri Krishna was still on the planet over 5,000 years ago. There is also the old city of Hastinapura that was once situated along the Ganges until the river changed its course and swept the city away in 800 B.C. This is the old capital of the Kuru dynasty in the Mahabharata. Pottery remains have been found near this location that are traced back to at least 1200 B.C. In New Delhi we find the Purana Qila site, which is known to have been part of the ancient city of Indraprastha. An interesting quote can be found in the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.72.13) which can give us some idea of how prominent Indraprastha had been. It states that during the time when Sri Krishna was on this planet 5,000 years ago, King Yudhisthira sent his brothers, the Pandavas, to conquer the world in all directions. This was for bringing all countries to participate in the great Rajasuya ceremony that was being held in ancient Indraprastha. All countries were to pay a tax to help the performance of the ceremony, and to send representatives to participate. If they did not wish to cooperate, then they would have to engage in battle with the Pandavas. Thus, the whole world came under the jurisdiction of the Vedic Aryan administration.

      South of New Delhi are the holy towns of Vrindavan and Mathura along the Yamuna River. Both of these towns are known for being places of Krishna’s pastimes and Vedic legends that go back thousands of years, which are also described in the Vedic literature. Farther south, located on the Yamuna, is the ancient city of Kaushambi. This city still has the remains of massive defense structures from the tenth century B.C. that are very similar to buildings in Harrappa and the Indus region that use baked brick for construction. The Yajur-veda (Vajasaneyi Samhita 23.18) also mentions the town of Kampila, which is located about halfway between Hastinapur and Kaushambi. The next city is Allahabad (Prayag) where we find the confluence of the Yamuna and Ganges. This location abounds with importance and Vedic legends that are so remote in antiquity that no one can say when they originated. Then there is Varanasi along the Ganges that is another city filled with ancient Vedic legends of importance. A short distance north of Varanasi is Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon after being enlightened. A four-hour train ride north of Varanasi is the town of Ayodhya, where Lord Ramachandra had His capital, as fully described in the ancient Ramayana. And, of course, there are the Himalayan mountains that have many Vedic stories connected with them. Furthermore, there are numerous other places that could be mentioned that are connected with the Vedic legends throughout the area. (Most of these have already been described in the Seeing Spiritual India sections in my previous books.)

      Though some archeologists claim they have discovered no evidence for the ancient existence of the Vedic Aryan culture in this Gangetic region, even a casual tour through this area, as mentioned above, makes it obvious that these towns and holy sites did not gain importance overnight, nor simply by an immigration of people who are said to have brought the Vedas with them. These places could not have become incorporated into the Vedic legends so quickly if the Vedic culture came from another location. Therefore, the argument that the early Vedic literature was brought from another region or describes a geographical location other than India cannot so easily be accepted. The fact is that the whole of India and up through the Indus region was the original home of the Vedic Aryan culture from which it spread its influence over much of the rest of the world.

                                     

 

THE VEDIC EXPLANATION OF THE ORIGINAL ARYANS

AND HOW THEIR INFLUENCE SPREAD

THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

                                           

      How the Aryan name was given to those who are said to have invaded the Indus region is regarded as uncertain, and, as I have shown, whether there really was any invasion is no longer a legitimate consideration. Nonetheless, the term aryan has been applied to those people who occupied the plains between the Caspian and Black Seas. The hypothesis is that they began to migrate around the beginning of the second millennium B.C. Some went north and northwest, some went westward settling in parts of the Middle East, while others traveled to India through the Indus Valley. Those that are said to have come into India were the “invading Aryans.”

      The Vedic literature establishes a different scenario. They present evidence that ancient, pre-historical India covered a much broader area, and that the real Aryans were not invaders from the north into the Indus region, but were the original residents who were descendants of Vedic society that had spread over the world from the area of India. Let us remember that the term aryan has been confused with meaning light or light complexion. However, Aryan refers to Arya, or a clear consciousness toward God, not white or white people. In the Vedic sutras, the word aryan is used to refer to those who are spiritually oriented and of noble character. The Sanskrit word aryan is linguistically related to the word harijana (pronounced hariyana), meaning one related to God, Hari. Therefore, the real meaning of the name aryan refers to those people related to the spiritual Vedic culture. It has little to do with those immigrants that some researchers have speculated to be the so-called “invading Aryans.” Aryan refers to those who practice the Vedic teachings and does not mean a particular race of people. Therefore, anyone can be an Aryan by following the clear, light, Vedic philosophy, while those who do not follow it are non-Aryan. Thus, the name Aryan, as is generally accepted today, has been misapplied to a group of people who are said to have migrated from the north into India.

      Some call these people Sumerians, but L. A. Waddell, even though he uses the name, explains that the name Sumerian does not exist as an ethnic title and was fabricated by the modern Assyriologists and used to label the Aryan people. And Dr. Hall, in his book Ancient History of the Near East, says that there is an anthropological resemblance between the Dravidians of India and the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, which suggests that the group of people called the Sumerians actually were of Indian descendants. With this information in mind, it is clear that the real Aryans were the Vedic followers who were already existing throughout India and to the north beyond the Indus region.

      To help understand how the Aryan influence spread through the world, L. A. Waddell explains that the Aryans established the pre-historic trade routes over land and sea from at least the beginning of the third millennium B.C., if not much earlier. Wherever the Aryans went, whether in Egypt, France, England, or elsewhere, they imposed their authority and culture, much to the betterment of the previous culture of the area. They brought together scattered tribes and clans into national unity that became increasingly bright in their systems of social organization, trade, and art. In seeking new sources of metal, such as tin, copper, gold, and lead, the Aryans established ports and colonies among the local tribes that later developed into separate nations which took many of their traditions and cultural traits from the ruling Aryans. Of course, as trade with the Aryans diminished, especially after the Mahabharata War in India, variations in the legends and cultures became prominent. This accounts for the many similarities between the different ancient civilizations of the world, as well as those resemblances that still exist today.

      Another consideration is that since the Aryans were centralized in the Gangetic plains and the Himalayan mountains, from there they could have spread east along the Brahmaputra River and over the plain of Tibet. The Chinese, in the form of the Cina tribe, also are likely to have originated here since they have the legend of the sacred mountain in the west with four rivers. The ancient Puranas explain that Manu and his sons ruled over the area, over as many lands north of Mount Meru and Kailas as south. Other Aryans could have easily gone down the Sarasvati and Sarayu into north India. Others went from the Indus into Kashmir and Afghanistan, and into Central Asia. Others went into the areas of Gujarat and Sind, and over through Persia and the Gulf region. This is how the Sumerian civilization was founded, along with Babylonia. From there they went farther into Turkey and Europe.

      After spreading throughout South India, they continued down the Ganges by sea east into Malaysia and Indonesia, founding the ancient Vedic cultures there. By sea they continued to China, meeting the Aryans that were probably already there. From China and the orient, they sailed over the Pacific Ocean and finally reached and colonized the Americas. Plenty of evidence of this is presented in the following chapters.

      We can see some of the affect of this spread out of India in regard to the term aryan. The name Harijana or Aryan evolved into Syriana or Syrians in Syria, and Hurrians in Hurri, and Arianna or Iranians in Iran. This shows that they were once part of Vedic society. A similar case is the name Parthians in Partha, another old country in Persia. Partha was the name of Krishna’s friend Arjuna, a Vedic Aryan, and means the son of King Prithu. So the name Parthian indicates those who are the descendants of King Prithu. Parthians also had a good relationship with the early Jews since the Jews used to buy grains from the Parthians. The Greeks referred to the Jews as Judeos, or Jah deos or Yadavas, meaning people of Ya or descendants of Yadu, one of the sons of Yayati. It is also regarded that the basis of the Kabbalah, the book of Jewish mystical concepts, as described in The Holy Kabbalah by Arthur Edward Waite, is linked with Kapila Muni, the Indian sage and incarnation of Krishna who established the analytical sankhya-yoga philosophy. Therefore, a connection between the early Jews and ancient Vedic culture is evident.

      Another aspect of the connection between these various regions and the Vedic culture is explained in the Vedic literature. In the Rig-veda (10.63.1) Manu is the foremost of kings and seers. Manu and his family were survivors of the world flood, as mentioned in the Shatapatha Brahmana (1.8.1). Thus, a new beginning for the human race came from him, and all of humanity are descendants from Manu. The Atharva-veda (19.39.8) mentions where his ship descended in the Himalayas. One temple that signifies the location of where the ship of Manu first touched land after the flood is in Northern India in the hills of Manali. His important descendants are the Pauravas, Ayu, Nahusha, and Yayati. From Yayati came the five Vedic clans; the Purus, Anus, Druhyus, Turvashas, and Yadus. The Turvashas are related to India’s southeast, Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, and are the ancestors of the Dravidians and the Yavanas. Yadu is related to the south or southwest, Gujarat and Rajasthan, from Mathura to Dwaraka and Somnath. The Anus are related to the north, to Punjab, as well as Bengal and Bihar. The Druhyus are related to the west and northwest, such as Gandhara and Afghanistan. Puru is connected with the central Yamuna/Ganges region. All but Puru were known for having intermittently fallen from the Vedic dharma, and various wars in the Puranas were with these groups.

      As explained by Shrikant Talageri in his book, The Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal (pp. 304-5, 315, 367-368), from these descendants, the Purus were the Rigvedic people and developed Vedic culture in north central India and the Punjab along the Sarasvati (Rig-veda 7.96.2). The Anus of southern Kashmir along the Parushni or modern Ravi River (Rig-veda 7.18.13) spread over western Asia and developed the various Iranian cultures. The Druhyus northwest of the area of the Punjab and Kashmir spread into Europe and became the western Indo-Europeans, or the Druids and ancient Celts. A first group went northwest and developed the proto-Germanic dialect, and another group traveled farther south and developed the proto-Hellenic and Itallic-Celtic dialects. Other tribes included the Pramshus in western Bihar, and Ikshvakus of northern Uttar Pradesh.

      Incidentally, according to legend, thousands of years ago Kashmir was a large lake surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks. It was here where the goddess Parvati stayed in her boat. One day she went to see Lord Shiva in the mountains. Then a great demon took possession of the lake. Kashyapa Muni, who was present at the time, called for the goddess to return. Together they chased the demon away and created an immense valley. It was called Kashyapa-Mira, and later shortened to Kashmir. This again shows the Vedic connection of this region.

      Other tribes mentioned in the Vedic texts include the Kiratas, who are the mountain people of Tibet and Nepal, often considered impure for not practicing the Vedic dharma. The Vishnu Purana (4.3.18-21) also mentions the Shakas who are the Scythians of ancient Central Asia, the Pahlavas who are the Persians, and the Cinas who are the Chinese. They are all considered as fallen nobility or Kshatriyas who had been driven out of India during the reign of King Sagara.

      To explain further, Yadu was the eldest of the five sons of Yayati. Yayati was a great emperor of the world and one of the original forefathers of those of Aryan and Indo-European heritage. Yayati divided his kingdom amongst his sons, who then started their own dynasties. Yayati had two wives, Devayani and Sharmistha. Yayati had two sons from Devayani: Yadu and Turvasu. Yadu was the originator of the Yadu dynasty called the Yadavas, later known as the Lunar Dynasty. From Turvasu came the Yavana or Turk dynasty. From Sharmistha, Yayati had three sons: Druhya, who started the Bhoja dynasty; Anu, who began the Mleccha or Greek dynasty; and Puru who started the Paurava dynasty, which is said to have settled along the Ravi River and later along the Sarasvati. Some say that this clan later went on to Egypt who became the Pharaohs and rulers of the area. These Aryan tribes, originating in India by King Yayati and mentioned in the Rig-veda and Vishnu and Bhagavat Puranas, spread all over the world.

      The Yadava kingdom later became divided among the four sons of Bhima Satvata. From Vrishni, the youngest, descended Vasudeva, the father of Krishna and Balarama and their sister Pritha or Kunti. Kunti married the Yadava prince Pandu, whose descendants became the Pandavas. Kunti became the mother of Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna (Partha), the three elder Pandavas. The younger Pandavas were Nakula and Sahadeva, born from Pandu’s second wife Madri. After moving to the west coast of India, they lived at Dwaraka under the protection of Lord Krishna. Near the time of Krishna’s disappearance from earth, a fratricidal war broke out and most of the Pandavas were killed, who had grown to become a huge clan. Those that survived may have gone on to the Indus Valley where they joined or started another part of the advanced Vedic society. Others may have continued farther west into Egypt and some on to Europe, as previously explained.

      This is further substantiated in the Mahabharata which mentions several provinces of southern Europe and Persia that were once connected with the Vedic culture. The Adi-parva (174.38) of the Mahabharata describes the province of Pulinda (Greece) as having been conquered by Bhimasena and Sahadeva, two of the Pandava brothers. Thus, the ancient Greeks were once a part of Bharata-varsa (India) and the Vedic civilization. But later the people gave up their affiliation with Vedic society and were, therefore, classified as Mlecchas. However, in the Vana-parva section of the Mahabharata it is predicted that this non-Vedic society would one day rule much of the world, including India. Alexander the Great conquered India for the Pulinda or Greek civilization in 326 B.C., fulfilling the prophecy.

      The Sabha-parva and Bhisma-parva sections of the Mahabharata mention the province of Abhira, situated near what once was the Sarasvati River in ancient Sind. The Abhiras are said to have been warriors who had left India out of fear of Lord Parashurama and hid themselves in the Caucasion hills between the Black and Caspian Seas. Later, for a period of time, they were ruled by Maharaja Yudhisthira. However, the sage Markandaya predicted that these Abhiras, after they gave up their link with Vedic society, would one day rule India.

      Another province mentioned in Mahabharata (Adi-parva 85.34) is that of the Yavanas (Turks) who were so named for being descendants of Maharaja Yavana (Turvasu), one of the sons of Maharaja Yayati, as previously explained. They also gave up Vedic culture and became Mlecchas. They fought in the battle of Kuruksetra against the Pandavas on behalf of Duryodhana and lost. However, it was predicted that they would one day return to conquer Bharata-varsa (India) and, indeed, this came to pass. Muhammad Ghori later attacked and conquered parts of India on behalf of Islam from the Abhira and Yavana or Turkish countries. Thus, we can see that these provinces in the area of Greece and Turkey (and the countries in between there and India) were once part of the Vedic civilization and had at one time not only political and cultural ties, but also ancestral connections. This is the Vedic version, of the origin of Aryan civilization and how its influence spread in various degrees throughout the world.

THE CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

IN THE SPREAD OF VEDIC CULTURE

 

      Now I will piece together the basic chronological order of the spread of Vedic culture from India. According to the Vedic tradition, the original spiritual and Vedic knowledge was given to mankind by God at the beginning of creation. Thus, there would have been a highly advanced Vedic and spiritual civilization in the world. However, through various earth changes, such as ice ages, earthquakes, droughts, etc., the structure of the global cultures changed. Some of these events, such as the great flood, are recorded by most cultures throughout the world.

      Many scholars feel that the global deluge happened around 13,000 years ago. Some think that it could have been a meteorite impact that triggered the end of the Ice Age and caused a giant meltdown that produced the water that flooded the planet. Much land disappeared, and the global flood swept away most of the world’s population. Great lakes were formed, all lowlands disappeared, and lands like Egypt became moist with water. This means that the advanced civilization that had once populated the earth was now gone, and would be replaced by the survivors. It was the mariners, such as the Vedic Manu and his family, who survived the flood and colonized other parts of the world.

      Further information of the last ice age and global deluge is briefly explained by Dr. Venu Gopalacharya. In a personal letter to me (July 22, 1998), he explained that, “There are eighteen Puranas and sub-Puranas in Sanskrit. According to them, only those who settled on the high mountains of Central Asia and around the Caspian Sea, after the end of the fourth ice age, survived from the glaciers and deluge. During the period from the end of the fourth ice age and the great deluge, there were 12 great wars for the mastery over the globe. They divided the global regions into two parts. The worshipers of the beneficial forces of nature, or Devas, settled from the Caspian Sea to the eastern ocean, and the worshipers of the evil forces of nature occupied the land to the west of the Caspian Sea. These became known as the Assyrians (Asuras), Daityas (Dutch), Daiteyas (Deutch or German), Danavas (Danes), and Danutusahs (Celts). Some of them migrated to the American continent. The Mayans, Toltecs, and the rulers of Palanque (Patalalanke), are considered to be the Asuras who migrated to the Patala (land below), or the land of immortals, Amaraka. [This is the original Sanskrit from which the name of America is derived. Mara in Sanskrit means death, amara means no death or beyond it.] In the deluge, most of these lands were submerged. Noah (Manu) and his subjects became known as Manavas, ruled by the monarchs of the globe. They were successors of his [Manu’s] nine sons and one daughter.”

      Dr. Venu Gopalacharya continues this line of thought in his book, World-Wide Hindu Culture and Vaishnava Bhakti (pages 117-18). He explains further how this Vedic culture continued to spread after the great deluge. It was under the leadership of the Solar dynasty princes that a branch of Indians marched west of the Indus River and occupied the area of Abyssinia and its surrounding regions around the rivers Nile, Gambia, and Senagal. The names of Abyssinia and Ethiopia are derived from words that mean colonies of the people of the Sindhu and the Aditya or Solar dynasty. You can recognize many names of places in and around Ethiopia that are derived from the original Sanskrit. So after the great deluge, Vaivasvata Manu’s nine sons [some references say ten sons] were ruling over the various parts of the globe. They and their successors were very concerned about establishing the Vedic principles of Sanatana-dharma, the uplifting way of life for regaining and maintaining one’s spiritual identity and connection with the Supreme. This was the essence of Vaivasvata Manu’s teachings. This was especially taught and strictly followed by the great rulers of the Solar dynasty who governed from Ayodhya. These principles included the practice of truth, nonviolence, celibacy, cleanliness, non-covetousness, firmness of mind, peace, righteousness, and self-control as exemplified by Lord Sri Rama and His ancestors like Sagara, Ambarisha, Dilipa, Raghu, and Dasaratha. This is explained in Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsha as well as other Puranas and Itihasas. This standard became more popular with the ancient Indians than people in other parts of the world, and, thus, India became the center of this Vedic way of life since time immemorial.

       The unfortunate thing is that many of the most ancient records, in which we may very well have been able to find more exact information about this sort of early history, were destroyed by the revolutionary fanatics at places like Alexandria, Pusa, Takshashila, and others in Central Asia, and Central and South America. They did so while declaring that such knowledge and records were unnecessary if they contained what was already in their own religious books, but should be destroyed if they contained anything different. This is why the mythologies of Egypt, Babylonia, the Jews, the Old Testament, and the holy Koran contain only brief accounts of the pre-historical facts beyond 2500 years ago, unlike those histories that hold much greater detail as found in the ancient Vedic and Puranic literature.

      In any case, we can begin to see that the Vedic Aryans had been living in the region of India since the last deluge, from about 13,000 to 10,000 B.C. Thus, there could not have been any pre-Aryan civilization in this area that had been conquered by so-called “invading Aryans” in 1500 B.C.

      Using the many types of evidence previously provided in this chapter, it is clear that the height of the Vedic Age was certainly long before 3100 B.C., even as early as 4000 to 5000 B.C. as some scholars feel. Bal Gangadhar Tilak estimates that the Vedas were in existence as early as 6000 B.C., based on historical data, while others say it was as far back as 7000-8000 B.C. Since the Vedic culture during this time was practicing an oral tradition, and the literature had still not been put into written form, the basic hymns of the Rig-veda, and even the Atharva-veda and others, could have been in existence for many thousands of years. These Vedas were used in everyday life for society’s philosophy, worship, and rituals. Therefore, they were a highly sophisticated product of a greatly developed society, and must date back to the remotest antiquity. Or, as the tradition itself explains, the essence of Vedic knowledge had been given to humanity by God at the time of the universal creation and has always been in existence.

      By 3700, all of the principal books of the Rig-veda were in place and known. Of course, this was still an oral tradition and additional books could still have been added. One point in this regard is that the father of the great Bishma was Shantanu whose brother, Devapi, is credited with several hymns of the Rig-veda. This could not have been much earlier than 3200 B.C. since Bishma played a prominent role in the Mahabharata War at Kuruksetra, which is calculated to have been around 3137 B.C. Further calculations can be accorded with the dynastic list as found in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata. With the help of the list, from 3100 B.C. we get nearly an additional 630 years or longer going back to Sudas and the Battle of the Ten Kings, as described in the Rig-veda. This takes us back to about 3730 B.C. Therefore, the height of the Vedic Age can be dated no later than 3700 B.C.

      From the Vedic literature, we can also see that the Sarasvati River had to have been at its prime around 4000 to 5000 B.C. or earlier. This is when it was recorded in the Rig and Atharva-vedas. This was also when the Vedic culture was spreading throughout the world, either because of reasons of trade, migration, or because some of the degenerated tribes were driven out of the Indian region. Some of the first tribes to have left India may include the Prithu-Parthavas (who later became the Parthians), the Druhyus (who became the Druids), the Alinas (Hellenes or ancient Greeks), the Simyus (Sirmios or ancient Albanians), the Cinas (Chinese), and others. This could have been around 4500 B.C., as explained by N. S. Rajaram in The Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (p. 210). These were some of the earliest of Aryans who created the most ancient form of Indo-European society. They took with them their Vedic customs, language, rituals, etc., all of which gradually changed with time due to their lack of seriously following the Vedic traditions, or because of their loss of close contact with the orthodox homeland. This would certainly help explain the many similarities in languages and culture that we find today between numerous regions of the world, many of which we will explain later in this book.

      During the fourth millennium, near 3800 B.C., North India had plenty of water, with such great rivers as the Indus to the north, the Ganga to the east, and the central Sarasvati-Drishadvati river system, which was fed by the Sutlej and the Yamuna. The great Thar desert did not yet create a division between North India and the western areas. So it was all one cultural entity. Thus, the central Vedic society covered a much wider area and had greater influence than the mere country of India today.

      However, before the time of the Mahabharata War, the Yamuna had changed its course and was no longer flowing into the Sarasvati, but emptied into the Ganga. By the time of the Mahabharata, around 3100 B.C., the Sarasvati is described in relation to Balarama’s pilgrimage (Shalya Parva, 36-55) as still being significant in its holiness, but from its origin it flowed only for a forty-day journey by horse into the desert where it disappeared. All that was left were the holy places that used to be on its banks (as also mentioned in 3.80.84; 3.88.2; & 9.34.15-8). The Mahabharata also describes the geographical location of the river, saying that it flows near Kurukshetra (3.81.125). Similar information along with the place where the Sarasvati disappears, Vinasana, is found in the Manu-samhita (2.21). Gradually, the desert expanded and the people of the western region continued to migrate farther west, losing touch with their Vedic roots. This is what helped further the development of the Sumerian and Egyptian communities.

      The next major time period of 3100 B.C. or earlier not only marks the era of the Mahabharata War, the disappearance of Lord Krishna, and the beginning of the Kali-yuga, but it also marks the beginning of the end of the Vedic Age. The war at Kurukshetra was the beginning of the breakdown of the Vedic culture and its global contacts. It is also the time when the remaining major portions of the Vedic literature were compiled, which was accomplished by Srila Vyasadeva, for which He had appeared in this world. And since there were no Aryan invasions coming into India or the Indus Sarasvati region, as we have already established, then this is also the time when the Harappan civilization began to form, or reach its prime if it was already in existence. Furthermore, this was also the time of the first and second dynasties of Egypt, which is corroborated by the fact that many scholars feel that the pyramids of Egypt were built at this time. Some scholars feel that the Step pyramid in Sakkara, 30 miles south of Giza, was built about 5,000 years ago (around 3000 B.C.), while others consider it dates back to 2650 B.C. This also suggests that the Sumerian civilization was entering its prime during this period as well. It was also when the Egyptians and Sumerians were depending on the mathematical systems and formulas of the Shulbasutras from India for their own architecture, altars, and town planning, as were the sites of the Harappan civilization.

      From 3000 to 2000 B.C., as the people continued to spread out from India to the west, there was still much contact between India and such areas as Egypt, Sumeria, Mesopotamia, and others. However, the great 300 year drought in the area created intense difficulties for all of these civilizations. Many agree that the Harappan civilization ended around 2500-2200 B.C. This 300 year drought, not any invaders, caused the beginning of the end of the Harappan sites, as well as that of the Akkadian society. The ancient Egyptian civilization also could have met its end because of this drought, leaving us only with the remnants of its monuments and writings that we are still trying to fully understand today. Its people probably migrated in the search for better resources. Furthermore, 3000 to 2500 B.C. is also the period, according to British archeological estimates, that is believed to be when the Druids and their priests arrived in Britain. However, the English Druids claim their origin is from the east from as far back as 3900 B.C., which follows more closely to the Vedic version.

      By 2000 B.C. the Sutlej had also changed its course and flowed into the Indus, while the desert relentlessly grew. This left the Sarasvati with few resources to continue being the great river it once was. Near 1900 B.C., the Sarasvati River finally ceased to flow altogether and completely dried up, contributing to the disbanding of the people of northwestern India to other places, and making the Gangetic region the most important for the remaining Vedic society. Once the Sarasvati disappeared, the Ganga replaced it as the holiest of rivers.

      After 2000 B.C. was a time of much migration of the Indian Aryans into West Asia, Mesopotamia, Iran, and further. There was the founding of the Kassites, Hittites, and Mittani, along with the Celts, Scythians, etc., who all participated in their own migrations.

      The reason why the populace of Europe gradually forgot their connection with India was because contacts between India were reduced to the Greeks and Romans. Then when Alexander and the Greeks invaded India, contacts were reduced to almost nothing for centuries. Thereafter, the Romans became Christians, forcing the rest of Europe to follow. This left the Arabs as the primary traders between India and Europe, until the wars developed between the Christians and the growing Muslims. Once the Muslims captured Constantinople in Turkey, they controlled all trade routes between Europe and India, and forced Europeans to find a sea route to India. This lead to the “discovery” of America, Australia, and parts of Africa. Later, as the trade routes with India were opened, missionaries, new invaders, and so-called scholars became the new conquerors. With them also came the new versions of history brought about to diminish the real heritage and legacy of India.  

 

CONCLUSION

                                           

      This chapter provides evidence of the real origination of the Vedic Aryans. It also makes it clear that it is to the East, specifically the area of India, where the origins of advanced civilization and the essence of religion and spiritual philosophy can be traced. From there, the Aryan influence had spread to many other regions and can still be recognized in numerous cultures. Only a few open-minded people who look at the whole picture of this kind of religious development will understand the inherent unity the world and its history contains. Such unity is disturbed only by mankind’s immature, dogmatic, and self-centered feelings for regional and cultural superiority. We have seen this in the propaganda that was effectively used by the Nazis and is presently used by neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups who now employ the modern myth that the original location of the Aryan race was in northern Europe. Thus, they imply that members of this race are superior over all other races in physique, language, mental capabilities, and culture. This myth must be seen for what it is because there is no doubt that the real Aryan people originated and spread from the region of India and the Indus Valley, not Europe.

      As N. S. Rajaram so nicely explains in Vedic Aryans and The Origins of Civilization (pp. 247-8), “To conclude: on the basis of archeology, satellite photography, metallurgy and ancient mathematics, it is now clear that there existed a great civilization–a mainly spiritual civilization perhaps–before the rise of Egypt, Sumeria and the Indus Valley. The heartland of this ancient world was the region from the Indus to the Ganga–the land of the Vedic Aryans.

      “This conclusion, stemming from scientific findings of the past three decades, demolishes the theory that nomadic Aryans from Central Asia swooped down on the plains of India in the second millennium BCE and established their civilization and composed the Rig-veda. The picture presented by science therefore is far removed from the one found in history books that place the ‘Cradle of Civilization’ in the river valleys of Mesopotamia. Modern science and ancient records provide us also a clue to a long standing historical puzzle: why since time immemorial, people from India and Sri Lanka, to England and Ireland have spoken languages clearly related to one another, and possess mythologies and beliefs that are so strikingly similar.

      “The simple answer is: they were part of a great civilization that flourished before the rise of Egypt, Sumeria and the Indus Valley. This was a civilization before the dawn of civilizations.”

      May I also say that this corroborates the history as we find it in the Vedic literature, especially the Rig-veda and the Puranas. It therefore helps prove the authenticity of the Vedic culture and our premise that it was the original ancient civilization, a spiritual society, using the knowledge as had been given by God since the time of creation, and established further by the sages that followed. According to a recent racial study (The History and Geography of Human Genes), it has been confirmed that all people of Europe, the Middle East, and India belong to a single Caucasian type race. This means that they had to have come from the same source. Thus, we are all descendants of this great Vedic culture, the center of which is India. As more evidence comes forth, it will only prove how the testimony of the Rig-veda and the Puranas is confirmed, and will point to the area of northern India as the original homeland of the Vedic Aryans.

      The point of all this is that even if Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., all keep their own ideology, legends, and traditions, we should realize that all of these legends and conceptions of God and forms of worship ultimately refer to the same Supreme God and lesser demigods, although they may be called by different names according to present day variations in region and culture. In other words, all these doctrines and faiths are simply outgrowths of the original religion and worship of the one Supreme Deity that spread throughout the world many thousands of years ago from the same basic source, and which is now expressed through the many various cultural differences in the world. Therefore, no matter what religion we may consider ourselves, we are all a part of the same family. We are merely another branch of the same tree which can be traced to the original pre-historic roots of spiritual thought that are found in the Vedic culture, the oldest and most developed philosophical and spiritual tradition in the world.

      In the following chapters this will become more apparent as we begin to take a closer look at each individual culture and religion, and various locations throughout the world, and recognize the numerous connections and similarities they have with the Vedic traditions and knowledge.

Manifestation of Souls and Where They Go

Manifestation of Souls and

 

Where They Go

 

By Stephen Knapp

 

 

            This is the story of how and from where souls manifest, and their evolution through the material realm and liberation from it. Sometimes there are questions from people regarding the means by which the innumerable spiritual living beings are created or manifested from God. And how are we eternal, or how did we end up in this material creation? So many living beings are seen in the material world in the large variety of species of animals, plants, insects, aquatics, birds, and human beings. If we really understood the oneness of the source from which all of us have appeared, there would be no question that not only are we all related, but spiritually speaking, we are all the same. We may look different according to the forms of material bodies that we wear. But if we could keep this spiritual understanding of reality in mind, it would make the reasons why there is so much quarrel and war in the material worlds look all the more foolish.

 

 

THE ORIGINS OF THE JIVAS

 

            To begin with, it is explained in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.2.20) that, “As tiny sparks fly from a fire, so all the individual souls have come from the Supreme.” Thus, the individual souls come from the Supreme Being as sparks come from a fire, or as rays of light come from the sun. However, as the rays of light are both different and the same as their source, so the individual souls are different in power and size, yet the same in quality with the Supreme.

            In this line of thought, learned scholars of the Vedic spiritual topics, such as the Gosvamis of Vrindavana, have analyzed that the Supreme Personality has sixty-four principle attributes. Sri Krishna is the possessor of all these attributes, while His incarnations and the avataras possess up to 93 percent of these spiritual characteristics. Lord Shiva possesses up to 84 percent of these transcendental qualities. The jiva souls possess only up to the limit of 78 percent of these spiritual attributes, in minute degrees, varying in terms to the level of piety in which the living beings exist.1 This is how jiva souls are similar in quality to the Lord but different in quantity and power.

            One of the big differences is that the Lord is the controller of all energies, including the illusory potency, maya, while the individual souls can come under the influence of this illusory energy.2

            We can also explain it this way: The Supreme Being, Sri Krishna, is like the blazing fire or sun. The chit-shakti, or the thinking potency or power of complete knowledge, is present in the center of that sun. A great expanse is illuminated by the sunlight. The rays of this light, or the effulgence of the Supreme, are manifested by the chit-shakti. The rays that come from that effulgence are the particles of His internal potency, the svarupa-shakti. Those atomic particles that make up the rays of His potency are the individual spirit souls. It is the internal or spiritual potency, the svarupa-shakti, that is the core or cause of this blazing fire of the Supreme Being. The individual souls or particles of light that are manifested from that fire, or in the rays of the effulgence, are manifested by the Lord’s potency known as the jiva-shakti. This is how the Lord’s spiritual potencies work together to manifest the jiva-shakti sunlight. This sunlight or illumination shines on the borderline, or tata, in between the spiritual and material worlds. In this way, the spirit souls are generated in the region between the spiritual and material energies known as the tatastha-shakti, which will be explained further a little later in this booklet.3

            So herein we can also understand that the jivas are not created like something we produce in the material world. They are manifested from the eternal Lord and co-exist in the same way as the sunshine co-exists with the sun. However, the sunshine is dependent on the sun the same as the individual souls are dependent on the Supreme Soul. Thus, as we do not say the sun creates the rays of the sun because there is no beginning to the process, the jiva souls are also said to be eternal as is the Supreme Being. We are emanated from the Lord, and just as the Lord is eternal, so are His emanations, the jiva souls. So, the spirit souls are originally from beyond time and, thus, eternal.

            The Svetashvatara Upanishad (4.10) explains “The Lord has got three principle potencies viz. 1) Svarupa-shakti, or essential potency; 2) jiva-shakti or tatastha-shakti, or marginal potency; and 3) maya-shakti or external potency. So the phenomenal world is manifested by His external potency, and the wielder of this maya is the great God Himself. And the whole world is pervaded with beings who are emanated from the marginal potency, otherwise known as His vibhannamsa [separated parts].”

            In the Vishnu Purana (6.7.61) it is also described that an energy or shakti called the kshetrajna-shakti is the tatastha or jiva-shakti, which is the marginal energy. From this energy countless jivas are generated.  

            So the Vedic literature explains that it is this tatastha-shakti from which the jiva souls are generated. The spiritual world is a manifestation of the Lord’s internal and superior energy, while the material world is a product of the Lord’s external or inferior energy. But the living beings are a product of the Lord’s marginal energy or tatastha-shakti. The living entities are part of that tatastha-shakti, so they are energy, not the energetic. It is the Supreme Lord who is the Supreme Energetic, or source of all energies.

            This is further confirmed by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.7.9) in which he states: “According to Vishnu Purana, Bhagavad-gita, and all other Vedic literatures, the living entities are generated from the tatastha energy of the Lord, and thus they are always the energy of the Lord. . .”

            The tatastha-shakti is located on the boundaries between the material and spiritual energies. Tatastha means “in between”. It also means that it is sometimes manifested and sometimes not manifested, like the material energy. Yet the potency is always there since it exists within the Supreme Lord.

            Lord Krishna Himself explains His energies in the Bhagavad-gita this way: “The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end. (Bg. 9.8) Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego–altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies. Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Bg. 7.4-5) This means that the living beings are an energy of the Lord that are superior to the material or external energy. Yet, they are still subordinate to the Lord.

            The jiva’s constitutional position is that he is an eternal servant of the Lord Krishna. The jiva is the marginal energy of the Lord, which means he is one yet different from the Supreme Being. So the jiva is eligible to enter both the spiritual or material energies, and, thus, also known as tatastha, marginal.

            To explain further, the jivas have the inherent quality of knowledge. They are conscious, transcendental, birthless, and immutable. In their original identity, all jivas are equal, infinitesimal, eternal, inexhaustible, indestructible, and naturally enjoy spiritual bliss. In their original positions they are servants of the Supreme Lord. (Jiva Gosvami’s Paramatma Sandarbh 19, from the Padma Purana)

 

* * *

 

            In explaining the tatastha-shakti, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta writes in his book, Sri Caitanya’s Teachings (Part Two, Chapter One, p. 365-6, 391-2, Third edition), that all human souls are emanations from the Lord’s tatastha-shakti, which is the region found between the eternal (spiritual) and temporal (material) worlds. It is by this potency that God manifests human souls. . . The tatastha has the power to associate with both the material or eternal spiritual planes of existence. Souls coming from this region have free will, which they can use properly or improperly. In the tatastha region, souls do not show any activity, but are in an indolent stage until they choose which direction they wish to go. However, with this independence, the jiva may choose to engage in one of two fields of activity. When he feels like enjoying, or that he is the predominating Lord of the energy he surveys, the jiva soul is in a fallen condition and enters the field of maya. When the soul shows the aptitude for serving the Supreme, he is freed from the illusory influence of maya and can engage in the eternal service of the Supreme Being.

            So the tatastha region is in between the spiritual and material worlds, and is where the living beings are manifested. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.3.9 & 18) describes it like so: “A person has two places: the spiritual world and the place where the spiritual world meets another world. There is also a third place, a place of dreams [the material domain]. Standing between them, the soul sees on one side the spiritual world and on the other the place of dreaming. . . As a large fish in a river may go to one shore or the other, so a person may go to one world or another. He may go to a world where he is awake, or may go to a world made of dreams.”

            The tatastha region is further explained by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Jaiva Dharma (Volume Three, Chapter 15, page 70-1) as follows:

 

        The place where a river’s waters meet with the land of the shore is called the “tata.” The “tata” is then the place where the water meets land. What is the nature of this “tata”? It is like the thinnest of threads that runs along the boundary of land and water. A “tata” is like the finest of lines, so small that the gross material eyes cannot even see it. In this example the spiritual world is like the water and the material world is like the land. The thin line that separates them is the “tata.” That boundary place is the abode of the individual spirit souls. The individual souls are like the atomic particles of sunlight. The souls can see both the spiritual world and the material world created by maya. The Lord’s spiritual potency, chit-shakti, is limitless, and the Lord’s material potency, maya-shakti, is gigantic. Standing between them, the individual spirit soul is very tiny. The individual spirit souls are manifested from the tatastha-shakti of Lord Krishna. Therefore the souls are naturally situated on the boundary (tatastha) of matter and spirit.

        The “tatastha” nature of the souls refers to the fact that they must be under the control of one of these two potencies. The actual place of the “tata” (shore) may change. What was once dry land may be covered with water, and what was once covered by water may again become dry land. If he [the jiva soul] turns his gaze upon Lord Krishna, the soul comes under the shelter of Lord Krishna’s spiritual potency. But if he turns away from Krishna and turns his gaze to the material potency, maya, then the soul is caught in maya’s trap. That is what is meant by “the soul’s tatastha nature.”

        The spirit souls are completely spiritual. However, because they are atomic in size, the souls are not very strong. That is why maya can dominate them. However, in the soul’s nature there is not the slightest scent of maya.

 

            From this description we can understand that the tatastha region is also a tendency or freedom of the individual spirit soul to independently choose the plane of existence in which he wishes to associate. However, it is the natural sentiment of the living being to serve God. This is why it is also described above that there is no maya whatsoever in the nature of the soul. This is further explained by Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Sri Caitanya Shikshamrita (pp.156-7), in which he relates that just as God has His svarupa-vigraha, or essential and eternal form, so the jiva also has his chit-vigraha, or eternal form with complete knowledge. That chit body is manifested in Vaikuntha, the spiritual domain, not in the material realm. However, while in the material worlds, the jiva’s chit body is hidden under the two coverings of the subtle and gross physical bodies. The chit body of the soul, in which is the natural mood of serving the Lord, was in existence prior to its contact with matter. However, due to its contact with maya, the consciousness of the soul becomes transformed to consider itself a servant of matter, meaning the mind, senses, and the physical body. In this way, the jiva soul becomes entrapped in maya, and its spiritual nature and identity become hidden.

            Ramanujacharya explains the hidden identity of the soul while in the material realm in his commentary on the Vedanta-sutra (4.4.3). He describes the soul’s pure qualities as being shrunk while in the material world, and then being expanded into pure knowledge, bliss, etc., upon liberation when the karmic bondage is destroyed. Thus, the soul was always pure from the start. Only from the contamination of consciousness while in association with matter does the soul appear to be misdirected.

            Therefore, maya has nothing to do with the creation nor the identity of the spirit souls. The individual souls are small and weak, and can be influenced by maya, but they are superior to it.4 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur also explains in his book, Brahmana and Vaishnava (Chapter Two, p. 86), that before acquiring any material designations, the living entity is supremely pure.

            This leads to the point that the jiva soul is eternal and ever-existing, and so is his function, or dharma, which is to love and serve God, especially in the form of Sri Krishna. When the soul becomes purified from its association with matter, his spiritual identity and devotion to God become revived and expanded.

HOW THE JIVAS ENTER MAYA

 

            The jiva souls, being a product from the tatastha-shakti and part of the marginal energy, are susceptible to the material energy, though superior by nature. But as long as the jiva stays submissive or obedient to the position of the Lord, he can remain free from the influence of the material energy. When the living beings forget their connection with Krishna and their spiritual identity, they then come under the control of maya, the illusory energy, which is the domain of Durga. It is as if they are confined to the prison of the material energy. Such an existence will continue until they can raise their consciousness and remember their spiritual identity and again become submissive to Supreme Being.

            Once they are influenced by maya, they are forced to undergo the revolutions of the wheel of their karma. Then, they are situated in samsara, the cycles of birth and death. If they can begin to remember their spiritual identity and connection with Krishna, then they can begin to break free from the influence of the illusory energy.

            Not only are the living beings eternal, but so is the material nature. This means that they both existed before the material creation. Both the material energy and the living beings within it are of the superior energy of the Lord and existed within the Supreme Being in His form of Maha-Vishnu. From Maha-Vishnu come both the material energy and the living entities to form the cosmic creation.5

            This is also confirmed in the Aitareya Upanishad (1.1.1) which describes things in this way: Before the creation of the universe, verily the Brahman (the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the form of Lord Vishnu) along with His own potency was existent and nothing else remained separately. Thereby it is to be known that His tatastha-shakti (the potency that encompasses the individual jiva souls), and maya, His external potency, were not separately existing but they were within Him.

            It is further explained that Maha-Vishnu, who appears in the Karana Ocean and is an incarnation of the Lord’s form of Sankarshana, becomes the resting place of the jiva-shakti.6 “There is one marginal potency, known as the jiva. Maha-Sankarshana [Maha-Vishna] is the shelter of all jivas.”7 It is this Sankarshana who is the original source of all living entities appearing in the material world because they are expansions of His marginal potency. Some of these become conditioned by the material energy while others are under the protection of the spiritual nature.8

            It is further related that Sankarshana, or Maha-Vishnu, is Vasudeva’s [Krishna’s] personal expansion for pastimes. Not only is Sankarshana the reservoir and original source of all living entities, but when the cosmic creation is annihilated, the indestructible living entities return to His body and rest until the next creation.9

            To continue this line of thought, it is explained that when Maha-Vishnu glances at maya in the process of creation, He sends numberless atomic souls into the material energy. However, once they are on the side of maya, the jivas become affected and entrapped by the illusory attractions of the material energy. It is because they are atomic in size and appear from the tatastha-shakti region, or the border between the material and spiritual energies, that they must glance on either the spiritual or material energies. It is explained that since they have not engaged in the service of the Lord before, or have already become materially conditioned souls from the previous manifestation of the creation, they are swayed by the influence of maya and desire to enjoy the temporary pleasures that maya has to offer. Once these same souls turn toward spiritual life and the service of the Lord, they can attain their original transcendental nature and enter the spiritual world.10 Thus, as the spirit souls manifest from Lord Vishnu within the material creation, they can choose to become involved in the material worlds, or go to the spiritual domain.

            Regarding how Maha-Vishnu fills the universe with conditioned souls, the great sage Markandeya explains in the Vishnudharmottara Purana (1.18.12-14) that even if someone or even thousands of people become liberated from the material worlds, as when those who have achieved Brahmaloka are liberated with Brahma, the inconceivable Supreme Lord manifests additional living beings [from the unlimited stock of unmanifested or sleeping souls] in the next maha kalpa and thus keeps the material worlds full.

            This is similar to the statement of Sri Haridasa Thakura to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in the Chaitanya-caritamrita (Antya-lila, 3.78-79), that even if the Lord sends to the spiritual world all the developed living entities in different species, still He will awaken the living beings who are not yet developed and engage them in activities. Thus, the universe will again become filled as before.

 

 

THE NATURE AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE SPIRIT SOULS

 

            Although the jiva souls are spiritual in nature, why do some souls turn toward maya after being manifested? This was the question asked by Vrajanatha in Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Jaiva Dharma (Volume Three, Chapter 16, page 91). In the book, Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains the answer by way of the reply from Babaji, another character in the book. He explains that the qualities of the Lord are present in a very small degree in the spirit souls. Because the Lord has independence and free will, the jiva souls also have a small quantity of eternal free will. However, although the jivas are independent, they cannot do everything they want like Krishna can. For the jivas, proper use of free will is seen when the soul favorably serves Krishna, while a misuse of free will is recognized when the soul turns away from Him. Then the soul tries to enjoy maya. Then the pure spirit soul becomes covered over by five kinds of ignorance so that he can pretend to be something other than what he really is.

            Vrajanatha then asks why the Lord made the tiny souls so weak that they fall into maya. Babaji responds, saying that Krishna is merciful and also playful. He desires many kinds of pastimes with the individual souls in a variety of conditions. So He creates many exalted conditions, such as those in the spiritual world, as well as many degraded situations as found in the material worlds. In this way, by the influence of maya, there is a descent into the lower depths of consciousness. And on the higher level, by the help of Sri Radha, the personification of the hladini-shakti, Krishna’s bliss potency, there is the attainment of unlimited spiritual bliss. However, the souls that enter maya’s depths lose interest in serving God and in understanding their spiritual nature. They are only interested in their own selfish pleasure. Nonetheless, the Lord sends His own personal representatives from the spiritual world to make these souls favorable to Him and turn them toward the spiritual atmosphere.

            When Krishna sees how the jiva souls enter the material worlds, He weeps to see how they are suffering. He even follows them into the material world, which He does out of His causeless mercy. He does this in two ways; through His numerous incarnations called avataras, and by expanding Himself into the Supersoul to accompany each and every jiva through material existence. In order to give them the chance to witness His spiritual pastimes, He brings His liberated devotees into this world to exhibit His nectarean pastimes in His various incarnations for the world to see. This helps awaken those who are receptive to their dormant devotion to the Lord, and brings them to the spiritual dimension.

            Which way the independent jiva souls turn is never forced. It is up to their own free will. This free will, however, is a precious gift. It is one of the eternal qualities of the spirit. It is what allows them to choose whatever way they wish to exist. This is further described in a very enlightening way by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in his book, Brahmana and Vaishnava (Second Chapter, p. 86):

 

        Before acquiring material designations, the living entity is supremely pure. Even though he is not engaged in serving the Supreme Lord, he remains situated in the neutral position of santa-rasa due to his marginal nature. Though the living entity, born from the marginal potency, does not at that time exhibit a taste for serving the Lord due to a lack of knowledge of self-realization, his direct propensity of serving the Supreme Lord nevertheless remains within him in a dormant state. Though the indirect propensity of material enjoyment, which is contrary to the service of the Lord, is not found in him at that time, indifference to the service of Hari and the seed of material enjoyment, which follows that state of indifference, are nevertheless present within him.

        The living entity, who belongs to the marginal potency, cannot remain indifferent forever by subduing both devotional and nondevotional propensities. He therefore contemplates unconstitutional activities from his marginal position. As a sleeping person dreams that he is active in the physical world without actually being involved in activities, when the dormant, indifferent living entity of the marginal potency exhibits even a little apathy to the service of the Supreme Lord and situates himself in a neutral, unchanging condition for even a little time, he is infected by impersonalism. That is why the conditioned soul desires to merge in the impersonal Brahman, thus exhibiting his mind’s fickle nature. But due to neglecting the eternal service of the Lord and thereby developing the quality of aversion to the Lord, he cannot remain fixed in that position. In this way, aversion to the Lord breaks his concentration of mind and establishes him as the master of this world of enjoyment.

        Maya, the external energy of the Supreme Lord, then induces the marginal living entity to enjoy this world through her covering and throwing potencies, and, thus, shows the living entity the reality of being averse to the Lord’s service.

 

            So this description explains that due to the living being remaining in a neutral position, he does not exhibit the natural spiritual taste for serving Krishna, which is in a dormant state. He also exhibits indifference to the material world and its enjoyment at first. However, since he cannot remain in a state of inactivity and indifference for long, he contemplates material activities and the enjoyment they might offer. Then maya induces the living entity to try to enjoy the world.

            It is explained that maya is the “reflection” of the Lord’s internal potency. She is a perverted manifestation of the Lord’s pure, spiritual energy. The purpose of maya is to purify the rebellious souls who are averse to service to the Lord. She provides a way they can reform, and keeps the defiant away from the spiritual domain by keeping them pre-occupied with material activities. Troublesome concerns and worries are their punishment. The world of maya is their prison, from which there is no escape. They simply remain chasing after the illusory pleasures lifetime after lifetime. Nonetheless, as it is out of kindness that a king sends a criminal to prison, not only for the criminal but also for the law abiding citizens. It also is out of kindness that the Lord sends the materially inclined living beings to the world of maya so they may work out their desires and one day realize the futility of finding any long term contentment through such measures and that true happiness lies in the spiritual domain in the association of the Supreme Being.11 (Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 16, p. 94)

            As further described by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in his book, Brahmana and Vaishnava (Second Chapter, p. 86), when the living being first enters the material worlds, he often appears in the form of Lord Brahma:

 

        At that time the living entity considers himself the king of enjoyers, and being situated in the mode of passion, he takes the position of Brahma and creates progeny. The living entities who are born from Brahma, the grandfather of everyone, expand themselves in families of Aryans and brahmanas. In this world of duality, however, living entities who are covered and thrown under the control of the external energy naturally become envious. This enviousness further creates pride, illusion, greed, anger, and lust, and induces the living entities to dance frantically in aversion to the Lord. At that time they forget both that they were born from Grandfather Brahma and the Lord’s instructions in the Vedas.

 

            One thing we need to understand is that both God and the living beings are full of desires. This is another way they are similar to each other. This explained more completely by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Jaiva Dharma (Volume 3, Chapter 15, p.80):

 

        The Supreme Personality of Godhead is consciousness, a knower, an enjoyer, a thinker, self-manifested, and visible to others. He is also the knower of all fields of activity and He is full of [spiritual] desires. The individual spirit soul is also consciousness, a knower, an enjoyer, a thinker, self-manifested, and visible to others. He is also the knower of a field of activity [his or her own body] and he is also full of desires. Because He is the master of all potencies, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has these qualities to the highest degree. On the other hand, the individual spirit soul, possessing only very slight power, has these qualities in a very slight degree. Although they are different in the sense that one is perfect and complete and the other is very small and atomic, the Supreme and the individual spirit soul are alike in that they both possess these qualities. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the master of all potencies. He is the controller of the svarupa-shakti (internal potency), jiva-shakti (the marginal potency), and maya-shakti (the energy of the material nature). These potencies are all His obedient maidservants. He is their master. Whatever He wishes, they do. That is the nature of the Supreme Being. The individual spirit soul has a very tiny drop of these qualities. He is subordinate to the Lord’s other potencies.

 

            This shows the difference and similarity between the Lord and the small jiva souls. However, the point is that we all long for pleasure, as high a pleasure as we can reach. The reason for that is because the source from which we have emanated is fully powerful in all pleasure. The individual soul is originally a part of the pleasure potency. It is our right to acquire that pleasure and be happy. And the highest pleasure is found in loving relationships. We simply have to realize that real love is in association with the Supreme Being in the eternal, spiritual world. Whatever love we usually encounter in the material world is often but a limited or perverted reflection of what we wish to find. Therefore, it lacks continuity and fulfillment, and leaves us wishing and searching for something more substantial. Such deep love is only found on the spiritual platform.

            At this point we should further understand that although the individual jiva souls are manifested from the jiva-shakti of Lord Krishna, the jiva-shakti is counted among Lord Krishna’s incomplete potencies, or the apurna-shakti. From this incomplete potency all the individual souls, the atomic fragments of consciousness, are manifested. Thus, the individual spirit souls are not eternally perfect, but they can become perfect (sadhana-siddha) by engaging in the activities of devotional service (sadhana). Afterwards they can enjoy spiritual bliss like that enjoyed by the eternally perfect (nitya-siddha) beings.11

            In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.3.26,pur.), His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami describes the differences between the nitya-siddha and the sadhana-siddha devotees. He explains that the nitya-siddha devotees never fall down into the material atmosphere, even though they may sometimes appear in the material worlds in order to carry out the mission of the Lord. The sadhana-siddha devotees are the perfected souls from among the conditioned beings. Even amongst these there are pure and mixed devotees. Pure devotees are free from all materialistic tendencies, and the mixed devotees sometimes are eager for fruitive activities or philosophical speculation.

            It is further explained that nitya-siddha devotees may also come from Vaikuntha to this material world to teach by their personal example and allow conditioned souls the means to advance spiritually. Such a devotee comes to the material world upon the order of the Supreme Being, and are never allured by whatever temporary pleasures this world has to offer.12

            An example of this is found in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.8.49) wherein the devotees who play the part of Lord Krishna’s eternal father and mother are praying to appear on planet earth knowing that after they appear, Krishna will also soon descend in order to display His pastimes with His devotees. This means that devotees who play such intimate parts in the activities of Lord Krishna are already designated. Therefore, those living entities who have perfected themselves to become sadhana-siddhas can never become Krishna’s father or mother, or His consort or most special friends, but they can attain the same affection for the Lord. Thus, they can also participate in similar pastimes to which they are most attracted. In this way, the conditioned souls in the prison of maya can rectify themselves and return to the spiritual dimension where there is plenty of room for everyone. Through such affectionate reciprocation between the Lord and His devotees, the Lord’s pleasure is increased, and, likewise, the pleasure of the devotees is expanded millions of times more. Thus, there is no limit to the transcendental bliss that exists in the spiritual world.

A FALL FROM THE SPIRITUAL WORLD

 

            Those who have a direct and eternal relationship with the Lord, whose numbers are limitless, either in Goloka or in the Vaikuntha planets, do not even know that a potency called maya-shakti exists. They are eternally liberated and know nothing of the suffering and material or selfish pleasure that goes on within the material worlds. They only taste the nectar, pleasure and bliss of worshiping and serving the Lord. They have no inclination except toward spiritual things and seek nothing but the happiness of serving the Lord. They are always protected by their spiritual strength and never touch maya.13 This is the condition and sentiment of the nitya-siddhas, or eternally liberated devotees. Thus, they never have any connections with maya.

            Although many Vedic texts explain that upon reaching the spiritual world no one ever falls down into maya, there is evidence that such is a possibility, although extremely rare. It is explicitly related that even when one is liberated, the soul is capable of coming under maya’s control.14 So how is this possible?

            One point to which we may want to refer is made by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in his book, Brahmana and Vaishnava (Second Chapter, p. 86), wherein he states: “Before acquiring material designations, the living entity is supremely pure. Even though he is not engaged in serving the Supreme Lord, he remains situated in the neutral position of santa-rasa due to his marginal nature.”

            Although this is in reference to the origin of the spirit soul, nonetheless, it does provide a hint of the condition of the soul that may indeed fall from the spiritual world. The pure state of the living being would be in reference to only two conditions; when the soul is manifested without the karmic contamination from associating with the material worlds of maya, and that found in the purely transcendental atmosphere within the spiritual worlds. Nonetheless, the point about being in the neutral state of santa-rasa could be worth noticing, since it is this platform, which he mentions, from which the living being can fall into the world of maya. This would indicate that only those souls within the santa-rasa, or relationship of neutrality, are at all capable of falling from the spiritual world into material existence.

            This explanation also seems to concur with that given by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.29,pur.): “Sometimes it is asked how the living entity falls down from the spiritual world to the material world. Here is the answer. Unless one is elevated to the Vaikuntha planets, directly in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is prone to fall down, either from the impersonal Brahman realization or from an ecstatic trance of meditation.”

            So how can such a fall take place? One example is the servant of Lord Chaitanya, Kala Krishadasa, who was allured from the direct association of the Lord by the female Bhattatharis during the Lord’s tour of South India. Some people may feel that this is only a pastime, but Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami mentions in his purport in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila, 10.65): “This is factual evidence showing that it is possible at any time to fall down from the Lord’s association. One need only misuse his little independence. Once fallen and separated from the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s association, one becomes a candidate for suffering in the material world.”

            So this means that we all have free will at any time to decide in which kind of engagements we wish to pursue, depending on our state of consciousness. Another example is that of Jaya and Vijaya as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.16.2). Therein, when the Kumara brothers wanted entrance into the Vaikuntha region, they were denied entrance by the guards, Jaya and Vijaya. The Kumaras then cursed the guards to take birth in the material world. The reason was because the guards could not tell who was a qualified devotee and who was not. Lord Vishnu later pointed out that it was because they had ignored Him that this had happened. It was further revealed that they had previously detained the Goddess of Fortune herself at the doors to Vaikuntha when she was returning once after having left the spiritual kingdom. Thus, at that instance Jaya and Vijay committed a grave offense and became affected by duality in the same way as they did with the Kumaras. When the spirit soul is affected by duality, it must then go to the realm of duality, which is the material world. Later, it became evident that the Lord wanted to use Jaya and Vijaya in His pastimes in the material world and arranged a situation in which they would enter the material domain to participate. Nonetheless, it is an example of how the independence can be misused, forcing one to leave the spiritual world.

            However, let me reiterate that such a situation and tendency to leave the spiritual domain after having reached it is practically nonexistent. The happiness and pleasure that one becomes absorbed in within the spiritual atmosphere and in connection with the Supreme Being become the dominant feature of one’s existence so that any other lesser attraction never even enters one’s awareness. It is simply too minuscule to distract one away from the bliss of spiritual life and one’s relationship with the Supreme Being. Furthermore, the conclusion is also established by Lord Krishna Himself who declares in the Bhagavad-gita that a person who returns to the spiritual world never takes birth in the material creation again. He or she has no more business with the material manifestation.

            The point is that in the spiritual world everyone has a spiritual body, and there is no conception of material existence. There is only spiritual service given by the jiva souls and the receiving of service by the Supreme Being. There is only sevya, seva, and sevaka–the person served, the process of service, and the servant.15 If there is any disturbance or change of attitude in any jiva soul, the Lord gives that being all facility for his own particular preferences or pursuits by allowing him to enter the land of duality and imagination, which is the material creation. However, as I have said, such occurrences among the innumerable jivas in the spiritual worlds are practically non-existent.

            If a being does have a change of character or inclination for some reason, when beginning to fall from their spiritual position, the jiva souls exhibit an extremely subtle change of disposition. They are first attracted to their independence, their free will to decide to do something or not to do something. They begin to think in terms that one service is favorable and something else may be less favorable, or what is likeable and unlikeable. In other words, they begin to think in terms of their own enjoyment. It is this subtle diversion in which the living being begins to display the symptoms of wanting to enjoy according to one’s own preferences, or outside of the association with God. In the spiritual strata this is most unusual and a form of duality. It is a type of rebellion against the eternal service of the Lord, which is the real purpose of their existence and situation in the spiritual world. Once that service is interrupted, then they are no longer engaged in their natural tendency. Not only does it disrupt their own spiritual life, but also that of others around them. Therefore, rather than have such jivas cause disturbances in the natural flow of spiritual and loving exchanges between the Lord and His devotees, the Lord allows the nonconformist to enter the material realm where all of the other rebellious beings can play and act out their desires to their heart’s content, or at least try.

            When this happens, it is not that maya has entered the spiritual world to affect this particular entity, but it is more like his consciousness has gone to the realm of duality, the realm of maya. This is where the illusory energy provides the playground for those who think they can find their own form of enjoyment or pleasure outside of the spiritual strata, outside of the association of God. And it is that consciousness which, thus, immediately takes the person to maya’s realm. It is automatic and immediate, based on the free will of the living entity.

            In any case, it is the marginal nature of the jiva to be pure or impure through the proper use or misuse of his independence, in whatever situation he is found. When there is a distortion in his proper functional nature, the jiva becomes impure, and thus qualified to be brought to the material plane, devoid of spiritual shelter. Through such association with the material energy, the jiva forgets his service to Krishna. When this happens he begins to imagine his pursuits and identity in any number of personas. In this way, the process of repeated birth and death open up for him until he again looks toward the Supreme for shelter.

* * *

 

            It is often said that the original nature and identity of the living being is spiritual, and that our original home is also in the spiritual domain. For example, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.28.54) states: “My dear gentle friend, both you and I are exactly like two swans. We live together in the same heart, which is just like the Manasa Lake. Although we have been living together for many thousands of years, we are still far away from our original home.”

            In the purport to this verse, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains that this verse refers to the spiritual world as the original home of the living beings and the Supreme Lord. While there, they all share a very peaceful and blissful life. However, when the living being wants to enjoy himself in something other than service, or separate from the Lord, which is not his nature anymore than a fish living outside of water, then he falls into the material world. As soon as one feels a little envy of the Lord, or a desire to be served similar to the Lord, then he must leave the spiritual kingdom because no envy of the Lord exists in the spiritual world. The choice to love God or not always exists within each of us. And without such love, the living being becomes conditioned and may go on like that for millenniums.

            So this is the key to a misuse of independence and free will. When the living beings desire to enjoy themselves separate from the Supreme, they develop duality in their consciousness, as described above. Then they tend to disregard the devotional service of the Lord. Thus, the living beings fall from the spiritual strata. However, in the spiritual kingdom this is extremely rare, and is why it is said that once one enters the spiritual domain, he never falls again into material existence.

            The natural function of the living entity, and his purpose in the spiritual world with the Lord, is to serve and enjoy the loving relationship with the Supreme. Krishna is the Supreme Enjoyer, and the living being is meant to be enjoyed by the Lord. In that way there is an intense exchange of love and happiness between the jiva and the Lord. However, when the jiva soul begins to feel that something else is more important, or worse, feels that he would like the same attention as the Lord, or even wants to compete with, imitate, or be the Lord, then this is not possible, except in one’s imagination. And the freedom to imagine such things is provided only on the material platform. This is also the mercy of the Lord to allow the living being the freedom to pursue his imaginations and desires. Thus, the Lord also accompanies the living being as the Supersoul. By this means, the living being may one day regain his senses and turn back toward the spiritual strata and service to God.16

            So due to free will and independence, the possibility to fall may always be there, but the relationship with Krishna is never lost, and is what keeps one from falling when it is qualitatively reestablished. So in one sense, the fall is superficial because one’s relationship with God is never broken, although it may seem to be while one is in the material worlds, affected by forgetfulness and covered by the subtle and gross bodies. But such a fall of a devotee who is in a direct relationship with Krishna is practically impossible. Usually anyone who has developed his relationship with Krishna never falls down in any circumstance. It is always more blissful to be enjoyed by God for the love and service that you do than trying to enjoy the dull material mind and senses.

 

* * *

 

            While in the material world, if the living being gives up the material embodiment and by the practice of devotional service enters back into the spiritual dimension, he will revive his spiritual body. In his spiritual form he can see the Supreme Lord face to face. He will be able to hear and speak to Him and understand Him as He is.17 As it is explained, “Just as gold when smelted by fire, gives up its impurity and again takes on its own form, similarly the soul, shaking off the contamination of karma by the practice of bhakti-yoga, attains to Me.”18  

            As further described by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in his book, Brahmana and Vaishnava (Second Chapter, p. 86), “On that platform of progress, if a living entity cultivates transcendental sound vibration [the chanting of Krishna’s holy names] and revives the process of remembering the lotus feet of Sri Krishna, he then achieves scientific, spiritual knowledge. By this process, all anarthas [unwanted obstacles to devotional service] are destroyed and he becomes situated in a supremely auspicious position.”

            In this way, by the practice of the spiritual process, one can become purified to return to the spiritual world. Even though maya ensnares the insincere and conditioned souls, when the jiva devotes himself to serving the Lord, maya manifests her mode of goodness, the sattva-guna, to help him on his way back to the spiritual world and gives him knowledge about Krishna.

            Then, as explained in Krishna Book (Chapter Twenty-Eight) by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, for those who become perfect in their practice of bhakti-yoga, in their next life they are immediately transferred to the universe where Krishna is appearing. As long as the material manifestation exists, Lord Krishna circulates through each universe to attract the conditioned souls. So as devotees become qualified, they enter whatever universe in which Krishna is displaying His pastimes to offer their assistance and become completely perfect. Thus, they get their first chance to associate with Krishna directly, just before returning to their activities in the spiritual world.

            When one returns to the spiritual world, he hardly remembers his experience in the material realm. It is like a vague, bad dream noted mostly for being separated from and forgetful of God. You can’t have the kingdom of God without Him. Thus, upon returning, no one ever falls back down from the spiritual world. Just as once a child experiences the pain of putting his hand in a fire, he would have to be quite retarded to try it again to see if it still causes pain. In the same way, once attaining the spiritual world, no one returns to the material domain.

WHY THE LORD CREATES THE JIVA SOULS

 

            At this point, we could ask why the Lord bothers to create the small jiva souls at all. One reason is that the Lord performs various pastimes, and displaying His material energy for the materially conditioned souls is one of them. He is Lord of all, within both the eternal spiritual potency as well as the temporary material energy. However, the individual soul being in the material energy is not the fault of God, but it is the choice of the jiva soul who wants such an existence.

            Another explanation why the Lord creates the jiva sparks is that the Lord is omnipotent and displays both His limited and unlimited potencies. To be omnipotent, He must display both potencies, not merely one. The living beings have only limited potency, although they are part of the Lord and of the same quality. Furthermore, He is the Lord of all beings. If there were no one to control, the concept of the supreme controller, or God, would have no meaning, just as a king without subjects has no significance. Thus, for the Lord to be the supreme controller there must be a creation to control. Such creation is displayed in the manifestation of both the spiritual and material worlds. The basic purpose of life is for the spiritual pleasure of both God and the living beings. The Lord displays His pleasure potency as the innumerable living entities. In this way, He is the reservoir of all pleasures and all forms of enjoyment, both spiritual and material. Everything comes from Him. Because He wants to enjoy pleasure, there must be energies to give Him pleasure or supply the impetus for pleasure. This is why there is the manifestation of the jivas. This is the understanding of the Absolute Truth.19

            A further explanation is that the Supreme Absolute Truth is complete when He is both infinite and infinitesimal. If He is infinite only, then he is not complete. The infinite portion of the Supreme is the Lord Himself, the Vishnu-tattva, while the infinitesimal portion is the living entity, the jiva.

            Because the Lord has infinite desires for transcendental activities and pleasure, there is existence in the spiritual world. And due to the tiny desires of the living entities, there is existence within the material energy. In this way, the infinitesimal jiva souls are simply a complimentary portion of the Supreme. Thus, it is essential that the Infinite have infinitesimal portions which are His parts and parcels, and between which there is an eternal relationship. That relationship manifests in many levels of spiritual loving reciprocation. Without the Lord’s parts and parcels, the Supreme Being would have been inactive, and there would be no variegatedness in spiritual life, and no need for a material creation for the desires of the conditioned living beings, which we see all around us right now. So if there was no God, or if He was inactive with no jiva souls, there would be no material manifestation because there simply would be no need for it. However, as we can see, all life is full of activity. God is not merely some impersonal force or Brahman effulgence. And the living beings are not meant simply for merging into a white light or nothingness. As we can see, all living entities are endeavoring to express themselves creatively and through loving relations, or simply trying to survive. This would be useless if their ultimate position was to merely be inactive and merge with a great white light or Brahman. So everything is meant for reaching eternal, spiritual, loving relationships and blissful activities. This is the meaning and purpose of the material creation. Thus, everything we see is but an emanation of that Supreme Absolute Truth. The living beings are but expansions of the active energy of the Supreme Being. And the Supreme Lord is the energetic, or source from which everything else manifests. 20

            Without His devotees, the Lord does not desire to enjoy spiritual pastimes and activities, although the Supreme Being is self-sufficient. Those devotees, such as the devotee cowherd boys of Vrindavana, increase His transcendental bliss and are most dear to Him. And such friends also increase in their own spiritual pleasure by serving the Lord. Thus, there is a continued increase in the state of transcendental pleasure that goes on like a competition between the Lord and His devotees. As the devotees increase in the transcendental pleasure they feel in serving the Lord, the Supreme also feels an increase in His own spiritual happiness, which is then reflected back to the devotees. This continues back and forth unlimitedly. Because the Lord is unlimited and wants to increase His devotees unlimitedly, He descends into the material worlds in order to attract the nondevotees and rebellious living beings to give them a chance to regain their spiritual state and return back to their constitutional nature and original home in the spiritual strata.21

ENTERING THE MATERIAL EXISTENCE AND BECOMING LIBERATED FROM IT

 

            In summary, the jiva is a spiritual, conscious and cognizant being. As a product of the Lord’s tatastha shakti, or marginal energy, the jiva was placed at the confluence of the material and spiritual worlds, from where he observed both realms. Those souls who became slightly attracted to the spiritual energy by knowledge of God, and by contact with such knowledge aspired for transcendence, received spiritual strength from the hladini-shakti, the Lord’s internal pleasure giving potency. Inspired by this spiritual pleasure, they developed eternal favorable attraction for the Lord, and become admitted as eternal associates of Lord Krishna in the spiritual world.

            Others, however, by their own free choice, became enchanted by maya lying on the opposite side and became greedy for her and her illusory energy. Maya looks attractive to them, so they feel invited and develop attachment to the material world. Thus Maha Vishnu, the Lord of Maya-devi who lies in the casual ocean, allows them to enter into this mundane realm. This is the result of not having any attraction to serving the Supreme Lord, but instead being attracted to material sense enjoyment.

            As soon as they enter maya’s abode, she covers them with avidya, or the nescience potency. Thus, entangled in this illusion, their material absorption increases and drags them down into the whirlpool of karmic reactions.  

            It is understood that the material nature and the living beings are beginningless22 because both of them are from the energy of the Supreme and exist before the cosmic manifestation. However, it is the material creation that gives those who are attracted to it a chance to be active in it. It also gives the sleeping or dormant conditioned souls a chance to be engaged again. They are the entities that were absorbed within the body of Maha-Vishnu at the time of the universal annihilation.

            The materially inclined living beings must have a physical body because the subtle body alone is not enough for them to perform actions. The subtle body is where the desires and consciousness reside, while the physical body allows the conditioned souls to act out those longings. This is the purpose of the material creation.

            However, because of the gross physical body, the living beings undergo the six stages of existence, namely birth, growth, maintenance, production of by-products such as children, and then dwindling and death. The body also feels the pangs of hunger, thirst, heat and cold, and other bodily conditions, and the desires to solve such problems along with the wishes for more pleasure. Thus, pushed by these desires, the soul within the body becomes the obedient servant of the needs of the body. The living entity also becomes the servant of the longings for the association of members of the opposite sex, and other material activities. In this way, he may perform all kinds of pious activities with the hope of attaining heaven, if he is religious. Otherwise, if he is impious, he may simply engage in any activity he chooses with thoughts of nothing but his own selfish pleasure, which will take one farther downward into darkness. In either case, once a person has attained the reactions to his activities and, for example, lived in heaven to use up his good karma, or gone through hell to rectify himself of his bad acts, he again eventually returns to accept a human birth to try again. The Svetashvatara Upanishad describes it like this:

            As the jiva soul evolves through the material plane of existence, he or she is subjected to various conditions simply due to their karma. The Svetashvatara Upanishad clearly explains this. It says that the jiva’s body alone is differentiated by designations of manhood or womanhood. The body he receives is merely a result of his karma. The jiva is spirit soul in truth. Though the body will place him in certain categories, the physical identification is not his real self. It is through the material desires for touch, sight, eating, drinking, and so on by which the jiva enters one body after another in countless species according to this karma. The jiva acquires many physical and subtle forms due to the actions caused by particular material qualities to which he becomes attached. Because of these bodies, he becomes covered over by the changing forms, created by the qualities of activity and desire. (Svetashvatara Upanishad 5.10-12)

            In this way, the person is stuck on the wheel of karma for many lifetimes, directed by his desires for material facility and pleasure. Caught in this trap, the living being suffers and works to reduce his miseries. He works hard to acquire food and drink, to collect money, to attain clothing, and drive away the cold. He may also become married for companionship and then must work hard to increase the happiness of his new family and descendants. He must find doctors and medicines when he and his family are attacked by disease, and he must pay taxes and protect his property, and so on. In such endeavors, the soul becomes tossed around by such feelings as lust, anger, greed, pride, envy, and bewilderment. Thus, the materially inclined living being thinks he is enjoying while working so hard.23 This sort of pleasure is compared to the camel who loves the taste it gets from eating the branches of the thorny bush, not realizing that what he is relishing is the taste of his own blood.

            The main reason for these sorts of activities and the suffering of the conditioned soul is due to the forgetfulness of one’s spiritual identity as an eternally blissful servant of God.24 Because of this, the conditioned living being engages in activities meant to solve his problems that only lead him deeper into karmic bondage in material existence.

            The whole trouble for the living beings while in the material world is that he is attached to the concept of being independent and free from the influence of any controller above him. This is actually illusion because the living being is subjected to many influences around him which keep him under control. Thus, he continues to be entangled in material existence because he does not know how to get free.25 

            The karma of fruitive activities is also considered without a beginning because it is manifested simultaneously from the mahat-tattva, the ingredients of the material creation, as when time agitates avidya (ignorance) and jnana (knowledge of the impersonal). From karma, the modes of goodness and passion are manifested, which then produces knowledge and action, and then all other aspects of the creation begin to manifest. Thus, karma is a key ingredient in material nature which has existed within Maha-Vishnu with all the other aspects of material nature.26

            Another consideration for how karma is without a beginning, and how the jiva’s aversion to God is also beyond the scope of time, is explained by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Sri Caitanya Sikshamrita (p. 185): “. . . many cannot understand distinctly how karma has no beginning. Time pertaining to matter is only material reflection of [spiritual] chit-time and is a material thing suited to the performance of karma. [The] jiva takes recourse to chit i.e., transcendental everlasting time in Vaikuntha, where there is no past and future; only the present exists. When the jiva in bondage enters in material time, [he] becomes subject to past, future, and present, and being server of tri-kala [material time] suffers pleasure and pain. Material time operating from chit-kala [spiritual time] and chit-kala having no beginning, the origin of the jiva’s karma i.e., aversion to God, is coming even prior to material time. Therefore, judged impartially with regard to jada-kala, the root of karma lies prior to this time and therefore karma has been designated as anadi i.e., without any beginning.”

            Regarding time in the spiritual world, we should make one comment for clarification, that understanding spiritual time is beyond material logic and cannot be understood because it is outside our experience. At best we can say that time and space in the spiritual world is different from that found in the material worlds. Material time is divided by past, present, and future due to the agitation of the modes of nature. In the spiritual world time is not broken up like that. There time is in an ever-present state. There is only the eternal now. In the spiritual realm things do not come into being, nor do they end. Everything exists in an eternal present. While living in the material realm, we try to describe the manifestation of the jiva souls as, “The spirit souls were created,” or “the individual souls were imprisoned by maya,” and so on. This only shows how much we are influenced by our material conditioning. And we will continue to talk in this way while remaining influenced by the limiting factors of our existence in maya. We have to understand things from beyond the limits of material logic. Only then we may get a glimpse of understanding that the spiritual world is eternal and we also are eternal beings. By taking to the spiritual process seriously, it can prepare our consciousness for perceiving higher realms and loftier states of being. The more we understand the Truth that exists beyond the limitations of the illusory world, the more we will perceive our own spiritual identity, which is beyond all time and matter.27

            So in time, the jiva may begin to question his existence. He may feel like he is not satisfied and ask why he is suffering in this material world though trying to find happiness. He may long for crossing over the ocean of material life and find a more substantial realm of reality. In this way, the living being advances in intelligence and becomes qualified for hearing about spiritual knowledge. After the accumulation of many lifetimes of pious activities, one may have the good fortune to respect and seek out the association with saintly devotees of the Lord.

            If one is truly fortunate, he may learn how to cross over the ocean of material existence by getting the opportunity to associate with a pure devotee who can revive one’s spiritual awareness.

            As the Svetashvatara Upanishad (5.13) explains, the jivas become captive by maya and material existence. However, if by chance the association awakens their faith, then gradually their devotional attitudes are enhanced. This endows them with knowledge of the Supersoul who is beginning less, endless, the seed of all incarnations, the creator of the cosmic manifestation and who resides within it. Thus enlightened, the jiva can become liberated from maya’s grip.

            Thus, like a log floating down a river, one finally reaches the shore to be released from being pushed this way and that by the material energy.

            Thereafter, if the jiva accepts instructions from the representative of the Lord, and from the Vedic literature, he can understands his real position as a spiritual being. His spiritual interest will increase and he may then engage in the devotional service of the Lord. Being nourished by good association, faith, and respect for saintly devotees, the jiva’s material proclivities become weakened. This can go on to produce steadiness in devotional service to the Lord, chanting His holy names, eradication of unwanted desires, and finally attraction for the Lord Krishna. When finally the jiva beholds the object of his worship, the Supreme Lord, his distress is dissipated and he is enlightened with the realization of his eternal identity as Krishna’s servant. (Svetashvatara Upanishad 4.7)

            The main limbs of this devotional service to the Lord are explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23-24) by Prahlada Maharaja: “Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Vishnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto the Lord (with body, mind and words). These nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krishna through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.”

            It should be noted that even one of the above process performed perfectly is all that it takes to return to the spiritual abode of the Lord.

            In this way, with serious intention, a person can attain liberation from this material world. Such liberation is described in the Chandogya Upanishad (8.12.3): “The jiva, upon attaining liberation, elevates himself out of his gross and subtle material bodies and shining with transcendental brilliance obtains his own supra mundane, spiritual form. Such a liberated soul is the best among men. He relishes his presence in the spiritual realm, enjoying transcendental activities and absorbing himself in divine bliss.”

            Upon attaining liberation, the jiva soul can experience his real nature, as described in the Chandogya Upanishad (8.7.1,3). The pure soul is without sin and free from all karmic reactions. Material nature has no influence on him, so he is ever-fresh and youthful, without age. He has no material hankering, anxiety or lamentation, thus he is equipoised and peaceful. He has no desires other than engaging in spiritual service to the Supreme. In his spiritual nature, it is only service to God that he desires, which he does most favorably.

            Once a devotee is liberated, there are two types of liberation which he or she may attain. These are attaining the original spiritual form (svarupa-mukti), and attaining the lotus feet of Lord Krishna (vastu-mukti). Such elevated devotees who have realized their original position do not have to wait until they are free of their material bodies, but are already being served by mukti, or liberation personified. Although their bodies may participate in the principles of the material elements, their souls are immersed in sublime bliss in the spiritual realm. Thus, having already attained their spiritual forms, they will certainly attain the lotus feet of Krishna upon leaving their body.

            However, when it comes to liberation, a devotee is not overly interested in that. As Srila Rupa Gosvami explains in his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu: “Devotional service, beginning with hearing and chanting, mitigates material distress and almost simultaneously produces a sense of good fortune. Then follows the realization that liberation is simply an insignificant side effect, and that regulated devotional service, marked by an overt adherence to scriptural rules and regulations, will not reward the ultimate necessity of life–krishna prema [advanced love for Krishna]. However, raga-bhakti, spontaneous devotional service, awards krishna prema. The two symptoms of raga-bhakti are intense, deep bliss and constant attraction for Lord Krishna, which Krishna himself finds attractive.” (B.r.s. 1.17) This is how a devotee attracts Lord Krishna. Or how the infinitesimal attracts the Infinite to reveal Himself.

            The nature of this krishna-prema, or love of God, is also described by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu: “When devotional service is situated on the transcendental platform of pure goodness, it is like a ray of the sunlight of love for Krishna. At such a time, devotional service causes the heart to be softened by various tastes that are called bhava (spiritual emotion). (B.r.s 173.1) When that bhava softens the heart completely, it becomes endowed with a great feeling of possessiveness in relationship to the Lord. When it becomes very much condensed and intensified, learned scholars call it prema, love of God.” (B.r.s 174.1)

            The first stage of this prema is called rati, which is transcendental attachment in love, while prema is the concentrated form of this attachment, rati. This transcendental attachment in love is a natural part of the consciousness of the living being. But while in the material world, this attachment comes out as a perverted reflection, which takes shape as love for various material objects or persons. However, this love is actually lust, which means the love one has for something for pleasing one’s own mind and senses. Without a good return of affection, the love decreases or worse, turns into anger. But the natural love in the soul is ever-increasing, shining without burning, and without the need for a return of favors.

            The soul’s nature is to love and be loved. So it cannot find complete happiness without this form of exchange. But the only place where this can be fully tasted is in the spiritual domain, and in a relationship with the Lord, the Supreme Lover and Supreme Lovable Object. That is when we reach krishna-prema.

            This prema is of two kinds: kevala-prema (unalloyed and unconditional love) and mahim-jnana-yukta-prema (love mixed with knowledge, awe and reverential worship). The goal of sadhana (practice) on the raganuga-bhakti path is primarily kevala-prema. According to the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, kevala-prema, unalloyed devotional surrender, is the pinnacle of all attainments and goals. Yet, kevala-prema is further subdivided as: bhavottha (sprung from bhava) and prasadotha (invoked from mercy). Further sub-divisions of bhavottha are: vaidhi (developed from practice) and raganuga (developed spontaneously). Prasadottha is extremely rare, while bhavottha-prema is more common and is described in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila, 23.9-13, 39). This is also the direct formula for attaining the supreme goal of life after having entered the material realm:

              “If by good fortune a living entity develops faith in Krishna, he begins to associate with devotees. Inspired by devotee association, he begins the process of devotional service by hearing and chanting [the glories and names of Krishna] which cleanses his heart of all unwanted contamination. Freed from all contamination, his devotion advances to the stage of firm, undeviating faith. When firm faith awakens, taste for hearing and chanting blossoms. From taste for devotional service arises deep attachment, leading to the appearance in the heart of the seed of love of Godhead, which begins to grow. When that stage of ecstasy intensifies, it is called love of Godhead, prema. This is the prime human necessity, life’s ultimate goal and the reservoir of all pleasure. Even the most learned man could not understand the words, activities and symptoms of a person situated in love of Godhead.”

            As Srila Bhaktivioda Thakura further explains in his Dasa-mula-tattva, “Love, in this way, becomes an unlimited ocean producing endless waves of ecstasy, embodying transcendental pastimes which continually emanate the ambrosial relish of Krishna, the icon of eternity, absolute knowledge and bliss. By the innate nature of prema, it generates extraordinary sublimely blissful rasa, spiritual relish, for Sri Krishna. The holy name of Krishna is the manifestation and embodiment of his all-attractive energy. The form of His holy name is the dark complexioned, concentrated form of pure bliss, the ambrosia of immortality and the perennial spring of love. Krishna, the beau of all the exquisite damsels of Vrindavana, is endowed with absolute unlimited compassion that is solely for the benefit of others, and He always remains the boundless reservoir of sublime relish and wonderful pastimes. Krishna, the darling of every entity’s heart, is directly perceived through His manifestation as the holy name, His form, qualities and pastimes. That person who enjoys with Krishna in His forest of Vrindavana is, according to the Kena Upanishad, an extremely fortunate and super-intelligent being.”

            In this way, the living being who enters the material worlds can find his or her way out. By following the path described herein, they can reach the ultimate spiritual abode wherein they can taste the transcendental pleasure that will occupy their consciousness to such a degree that they will lose all awareness of the material energy and any of its so-called attractions. Thus, they will have returned to their real home in the company of the Supreme Being, Sri Krishna, and His eternal associates.

CONCLUSION

 

            So who am I and where did I come from? This question should be much easier to answer after reading this chapter. We are all atomic particles of the supreme spiritual sun of the Lord. We possess consciousness and a spiritual identity, which contains a drop of the highest spiritual bliss. Our spiritual form is made of a tiny fragment of spirit and is somewhat like the form of Lord Krishna. Our misfortune is that we cannot see our spiritual form. However, because we are now aware of it and want to see it means that we have become fortunate. Understanding this is the primary purpose of human existence.29

            By understanding our spiritual identity, as summarily described above, we can also perceive that we are actually beyond the labels of being liberated or in material bondage, as explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.11.1): “The Supreme Lord said: The terms ‘bound’ and ‘liberated’ are an explanation from the modes of nature, not from real substance. Because maya is the root of the modes [and I am the Lord of maya], there is no liberation or bondage for Me.”

            These may be the words of the Supreme as they apply to Him, but they also apply to the individual souls as well. If we are spiritual beings, then, ultimately, bondage and liberation have no substantiality. The soul is not bound or liberated in substance, but only by the temporary association with the material modes, which means that such designations are also impermanent. Since the modes of nature are based on maya, there is no actual bondage. It is only a perception, not an actuality. Thus, there is also no liberation. The soul is never penetrated by the modes, or maya. It is purely spiritual. It is only the individual consciousness that surrounds the soul, so to speak, which is affected like one in a dream. Therefore, the goal of life is to become spiritually awakened, purify our consciousness to become free from our false perceptions, and return to the spiritual strata and the association of, and service to, the Supreme Being. In this way, material existence comes to an end after attaining love of God.

 

 

REFERENCE NOTES

1. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28, purport

2. Jaiva Dharma, Volume Three, Chapter 15, page 69

3. Jaiva Dharma, Chapter 15, page 76, Gaudiya Edition

4. Jaiva Dharma, Volume Three, Chapter 15, page 72

5. Bhagavad-gita, 13.20, purport

6. Jaiva Dharma, Chapter 15, page 74, Gaudiya Edition

7. Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 5.45

8. Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 2.36 purport

9. Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 5.41

10. Jaiva Dharma, Chapter 15, page 90, Gaudiya Edition

11. Jaiva Dharma, Volume Three, Chapter 15, page 73

12. Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.10.3, purport

13. Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 16, p. 90

14. Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 15, p.69

15. Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.19, purport

16. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.53, purport

17. Bhagavad-gita 15.7, purport

18. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.25

19. Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 7.116, purport

20. Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, p. 217-8

21. Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.4.64, purport

22. Bhagavad-gita 13.20

23. Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 16, p.95

24. Sri Caitanya Siksamritam, p. 160

25. Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.9.9 purport

26. Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 16, p.99

27. Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 15, p.74-5

29. Jaiva Dharma, Volume 3, Chapter 16, p. 88  

 

REFERENCES

Aitareya Upanishad,

Bhagavad-gita As It Is, translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, New York/Los Angeles, 1972

Brahmana & Vaishnava, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, trans. Bhumipati dasa, Vrajraj Press, Vrindavana, 1999

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Caitanya-caritamrta, translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Los Angeles, 1974

Chandogya Upanishad,

Jaiva Dharma, Srila Thakur Bhakti Vinod, trans. By Bhakti Sadhaka Nishkinchana, Sree Gaudiya Math

Sri Caitanya Shikshamritam, Thakura Bhakti Vinode, Sree Gaudiya Math, Madras, 1983

Sri Jaiva Dharma, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, trans. Kusakratha dasa, Krsna Institute, Alachua, FL, 1993

Srimad-Bhagavatam, translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book trust, New York/Los Angeles, 1972

Svetasvatara Upanishad,

Twelve Essential Upanishads, Tridandi Sri Bhakti Prajnan Yati, Sree Gaudiya Math, Madras, 1982. Includes the Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Svetasvatara, and Gopalatapani Upanishad of the Pippalada section of the Atharva-veda.

Vishnu Purana, translated by H. H. Wilson, Nag Publishers, Delhi

A Complete Review of Vedic Literature and the Knowledge Within

A Complete Review of

 

Vedic Literature

 

And the Knowledge Within

 

By Stephen Knapp

       If we are going to understand the essential truths in Vedic literature, then we must get a glimpse of the content and purpose of its many texts and the expansive nature of the knowledge it contains. The Vedic philosophy encompasses the oldest spiritual texts of any religion in the world, and its subjects are broad and numerous. Its more advanced concepts can be difficult for even the greatest scholars to fathom. The Vedic literature discusses many types of philosophical viewpoints, and studying some of them will let us see that many of the concepts that we accept as new today are nothing more than parts of the ancient Vedic knowledge that had been dealt with and thoroughly understood thousands of years ago. Thus, there are not many ideas that are really new at all. The main purpose of the Vedic literature is to establish knowledge of the Absolute Truth and the process for attaining the highest levels of self-realization. To do that it must, and does, contain the elementary as well as most advanced forms of spiritual knowledge. So let us see exactly what kind of information is found within the many volumes of Vedic literature, and if there is any one understanding or direction in particular which it encourages people to take for complete spiritual success.

 

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THE STUDY OF VEDIC CULTURE

       If you are new to the study of Vedic culture, you may not understand all of these ancient Vedic texts or their purpose, or why it is necessary to mention them in this review. However, this study will provide the knowledge for you to begin to see how vast the Vedic science is and how numerous are these Vedic texts. You will begin to understand that there are few topics that have been left uncovered in the Vedic investigation of reality and the search for Truth, and in its presentation of what is God. You will also understand in the final analysis what direction they most recommend and how to pursue it.

THE FOUR PRIMARY VEDAS

       The Vedic literature is composed of many books. The oldest texts are the Rig-veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda, and the Atharva-veda. It is said in the Muktikopanishad that these four Vedas had 21, 109, 1000, and 50 branches respectively, with over 100,000 verses. Now, however, we can only find around 20,023 (some say 20,379) verses in total from these four Vedas.

       The Rig-veda, the “Veda of Praise,” contains 1,017 hymns, or 10,522 verses, arranged in ten books or mandalas. The first eight mostly contain hymns of praise to the various demigods, such as Indra and Agni. The ninth book deals primarily with the soma ritual, which was the extraction and purification of the juice of the soma herb. The tenth book contains suktas or verses of wisdom and mantras that would cause certain magical effects to take place. The Rig-veda hymns were mainly of praise to the gods that were invoked during the Vedic ceremonies for ensuring immediate material needs. These were chanted by the four priests who conducted the Vedic rituals, namely the hota who calls the gods with the mantras from the Rig-veda; the adhvaryu who performs all the rituals of the ceremony according to the Yajur-veda; the udgata who sings the Sama-veda mantras; and the brahmana who supervises the general ceremony. However, it was usually only the brahmana priests who could be sure of chanting the mantras accurately to produce the desired result. If the mantra was chanted incorrectly by someone who was not qualified, the desired result would not take place and often something undesirable or horrible would happen instead.

        The main gods in the Rig-veda were Indra (the god of heaven and rain), Agni (the fire god) and Surya (the sun god). Surya is invoked in the sacred Gayatri mantra. However, Surya is also called Surya-Narayana in the Rig-veda. So the hymns to Surya and his different forms can also be related to Narayana or Vishnu, especially those to Savitur. Vishnu is also known as the Pervader, meaning that all the Vedic gods are absorbed in Him, and thus must also emanate from Him. They would be absorbed in Him during the time of cosmic annihilation, but would also emanate from Him during the time of the creation. There were also verses to three other names and forms of the sun god, namely Savitri, Mitra and Pooshan. Other gods included Dyos (a celestial god), Varuna (god of the seas), Soma, Marut (god of air or wind called Vayu in other places), Rudra (a form of Shiva) and Vishnu. All of these gods are celestial gods, or demigods, except for Rudra and Vishnu. There is also the important Purusha Sukta hymn in the 90th chapter of the Rig-veda’s tenth mandala.

       The Rig-veda is also a mystical text that contains knowledge in its abstract imagery of what the seers had realized. It has information on yoga, the spinal current and the chakras, as well as the planets and their orbits. Many aspects of this mystical knowledge are also contained in the other Vedas. The Rig-veda is said to have had 21 branches, out of which only two are still available. Much of the Shakal branch is still available, along with the Brahmana and Aranyaka of the Shankhayan branch. Although there are some stories in the Rig-veda, there are few historical records of the early Vedic kings. This has been a mistake amongst various linguists and researchers who study the Rig-veda to try to get an historical understanding of the early Vedic kingdom and Aryans.

       The Yajur-veda is the “Veda of Rituals” and contains 1975 verse-mantras in 40 chapters, many of which are similar to those in the Rig-veda and used in rituals, usually by the adhvaryu priest. These contain different levels of knowledge and wisdom. The Yajur-veda once had 109 branches of knowledge, but now only parts of seven branches are found, of which the Vajasaneyi is prominent. The Yajur-veda, however, has two samhitas, or collections of verses, known as the White Yajur-veda (or Vajasaneyi-samhita) with the hymns and rituals, and the Black Yajur-veda (or Taittiriya-samhita) with their interpretations. These were primarily for the priests to use as a guide in performing sacred rituals, such as the ashvamedha or rajasuya, since they also contain directions or formulas that the priests use along with the verses that are sung during the ceremony.

       The Sama-veda, the “Veda of Melodies,” contains 1549 verses meant to be used as songs in various ceremonies, primarily for the udgata priest. Most of them are taken from the Rig-veda and arranged according to their use as utilized in particular rituals. From the original 1000 branches of the Sama-veda, three are still available, of which the Kauthumiya and Jaiminiya are prominent.

       The Atharva-veda is the “Veda of Chants” and once had 50 branches of which we have only the Shaunak branch today. It is a book of 5977 verses in 20 chapters containing prayers, spells, and incantations which in some respects resemble magical instructions found in the Tantras and even various magical incantations found in Europe. The Atharva-veda contains a small section of verses of instruction, wisdom, descriptions of the soul and God, but the majority of it consists of rules for worshiping the planets, rules for oblations and sacrifices, prayers for averting evil and disease, incantations for the destruction of foes, for fulfilling personal desires, etc., mostly for the material needs of people.

 

THIRTY-THREE MILLION GODS?

       The four primary Vedas represent the accomplishment of a highly developed religious system and encourage satisfaction of material desires through worship of the demigods. They contain many directions for increasing one’s power and position, or for reaching the heavens in one’s future by properly performing particular sacrifices in worship to the devas (demigods), and so on.

       Some people ask why there seems to be so many gods within Hinduism or Vedic culture. Yet, if we properly analyze the situation, we will understand that there is but one Supreme Being who has many agents or demigods who assist in managing the creation and the natural forces within. And, like anyone else, if they are properly approached with prayer or worship, they may help facilitate the person by granting certain wishes that may be within the jurisdiction of that demigod.

       In some places in the Vedic literature it is explained that there are 33 Vedic gods, or even as many as thirty-three million. The 33 gods are calculated as being eight Vasus, eleven Rudras (forms of Shiva), twelve Adityas, along with Indra and Prajapati (Brahma). Then there are also other positions that are considered major or minor devas. According to the Vedas, the devas are not imaginary or mythological beings, but are agents of the Supreme Will to administer different aspects of the universal affairs. They also represent and control various powers of nature. Thus, they manifest in the physical, subtle or psychic levels of our existence both from within and without. In this way, a transcendentalist sees that behind every aspect of nature is a personality.

       The names of these gods are considered offices or positions, rather than the actual name of the demigod. For example, we may call the president of the country by his personal name, or simply Mr. President. It’s the position itself that allows for him to have certain powers or areas of influence. In the case of the devas, it is only after accumulating much pious credit that a living being can earn the position of being a particular demigod. Then a person may become an Indra, or Vayu, or attain some other position to assume specific powers, or to control various aspects of material energy.

       Another example is that when you walk into a big factory, you see so many workers and all that they are doing. You may initially think that these workers are the reason for whatever goes on in the factory. However, more important than the workers are the foremen, the managers, and then the executives. Amongst these you will find people of varying degrees of authority. Someone will be in charge of designing the products. Another may be the Chief Financial Officer or main accountant. Another may be in charge of personnel, while someone else may be in charge of maintenance in the factory itself. Finally, a chief executive officer or president of the company is the most important of all. Without him there may not even be a company. You may not see the president right away, but his influence is everywhere since all the workers are engaging in projects according to his decisions. The managers and foremen act as his authorized agents to keep things moving accordingly. The numerous demigods act in the same way concerning the functions of nature, all of whom represent some aspect or power of the Supreme Will. That’s why it is sometimes said there are 33 million different gods in Hinduism. Actually, there may be many forms, avataras, or aspects of God, but there is only one God, or one Absolute Truth.

       This is often a confusing issue to people new to Vedic philosophy. We often hear the question among Westerners that if Hinduism has so many gods, how do you know which ones to worship? The point is that the devas affect all levels of universal activities, including the weather, or who is bestowed with particular opulences such as riches, beautiful wife or husband, large family, good health, etc. For example, one could worship Agni for getting power, Durgadevi for good fortune, Indra for good sex life or plenty of rain, or the Vasus for getting money. Such instruction is in the karma-kanda section of the Vedas which many people considered to be the most important part of Vedic knowledge. This is for helping people acquire the facilities for living a basic material existence.

       There are, of course, various actions, or karmas, prompted by our desires to achieve certain results, but this is not the complete understanding of the karma-kanda section of the Vedas. The karma-kanda section is meant to supply the rituals for purifying our mind and actions in the pursuit of our desires, and not merely to live with the intent of acquiring all of one’s material wants and necessities from the demigods. By having faith and steadiness in the performance of the ritual, one establishes purification in one’s habits and thoughts. This provides a gradual process of acquiring one’s needs and working out one’s desires while simultaneously becoming purified and free of them. Such purification can then bring one to a higher level of spiritual activity. This was the higher purpose of the karma-kanda rituals. Without this understanding, one misses the point and remains attached to rituals in the pursuit of material desires, which will drag one further into material existence.

       The reciprocation between the demigods and society is explained in Bhagavad-gita (3.10-12). It is stated that in the beginning the Lord of all beings created men and demigods along with the sacrifices to Lord Vishnu that were to be performed. The Lord blessed them saying that these sacrifices will enable men to prosper and attain all desirable things. By these sacrificial duties the demigods will be pleased and the demigods will also please you with all the necessities of life, and prosperity will spread to all. But he who enjoys what is given by the demigods without offering them in return is a thief.

       In this way, it was recommended that people could perform sacrificial rituals to obtain their desires. However, by the performance of such acts they should understand their dependent position, not only on the demigods, but ultimately on the Supreme Being. As further explained in Bhagavad-gita (3.14-15), all living beings exist on food grains, which are produced from rain, which is produced by the performance of prescribed sacrifices or duties. These prescribed duties are described in the Vedic literature, which is manifest from the Supreme Being. Therefore, the Supreme is eternally established in acts of sacrifice.

       Although the demigods may accept worship from the human beings and bless them with particular benedictions according to the sacrifices that are performed, they are still not on the level of the Supreme Lord Vishnu (who is an incarnation of Lord Krishna). The Rig-veda (1.22.20) explains: “The demigods are always looking to that supreme abode of Vishnu.” Bhagavad-gita (17.23) also points out: “From the beginning of creation, the three syllables om tat sat have been used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth (Brahman). They were uttered by brahmanas while chanting the Vedic hymns and during sacrifices, for the satisfaction of the Supreme.” In this way, by uttering om tat sat, which is stressed in Vedic texts, the performers of the rituals for worshiping the demigods were also offering obeisances to Lord Vishnu for its success. The four Vedas mainly deal with material elevation and since Lord Vishnu is the Lord of material liberation, most sacrifices were directed toward the demigods.

       In Bhagavad-gita, however, Lord Krishna points out that men of small knowledge, who are given to worldly desires, take delight in the flowery words of the Vedas that prescribe rituals for attaining power, riches, or rebirth in heaven. With their goal of enjoyment they say there is nothing else than this. However, Krishna goes on to explain (in Bhagavad-gita 7.21-23) that when a person desires to worship a particular demigod for the temporary and limited fruits he or she may bestow, Krishna, as the Supersoul in everyone’s heart, makes that person’s faith in that demigod steady. But all the benefits given by any demigod actually are given by Krishna alone, for without whom no one has any power. The worshipers of the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but worshipers of Krishna reach Krishna’s spiritual abode.

       Thus, as one progresses in understanding, it is expected that they will gradually give up the pursuit for temporary material pleasures and then begin to endeavor for reaching the supreme goal of Vedic knowledge. For one who is situated in such knowledge and is self-realized, the prescribed duties in the Vedas for worshiping the demigods are unnecessary. As Bhagavad-gita (3.17-18) explains, for one who is fully self-realized, who is fully satiated in the self, delights only in the self, there is no duty or need to perform the prescribed duties found in the Vedas, because he has no purpose or material desires to fulfill.

       However, another view of the Vedic gods is that they represent different aspects of understanding ourselves, especially through the path of yoga and meditation. For example, the god of wind is Vayu, and is related to the practice of yoga as the breath and its control in pranayama. Agni is the god of fire and relates to the fire of consciousness or awareness. Soma relates to the bliss in the samadhi of yoga practice. Many of the Vedic gods also represent particular powers of yoga and are related to the different chakras in the subtle body. It is accepted that as a person raises his or her consciousness through the chakras, he or she will attain the level of awareness and the power and assistance that is associated with the particular divine personality related to that chakra.

 

BRAHMANAS AND ARANYAKAS

       Although the four principle Vedas include the concept of spiritual perfection or liberation, it is not so thoroughly developed or presented. Therefore, to help one understand what the goal of Vedic philosophy is, there are also other compositions along with the four Vedas, namely the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and the Upanishads. Originally, the Brahmanas consisted of 1180 branches, with the same number of Aranyakas. Unfortunately, only a few of these branches remain today. The Upanishads also had 1180 branches to continue the explanation of these Vedic divisions of knowledge and practice. However, only about 200 are still available.

       The Brahmanas are compositions that accompany different portions of the Veda Samhitas with additional directions and details that the brahmana priests would use when performing the sacrificial rituals, along with some of their histories. They include the Aitareya, the Shankhayan or Kausitaki, and the Shatpath and Taittariya Brahmanas that are connected to the Rig-veda. These contain such instructions as what to meditate on and how to chant the mantras while conducting the sacrifice, etc. The Brahmanas also hold cosmological legends and stories that explain the reason for performing the Vedic rituals, along with the esoteric significance of the mantras and sacrificial rituals. They also describe the verses in the main Samhitas. Furthermore, they provide the seeds of the systematic knowledge of the Sutras, and can be used by the village householders.

       The Panchvinsha, Shadvinsha, and Tandya Brahmanas belong to the Sama-veda, while the Jaiminiya and Gopatha Brahmanas belong to the Atharva-veda. The Shatapatha Brahmana, a large volume of 100 chapters authored by Yajnavalkya, is said to belong to the Shukla Yajur-veda.

       The Aranyakas are sacred writings that are supposed to frame the essence of the Upanishads and are considered to be secret and dangerous to the uninitiated. The Aranyakas reveal more of the esoteric aspects of the rituals and their purposes than the Brahmanas. They are meant only for the brahmana priests and kshatriya warriors who have renounced all materialistic activities, and retired to the solitude of the forests, which is the meaning of “aranyaka.” They include a strict style of worship to particular forms or aspects of God. These instructions could consist of which mantras to use for particular purposes, how to sit, in which time of the morning to practice, the devotions to incorporate into the practice, and so on.

       Next we come to the Upanishads, which is the main part of the Aranyakas and constitute one of the most sacred portions of Vedic philosophy. There are three main sections of the Vedic scriptures. The Upanishads and Aranyakas are part of the jnana-kanda section, meaning they contain knowledge meant for introspection and contemplation. The four main Samhitas and Brahmanas which deal primarily with ritual are a part of the karma-kanda classification, meant for appeasing the gods for one’s necessities and desires, and for helping purify the mind. The upasana-kanda section consists of those instructions on devotional service to God, which is found later in the Vedanta-Sutras, the Puranas and other books.

 

THE UPANISHADS

       The Upanishads are essentially presented for the continued spiritual progress of the individual. If the Vedas emphasize and primarily consist of worship to the demigods for material needs and only hint at the prospect of spiritual liberation, then the Upanishads start to explain how worldly attachments need to be renounced so we can surrender to God. The word upanishad literally means to sit down (shad) near (upa) and below or at the feet with determination (ni). So it indicates that the student should sit near the feet of one’s spiritual teacher and listen with determination to the teachings. Only through such absorption can one learn how to apply the teachings in practice. Sitting at the feet of the teacher is both a sign of respect and humility, but also exhibits a natural flow, like water, from something high to that which is lower. Thus the student becomes a natural receptacle for such knowledge.

       Another meaning of the word shad in upanishad means to destroy. So the spiritual knowledge the student receives from the teacher destroys the ignorance of the true nature of the world and his own Self. As one’s ignorance is destroyed, enlightenment can follow.

       The Upanishads are a collection of 108 philosophical dissertations. The Muktikopanishad (verses 30-39) lists all 108. (See Appendix One) However, there are over 100 additional compilations if you also count the lesser Upanishads that are not actually part of the primary group, making a total of well over 200. Out of all the Upanishads, the following eleven are considered to be the topmost: Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Svetasvatara.

       The Upanishads were considered the secret and confidential knowledge of reality. They mainly focus on establishing the Absolute as nonmaterial and describe it as Brahman: the eternal, unmanifest reality, source and ultimate shelter of everything. The Brahman is said to be incomprehensible because it is without material qualities or form. The secret to understanding Brahman according to the Upanishads is that they describe the Absolute as having no material qualities or material personality, but consists of spiritual qualities.

       The comparisons used in the Upanishads can be somewhat confusing to the beginner of Vedic study, but they are easy to understand for one who has some understanding in this matter or who is self-realized. For example, when the Upanishads describe the Absolute as being unembodied, without veins, yet runs swifter than the mind, or as being able to walk yet does not walk, or as being within everything and yet outside of everything, how can we know what to think? Does the Absolute have any qualities that we can comprehend?

       These kinds of descriptions in the Upanishads are called indirect or contrary descriptions. These are used to indicate the spiritual nature of the Lord’s qualities, meaning that He is not material nor confined to the rules of the material creation. An example of this is found in the Svetashvatara Upanishad, Chapter Three, which explains: The Supreme Lord does not have material hands and feet yet He is able to receive anything and go everywhere. He does not possess material eyes and yet He sees past, present and future. He does not have material ears and yet He hears. He is the knower of everything, omniscient, but Him no one can know. The self-realized and enlightened souls know Him as the Primeval Lord and Supreme Being.

       The Svetashvatara Upanishad offers more of these kinds of descriptions, such as “He is having His faces, heads and necks everywhere, yet He dwells in the cavity of the heart of all beings. He is omnipresent. Being the Supreme Godhead, He is present everywhere encompassing all that exists and He is benevolent. (3.11) With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He stands encompassing all.” (3.16)

       Another example is the Isha Upanishad (5): “The Supreme Lord walks and does not walk. He is far away, but He is very near as well. He is within everything, and yet He is outside of everything.”

       So the point is that the Absolute has spiritual legs to run or walk with and spiritual senses that are not limited like material senses. One verse that clearly explains this is the following: “The Supreme Reality is far beyond this universe. He possesses no ephemeral form but He is sat-cit-ananda, the embodiment of complete eternal and spiritual bliss. He is free from any ill. He is beyond the illusive world. He is full of all-auspicious divine glories. Those who realize Him as such and render unalloyed devotion to Him become immortal, but others (who remain ignorant of Him) have to undergo suffering through transmigration in the realm of maya [illusions].” (Svetashatara Upanishad 3.10)

       Therefore, though the Upanishads generally refer to the Absolute in an impersonal way, they also begin to establish that the Supreme Reality has form, or, in other words, is a person, and that there is a Divine Abode, although the details of it are not always clearly provided therein. So as we go through the Vedic texts, we get clearer and clearer views of the nature of the Supreme Being.

       The Isa Upanishad in particular indicates that the Supreme Absolute is both impersonal and personal. Other Upanishads describe the Absolute as, “He who created the worlds,” or, “Who is luminous like the sun,” “beyond darkness,” “the eternal among eternals,” etc. In fact, the basic method used in most Upanishads, as explained in the Hayasirsa Pancharatra, is to first present the Absolute Reality in an impersonal way and then present the personal aspects.

       Yet, as we study the Upanishads, there are numerous references that go on to describe very clearly, in a direct manner, the spiritual nature and characteristics of the Supreme. The GopalaTapani Upanishad has numerous verses which explain the nature of the Absolute Truth, such as the following verse (1.22): “Sri Krishna is that Supreme Divinity, the Paramount Eternal Reality among all other sentient beings, and the fountain-source of consciousness to all conscious beings. He is the only reality without a second, but as the Supersoul He dwells in the cave of the hearts of all beings and rewards them in accordance with their respective actions in life. Those men of intuitive wisdom who serve Him with loving devotion surely attain the summum bonum, supreme goal of life. Whereas those who do not do so never gain this highest beautitude of their lives.”

       Another verse from the GopalaTapani Upanishad (2.23) that further explains the nature of the Supreme is this one: “Sri Krishna has got no birth and no old age, He is always in His adolescence without any change. He is ever most effulgently shining so gloriously more than the sun. He is fond of remaining with the divine cows of Goloka Vrindavana. He is eternally fond of being with the Gopas, cowherd boys, as He feels pleasure tending the cows. He is the very object of the Vedas, He as the Supersoul ever dwells in the heart of every living being, and He is the only Sustainer of all. He is the beloved sweet-heart of you all.”

       Not only do the Upanishads provide explanations of the impersonal Brahman and personal Bhagavan realizations, but as we can see they also speak of the Paramatma (Supersoul or Lord in the heart) realization. Especially in the Katha, Mundaka, and the Svetasvatara Upanishads, one can find statements explaining that within the heart of every individual in every species of life reside both the individual soul and the Supersoul, the localized expansion of the Lord. It is described that they are like two birds sitting in the same tree of the body. The individual soul, which is called the atma or jiva, is engrossed in using the body to taste the fruits of various activities that result in pleasure and pain. The Supersoul is simply witnessing the activities of the jiva. If, however, the jiva begins to tire of these constant ups and downs of material life and then looks toward his friend next to him, the Supersoul, and seeks His help, the jiva soul can be relieved of all anxieties and regain his spiritual freedom. This freedom is the spiritual oneness shared by the jiva and Paramatma when the jiva enters into the spiritual atmosphere by submitting to the will of the Paramatma. This is achieved by the practice of yoga and by being guided by a proper spiritual master. It is not said that the individual soul loses his individuality, but both the jiva and Paramatma remain individuals.

       In any case, the Upanishads present a much clearer approach to understanding the ultimate reality than the four primary Vedas. We can provide a little more insight into the information found within the Upanishads by reviewing a few.

       The Isha Upanishad comes from the 40th chapter of the Shukla (White) Yajur-veda. It has only 18 verses, but directly addresses the Personality of God in the first verse. Through the 18 verses, it gradually establishes that God has a personal form from which comes the great white Brahman effulgence. It explains that all opulence comes from God and that to try to enjoy such pleasures outside of the relationship with God is an illusion filled with suffering. Therefore, one should live life in such a way as to always remember God, and thus fulfill the real purpose of life so at the end one can constantly hold the vision of God within one’s consciousness. When God removes His effulgence or spiritual rays, then the devotee can see the personal form of the Lord.

       The Katha Upanishad contains six chapters divided in two sections. Within it is the conversation between Nachiketa and Yamaraj, the lord of death. Within that conversation Yamaraj establishes that due to ignorance and the desire to enjoy the material world, people continue to suffer in the cycle of birth and death, yet think they understand the real purpose of life. It is only in this human body that a person has the facility to realize God and escape the continued rounds of birth and death. Therefore, before the end of one’s life, he or she should realize God in order to fully utilize this human birth.

       The Mundaka Upanishad contains six chapters in three sections. This gives the instruction from the sage Angira to Shaunaka about the nature of God and how to become realized. These instructions include how the early Brahmanas understood that the Vedic rituals only provided the means to acquire the luxuries of life, without being able to deliver one to God. Therefore, they gave them up for approaching a God-realized saint, the only way one can learn how to surrender to the eternal Lord who is beyond all illusion of the universe. This is the God who cannot be understood by the Vedic impersonalistic philosophy, or intellectual meditation. The Lord is only realized when He reveals Himself to one whose heart is full of devotion, after that person has been graced with such faithfulness by a saintly devotee. Then one can see the Lord as He is in full.

       The Mandukya Upanishad is another short Upanishad with only 12 verses. Herein it explains the impersonal aspect of God without going on to the personal traits. Here we find descriptions that can be confusing to those who are just beginning their investigation into Vedic philosophy, such as relating how the Absolute cannot be conceived by the mind, or contacted in any way. It has nothing that it can be compared to, and thus cannot be understood or spoken of, nor meditated upon because it is inconceivable. So, from this Upanishad, based on the impersonal point of view, it would seem that there is little for us to understand about the Supreme.

       The Svetasvatara Upanishad is one of the most important. In its six chapters it elaborates on the more detailed characteristics of the soul, the Supreme Being, and the material nature, as well as the process for becoming spiritually realized. This is where we start to get deeper examples of the Paramatma, the Supersoul aspect of God. It describes that God is the Supreme, pure consciousness, from which all of creation manifests. And that God is realized when one becomes lovingly absorbed in the Supreme, which is the only way a person can cross the ocean of maya. It contains many relevant instructions and is one Upanishad that begins to take us much deeper into the understanding of the different aspects of the nature of God and the secrets of becoming God-realized.

       The Taittiriya Upanishad goes into explaining more about the creative process of the material manifestation from the Brahman, and that the Brahman is from Whom all souls emanate, and in Whom they enter at the time of the universal annihilation. That Brahman is eternally personified, by which He is knowable and reachable. Through that personified form He expands bliss and Divine love which we can experience through spiritual practice. This Upanishad is divided into three chapters called Shiksha Valli, Brahmanand Valli, and Bhrigu Valli.

       There are many other Upanishads, though they may be less prominent, that can be important to relating inner facts and secrets about the nature of God and how to realize Him. So I’ll mention a few.

       There is the Krishna Upanishad that directly reveals that the most divine form of bliss dwells in the supremacy of love of Lord Krishna. It elaborates that when Lord Krishna descended to Earth in Braja Mandala, Vrindavana, the other eternal and divine personalities and powers also came with Him in order to serve Him and taste the sweetness of that divine love.

       The GopalaTapani Upanishad goes much further in explaining things in this direction. It has only two chapters with a total of 172 verses. In the first chapter it explains that Lord Krishna is the absolute bliss. He is the Supreme God and the embodiment of eternal life, knowledge and bliss. This is elaborated throughout the chapter. Chapter Two explains how Lord Krishna is the supreme and most beautiful form of God. No other god or portion of this material creation can compare to His beauty. Therefore, it is recommended that we need to remember and adore Him, by which we can experience His divine love, which is like an ocean of nectar.

       It is important to point out that the Sanskrit term for the experience of Krishna’s divine love is rasa. It is the Bhagavat Purana that, in the Vedic literature, begins to explain the rasa-lila or bliss pastimes of Lord Krishna with His numerous associates. The word rasa is never used in connection with Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga or any of the other Vedic personalities in any of the Upanishads. That is because, though we may engage in respectful worship to these Divinities, the pleasure pastimes wherein there is such a deep exchange of divine bliss and love is not to be found in anyone but Lord Krishna. Even the expansions of Lord Krishna, such as Lord Vishnu or Lord Rama, may be forms of unlimited bliss, but the deep exchanges of loving bliss with Them do not have the potential that is found within Lord Krishna. Therefore, the conclusion is that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality in which is found all other forms of Divinity, and from whom comes the Absolute Truth and Absolute loving bliss.

       The Radhika Upanishad explains this a little further. Therein it is described that only within Lord Krishna is there the hladini power, which is the pleasure or bliss potency. The other forms of the Lord are but parts or expansions of the Lord, and although They may be the same in power, They are lacking in the level of bliss potency that is found within Lord Krishna. This means that the supreme sweetness in loving exchanges is manifested from Lord Krishna. In this way, you have the sweet, sweeter and sweetest levels of loving bliss established in the different levels of the spiritual reality, until it culminates from the Brahman and Vaikuntha on up to Goloka Vrindavana, the spiritual abode of Lord Krishna. Or from the brahmajyoti to the Vishnu forms up to the supremacy of Sri Krishna. This is what is established by fully understanding the purport of the Upanishads.

       Another less prominent Upanishad, but one that is no less important, is the Sri Chaitanya Upanishad (Chaitanyopanishad), which comes from the ancient Atharva-veda. The Chaitanyopanishad is a short text with only nineteen verses. All of them are very significant. In this description there is not only the prediction of the appearance of Lord Chaitanya, but a description of His life and purpose, and the reasons why His process of spiritual enlightenment is so powerful and effective in this age of Kali-yuga.

       The Chaitanyopanishad explains how one day Pippalada, a son of Lord Brahma, approached his father and asked about how the sinful living entities in the age of Kali-yuga may be delivered. Lord Brahma told him to listen carefully and he would give him a confidential description of what would happen in Kali-yuga. He explained that in Kali-yuga the Supreme Being, whose form is completely transcendental and who is the all-pervading Supersoul in the hearts of all living entities, will appear again in the Kali age. He will appear in the guise of the greatest devotee, with a golden complexion in His abode on the banks of the Ganges at Navadvipa. He will disseminate pure devotional service to the Supreme. He will be known as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Appearing in this golden form, the all-powerful Supreme Being–who is understood only by the most fortunate and who is the oldest, the original person, the original cause of the universe–will spread spiritual bliss by the chanting of His own holy names. The Supreme Lord will chant a mantra consisting of the names of Hari, Krishna and Rama [the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra]. This mantra is the best of all mantras, and, though difficult to understand, it can be understood by engaging in devotional service to the Supreme. This is the most confidential of secrets, and those who seriously desire to make progress in spiritual life, and to cross the ocean of birth and death, continually chant these names of the Supreme.

       Herein we find the assortment of information that can be found in the main Upanishads. For the most part, except for the more specialized and detailed Upanishads that were referred to at the end, they only briefly indicate the personal traits of the Supreme Personality and the Divinity of Krishna and His abode. Mostly they provide knowledge only up to the Brahman or Vaikuntha, not beyond. They express the non-material, spiritual nature of God, but do not know or present much information on the personality and pastimes of the Supreme Being. The end or conclusive result of knowledge in the Upanishads is to attain liberation from material existence. But what such liberation consists of is often left out. So, information on the pastimes and nature of the abode of God and the spiritual domain is generally absent.

       This is the case with most all of the Shruti texts, which consist of the four Vedas, the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads. Once you get beyond the rituals and methods for acquiring material needs by worship of the Vedic demigods, the Shruti texts primarily contain knowledge of the futility of material existence, the temporary nature of the material creation, the bondage of the jiva souls in this existence of birth and death, and the spiritual nature of the individual and the Supreme Being. In parts, they may also describe that the goal of life is liberation from this material manifestation and the need to return to spiritual existence through the understanding of karma, spiritual knowledge, renunciation and devotion to God (bhakti). However, they are unaware of much beyond this, or at least the finer details. They do not deliver information about the bliss of spiritual activities and the pastimes of Goloka Vrindavana, the most intimate and confidential abode of the Lord, who is a spiritual being, a personality. Because of this basic deficiency, additional information is supplied elsewhere, which must be sought and understood. As we can see, this is a progressive ladder of education, in which case one should not stop with the Upanishads.

 

THE UPA-VEDAS AND VEDANGAS

       Aside from the Upanishads, there are also the Upa-vedas. These are the Artha-veda (science of economics and sociology), the Dhanur-veda (the science of defense, war, and politics), the Gandharva-veda (art of music, dancing, and singing), and Ayurveda (the holistic medical science). These are smaller compositions, each are attached to one of the four main samhitas (namely the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva respectively). Unfortunately, most of these compositions are difficult to find, except for the Ayurveda, the majority of which is still available but not all of its original text.

       These are a part of the eighteen principal branches of Vedic knowledge, which, according to the Vishnu Purana, are listed with their sources as the six Vedangas:

 

The four Vedas, the six Angas (or subsidiary portions of the Vedas), viz., Siksha, rules of reciting the prayers, the accents, and tones to be observed; Kalpa, ritual; Vyakarana, grammar; Nirukta, glossarial comment; Chandas, metre; and Jyotish, astronomy; with Mimamsa, theology; Nyaya, logic; Dharma, the institutes of law; and the Puranas, constitute the fourteen principal branches of knowledge. Or they are considered as eighteen with the addition of these four: the Ayur-veda, medical science as taught by Lord Dhanvantari; Dhanur-veda, the science of archery or military arms taught by Bhrigu; Gandharva-veda, or drama and the arts of music, dancing, etc., of which the Muni Bharata was the author; and the Artha sastram, or science of government, as laid down first by Brihaspati. (Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Six)

 

       To briefly explain some of the branches mentioned above:

       Vyakarana is the science of Sanskrit grammar. This is presently based on the Panini grammar, since the other ancient forms or books are extinct. The Panini system, which has some 4000 sutras, is said to have been inspired by Lord Shiva when he once played on his small damru drum from which came 14 separate sounds. Those vibrations inspired Panini, who then explained the science of Sanskrit grammar. These vibrations were said to be originally in the mysterious formula of the Maheshvara Sutra. This Sutra is said to contain all sounds arranged in an order that holds the key to all structure of language.

       Panini also provided the dhatu path, which is a dictionary of the root Sanskrit words. Then he gave the unadi sutras to describe how the words in the original Vedic samhitas (the four Vedas) were formed, which can provide the means of understanding the real definition of the words in the samhita mantras. Without this, it is easy for a person to mistranslate the real meaning or purpose of the Vedic mantras.

       Nirukta provides the explanations of the Vedic words. It is used along with the Nighantu, which is a collection of Vedic words with their basic explanations. These are used with the Vyakarana to understand the exact meaning of Sanskrit words to make sure the Vedic samhita mantras are not misunderstood.

       Siksha is the science of correct pronunciation of Vedic mantras, such as intonation, duration, and the accent on a word or syllable. This will determine how one “sings” each mantra. Differences in the pronunciation of a mantra can also change its meaning, and the outcome of the ritual. That is one of the reasons why the old Vedic rituals are no longer recommended for this day and age. The problem is that this is difficult to learn and almost all books on the topic have become lost.

       Chandas is the science of correctly emphasizing the meter of the Vedic verses according to the division or parts and letters, and the correct pronunciation of the words. The Vedic mantras are also named according to its parts. For example, the anushtup chand is a mantra of four parts in one stanza, and with 32 letters. Yet if it has 31 letters in four parts, it is called brihati chand, and so on.

       Jyotish is the science of Vedic astrology. This was used for a couple of reasons. Primarily it was for establishing the correct position of the stars and planets at certain times, such as one’s birth, and their effects for predicting one’s future life. It was also for calculating the best times to begin special activities, such as Vedic rituals. There were many books on jyotish, but most have now become lost, leaving but several left to study.

       The Artha-sastram is said to have been established first by Brihaspati, but was written most recently by Kautilya in the fourth century BC for the king, Chandragupta Maurya. It is the science of government and economics that takes credit for some of the principles of corporate management that have gained popularity today, such as using prabhu shakti (vision), mantra shakti (mission), and utsah shakti (motivation).

       The Mimamsa, Dharma, and Nyaya are parts of the Vedic Sutras, which is explained next.

 

THE SUTRAS AND SUPPLEMENTS

       When it comes to the Mimamsa, there is the Purva Mimamsa and the Uttar Mimamsa. First there is the Purva Mimamsa that was written by the sage Jaimini who was a student of Vyasadeva about 5,000 years ago. The Uttara Mimamsa is the Brahma or Vedanta Sutras, which is discussed soon.

       Mimamsa means solutions through critical examination, and was originally expounded by Jaimini in the twelve chapters of his Mimamsa-sutra. It clarifies the Vedic principles so a person can focus on the ways for attaining a good life now and in the next. This system was traditionally called Purva Mimamsa, representing the early revered thought. This is in relation to the study of Vedanta since Mimamsa was considered the preliminary understanding of Vedanta philosophy. On the other hand, Vedanta is also called Uttara Mimamsa, meaning the conclusion and higher teachings of the Mimamsa philosophy, because the Vedas are regarded as self-evident scriptures that reveal divine knowledge.

       The Mimamsa system emphasizes the importance of action in terms of ritual, worship, and duty or dharma as the means of reaching liberation from karma and the cycle of repeated birth and death. It explains the essential Vedic issues and describes the eternal nature of the Vedic texts as part of the same spiritual energy as God, which are manifested on earth through the minds of the great sages. It then continues to clarify the accurate use of the Vedic mantras for the attainment of happiness and material facility. Mimamsa is basically a systematized code of rules for the Vedic rituals and worship used along with the Vedas and explains the purpose and meaning of the rituals. It is especially meant to help householders regulate and spiritualize their daily lives, while Vedanta is meant more for those who had grown tired of materialistic existence and are ready to retire and seriously engage in spiritual pursuits. Dharma is considered to be those moral activities that harmonize individual life with cosmic life.

       The Nyaya Sutra presents the Vedic system of logic as established by the sage Gautama. This was written in a question and answer format, like many of the Vedic Sutras. Nyaya is a school of logic which regards doubt as a prerequisite for philosophical inquiry. All other Indian systems of philosophy use the Nyaya system of logic as a foundation for reasoning and debate.

       The five principles of the Nyaya system are: (1) to present the proposition, (2) the reason for presenting the proposition, (3) an example of it, showing that it is realistic or unrealistic, depending on the instance, (4) apply the example of the proposition presented, and (5) establish the conclusion of the proposition.

       The ultimate purpose of the Nyaya system, which is closely linked to the Vaisheshika system, is to use this process of logic to establish the ultimate truth, or God, the Supreme Reality, and to show the spiritual platform is all that is truly desirable and not the temporary material creation. It is meant to help one achieve liberation from karma and material existence by properly understanding reality, or the difference between matter and spirit. Nyaya accepts that the only way to liberation is to obtain knowledge of the external world and understand its relationship with the mind and self. Through logical criticism, one can discriminate between truth and illusion and, applying such understanding in daily life, rid oneself of suffering and attain liberation. Additionally, this system of logic was developed to prove the validity of its principles by analysis and argument to counter the criticism of the Buddhists, Jains, and Charvakas. However, the Nyaya system was empirical and mostly relied on perception, inference, comparison, and testimony as its means of acquiring knowledge.

       The Vaisheshika-sutra, written in a question and answer format, was the first work written on this philosophy by Kanada. Prasastapada later wrote a definitive commentary on this sutra entitled Svartha Dharma Samgraha. The name Vaisheshika comes from vishesha, which means uniqueness or particularity. Therefore, the Vaisheshika system is a study of the uniqueness and qualities of existence, such as the elements, atoms, their interactions, as well as the soul. But it accepts only two independent sources of knowledge, which are perception and inference. It is a sutra that helps show the futility of life in the temporary worlds of maya, and the need for understanding God and to become free from all karma so that liberation can follow. However, the knowledge within this sutra is unnecessary if one already knows that understanding God and regaining one’s devotional love is the real goal of life.  

       The Vaisheshka-sutra contained several ideas: (1) that everything is composed of atoms bearing the qualities of either earth, water, light, or air; (2) that the individual souls are eternal and pervade a material body for a time; (3) there are nine basic elements, consisting of earth, water, light, air, ether, time, space, soul, and mind, which are all eternal in the form of energy; and (4) there are seven categories of experience, which are substance, quality, activity, generality, particularity, inherence, and non-existence. However, God is not mentioned in the sutra, but later commentators included knowledge of God to complete the system.

       Vaisheshika attempted to integrate philosophical theories with moral and spiritual attitudes or dharma which would lead people to good in this life and the next. However, it did not bring the Supreme Being to the point of ultimate reality, but as merely an agent of release from karma and repeated birth and death. Therefore, the Vaisheshika philosophy is not complete in its understanding of the Absolute Truth or of material nature.

       The Vaisheshika theory is that merely by interactions between atoms the elements are formed and, thus, the world and all objects within appear. However, this is refuted by the Vedanta-sutras. For example, if atoms are simply inert matter, then atomic combinations could not properly take place without some higher directional force. The Vaisheshikas say this force is the unseen principle but fail to explain fully what it is, where it resides, or how it works. They also say that atoms and relationships between the atoms of the elements as earth, water, air, etc., are eternal, but this would mean that any form composed of atoms would also be eternal, such as the material world and all that is in it. However, anyone can see that this is not the case since everything is always changing and breaking apart. Even the Vaisheshikas accept the fact that all bodies and forms composed of atoms are temporary. In this way, we can recognize the contradictions in the atomic theory of the Vaisheshikas, which is, therefore, unacceptable.

       The Sankhya philosophy is another system. The principal aim is to analyze the distinctions between matter and spirit. The study of the twenty-four material elements was originally developed as a complex science by Lord Kapila, as elaborated in Srimad-Bhagavatam. But later, there was another Kapila who presented an atheistic Sankhya system. Therefore, in other schools of this system, the existence of God is considered irrelevant. This is because the universe is regarded as a system of cause and effect. In other words, the cause of the universe is that which is eternal but ever-changing, or prakriti, the ever-changing material energy. God is eternal and non-changing, so, within this atheistic view of Sankhya it is considered that God cannot be the cause of the universe. Obviously, there are limitations in this analysis, such as not defining where prakriti came from and how could prakriti, which is inert, form the material universe without any guidance, and so on. So, gradually, there were additional arguments that again led to an acceptance of God in the philosophy of Sankhya.

       The original Sankhya system, as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam by Lord Kapila, acknowledges matter and spirit as two separate principles of reality. Thus, genuine Sankhya introduces a dualistic philosophy more developed than the previous three systems discussed so far. Sankhya analyzed such factors as purusha and prakriti (spirit and matter), the creation and development of matter through excitation of the purusha, how the world evolved, how the modes of nature operate and affect us, how ahankara (false ego) causes our identification with matter and bondage to the material world, the five organs of action and five senses of perception, the subtle elements, the gross elements, etc.

       The goal of this system is to understand that the real self is eternal and free, but because of ignorance the soul identifies with what is temporary and, therefore, suffers. Through this kind of analysis of the material world it is expected that one will realize the difference between matter and spirit and attain freedom from false identification. After this stage is attained, release from existence in the material world is reached through spiritual training, meditation on the real self and Superself, and the practice of yoga.

       Yoga is the next system, which is the application of the Sankhya system. Sankhya is the theory, and yoga is the practice. Yoga, which is essentially theistic, was known many years before Patanjali. Although he is often given the credit for it, he merely codified it in his Yoga Sutras. The complete system of yoga is very complex and has many steps to it, each of which must be perfected before one can go on to the next step. The purpose of yoga is to suspend the flickering nature and internal dictations of the mind. Yoga is also to attain relief from the pain that exists from such things as ignorance, which brings attachment, which then leads the way to fear and hatred, as well as the fear of death. The practice of yoga and renunciation is for bringing freedom from such pains and suffering. Although the basis of this system may be quite popular, few people can actually reach the higher levels of self-realization through this process in this day and age. The different levels of this process and yoga systems are briefly explained in the next chapter.  

       The other subsidiary portions of the Vedas previously mentioned in the Vedangas have additional texts that further explain that section of Vedic knowledge. For example, the Kalpa-sutras, which elaborate on the many kinds of rituals, are divided into four kinds, namely the Shrauta-sutras, Grihya-sutras, Dharma-sutras, and the Shulba-sutras.

       The Shrauta-sutras explain the rituals the priests engage in, and the details of performing a Vedic yajna, or ceremony, according to the particular branch of the Veda with which it is connected. It covers the large and royal rituals performed by kings, such as the ashvamedha or rajasuya, to the ordinary ones performed by a family, such as the agnishtoma, agnihotra, or the pitri yajna for the dead relatives.  

       The Grihya-sutras describes the general and ritualistic social traditions that are usually observed by householders for their upliftment. These include such things as the performance of daily worship, study of scripture, or installing a Deity in a temple. Also, how to greet a guest, do rituals for moving into a new house, or timely samskaras for giving a name to a child, or the ritual for a child’s first hair cutting, a youth’s acceptance of a Vedic order, or the marriage ceremony.

       The Dharma-sutras deal with the different disciplines or duties of a person, from common individuals up to the king. This includes duties of people in the four orders of life (from birth up to renunciation, or brahmacari student to sannyasa), along with duties of a man to his family and society, or duties of a married couple to each other and their children, or duties of a king to his subordinates.

       Vedic mathematics is found in the Shulba Sutras, which means codes of the rope since particular lengths of rope were used to make exact measurements. The Shulba-sutras had 1180 branches and give mathematical details on size and shape of altars for the fire rituals and the place where such ceremonies would take place. These mathematical codes are said to have been compiled from the 8th to the 5th century BC, however such codes probably existed far earlier than this. It is figured that the original Indian mathematical developments arose from the needs of their religious ceremonies that required altars of precise measurement. This started to gain significance when the sages began to emphasize the use of external processes of worship and ritual as an additional means to attain internal awareness and spiritual progress. In other words, they were not interested in math outside of what it could do for them spiritually. The Shulba Sutras show the earliest forms of algebra as used by the Vedic priests.

       The Shulba Sutras were only a portion of the broader system of mathematics found in the Kalpasutras. These consisted of arithmetic and algebra as well as geometry. In fact, geometrical instruments dating back to 2500 BC have been found in the Indus Valley, which was also a part of Vedic society. The Pythogorean theorem was already existing in the Shulba Sutras before Pythagorus presented it. This means he may have only learned of it through his travels in India rather than inventing it himself.

       It was the Vedic system that developed the decimal system of tens, hundreds, thousands, etc., and how to take the remainder of one column of numbers over to the next. The numeral system of nine numbers and a 0 made calculations very easy. Without the invention and use of 0, many of the mathematical advancements that have been made in the West would not have been possible. These numbers were developed from the Brahmi script and became popular after 700 AD, spreading into Arabia. They became known as the Arabic numerals because the Europeans, who had adopted them, got them from the traveling Arabians. Yet the Arabians called them “Indian figures” (Al-Arqan-Al-Hindu) because they had received them from India. Because of this it was called the India art (hindisat). Thus, the system of math that we all use today had its start in Vedic India.

       Further developments in mathematics in India by its mathematicians, such as Brahmagupta (7th century), Mahavira (9th century), and Bhaskara (12th century) in such areas as algebra and trigonometry were not known in Europe until the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, many of the great inventions made in Europe that we take for granted today, would have been impossible if they had been stuck with their cumbersome Roman numerals, and without the advanced system of mathematics that came from India.

       The Anukramanika is another book in the same category as these sutras and relates the contents of the Vedas. It consists of 1180 books for the 1180 Vedic branches. It lists all of the Vedic gods and their associated mantras, and all the sages who composed them. So this works like a summary of the Vedic books.

       Beyond these are many other texts that include the Sraddha-kalpa, Pitrimedhasutras, Parisistas, Prayogas, Karikas, etc., all of which deal only with Vedic rituals.

       A later text that also deals with the Vedic rituals is the Rigvidhana by the sage Shaunaka. This book gives explanations on the usage of many of the verses or hymns in the Rig-veda. The precise chanting of particular verses produces specific magical or quick results, such as overcoming one’s enemies, getting rid of disease, protecting oneself from ghosts, and many other things. The Rigvidhana indicates which verses, and the procedure if necessary, to be used to accomplish their various effects.

       Additional topics, such as alchemy, are also dealt with, or architecture as found in the Sthapatyaveda, or erotics as found in the Kama Sutra.

       India also had a long agricultural heritage that went back to before 3700 BC, and had the first written texts on the topic. One of the oldest books is the Krishi-Parashara (c. 400 BC), which means “Agriculture by Parashara”. This has been translated by the Asian Agri-History Foundation in Secunderabad, India. This book gives lists of tools to be used, ways of predicting rain by using basic astrology with climate conditions, methods of good farming management for the high yield of crops, management of cattle, along with advice on seed collection and storage, etc.

       Another text on agriculture was the Kashyapiyakrishisukti by Kashyapa (c. 700-800 AD). This describes the means of producing certain crops, cattle management, soil properties, laying out gardens, means of irrigation, marketing, ways of support from the government, as well as mining, and even a personal code of conduct for farmers.

       The Vrikshayurveda (The Science of Plant Life) by Surapala was another book that appeared later (c. 1000 AD). This dealt with the application of Ayurveda to various kinds of trees. However, it also contained knowledge of raising orchards, seed management, selection of soil, ways of irrigation, finding groundwater, using fertilizers, dealing with plant diseases, and so on. These books recommend practical ways of efficient farming while preserving the world’s resources and environment, along with the means by which humanity can achieve the essential aims of life, such as dharma, artha, kama and moksha (religion, economic development, sensual fulfillment, and liberation through spiritual advancement) which are all things that we should still consider today.

 

THE SMRITIS

       The Smritis were additional books that included those of many ancient authors, such as the Manu-samhita, the famous Vedic law book, and Yagyavalkya Smriti, Parashar Smriti, and those of Brihaspati, Daksha, Gautama, Yama, Angira, Pracheta, Yogeshwara, Atri, Vishnu, and several others. There were also the Upa-Smritis (smaller books) of Narada, Pulaha, Garga, Pulastya, Shaunaka, Kratu, Baudhayana, Jatukarna, Vishvamitra, Pitamaha, Jabali, Skanda, Kashyapa, Vyasa, Sanatkumara, Janaka, Vashishta, Bharadwaj and others. Most anyone who has done a fair amount of Vedic study will recognize these names, but most of these books are now unavailable.

       These Smritis, especially like the Manu-samhita, explained the codes and laws or disciplines of proper conduct, and the consequences or recommended penances for bad or evil behavior. They prescribe the kind of fasting or charity or austerity one should perform for curing oneself of various sins, and what a person could expect if he was not relieved of such karmic reactions. However, some of the rules and laws it presents were meant for a much more conservative and stricter day and age. Thus, they are not as applicable in these modern times.

       The first three Smritis mentioned above are the most important. However, their content is mostly for attaining good results in the next life or for attaining heaven or celestial opulence and avoiding hell. These generally do not provide the means for attaining complete liberation or God-realization, although the Manu-samhita does include such things as a description of proper behavior between guru and disciple.

       Nonetheless, just as with the Upanishads, there are some Smritis that do relate the more confidential aspects of how to reach the perfection of life and attain liberation and God-realization. For example, the Smriti of Sanatkumara, the Sri Sanatkumara Samhita, is still available today and has over 321 verses. It is said to be connected with the Skanda Purana. It starts by describing the unfortunate characteristics of the people in this age of Kali-yuga, and then goes on to explain the need for all people, from the lowest to the highest, to take shelter of the holy names of Hari, Krishna, as the only way to attain the Lord. It then prescribes two mantras that are most effective for this purpose, and explains how to chant them. It later goes into some detail in describing the sweet pastimes of Lord Krishna and His associates in the spiritual world. In this way, this specialized and rare Smriti describes the way for God-realization and the most secret of secrets for complete liberation from material existence.

 

VEDANTA AND THE VEDANTA-SUTRAS

       After the above-mentioned sutras, we now come to the Vedanta-sutras. When it comes to Vedanta, many commentaries on it revolve around the Brahman. The Brahman generally means the all-pervading, self-existent power. The word brahman is based on the root word brah, which means vastness, power or expansion. It also denotes the Supreme Being, as well as the atman, the living being, who, when freed from the body, becomes situated on the level of Brahman, or the spiritual nature. The concept of the Brahman was, for the most part, first elaborated in the Upanishads. Therein we begin to find descriptions from which our understanding of it grows. It is described as invisible, ungraspable, eternal, without qualities, and the imperishable source of all things. (Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.6-7)

       It is explained that Shankara’s advaita doctrine was based on the famous passage in the Chandogya Upanishad (6.10.3), tat tvam asi, meaning “That thou art.” He taught that “thou and that” were not to be regarded as object and subject, but as identical, without difference (a-bheda), like the real self (atman). Thus, anything that was variable, like the body, mind, intellect, and ego are objects of knowledge and not the atman.

       These concepts were more fully explained on the basis of the Vedanta-sutras. The Vedanta-sutras are a systemization of sutras or codes for understanding Vedic knowledge. As you know, they are short codes that are later to be explained by the spiritual master, guru or spiritual authority. By themselves, without further explanations, it is not easy to fathom their depths. So it is these commentaries that contain the additional information about such things as the Brahman.

        Vedanta means the conclusion of the Veda or end of all knowledge. Vedanta is also known as Uttara Mimamsa, or later examination, and is a companion to the Purva Mimamsa, or preliminary examination. The Purva Mimamsa deals with the early portions of the Vedas and the Uttara Mimamsa deals with the latter portions. The Vedic tradition, unlike other religions and philosophies, is rooted in such remote antiquity that its origin cannot be fully traced. The Vedic literature explains that it exists in the form of eternal spiritual vibrations and is present both within and outside the universal creation.

       Vedanta has been the most influential of the seven main systems of Eastern philosophy. Though the name Vedanta is often taken to indicate the impersonalist, nondual or Mayavada school of thought, it is essentially dualistic theism, but various commentaries have interpreted it to mean different things. It was the Sariraka-Bhasya commentary by Shankara that established the Vedanta as a nondualistic philosophy, meaning that the ultimate reality is but one. In this regard, the Brahman and the Atman (individual souls) are identical, and the Brahman is the Absolute Reality from which everything manifests and back into which everything merges. This interpretation has gained much respect and influence, but is not the only or ultimate viewpoint of Vedic literature, as will be explained.

       The Vedanta-sutras are like short, condensed bits of information used as reminders for the spiritual master in his discussions on Vedic philosophy with a student or disciple. Each line, therefore, is meant to be elaborated upon by the spiritual master for the understanding of the student.

       Vedanta means “the end of knowledge,” or the final conclusion of the Vedic philosophy. The Vedanta-sutras are also called the Brahma-sutra, Sariraka, Vyasa-sutra, Vedanta-darshana, Uttara-mimamsa, as well as Badarayana-sutra. Vyasa and Badarayana are two names for the same person who is considered to be the author and compiler of the major portions of Vedic literature.

       The Vedanta-sutras are divided into four chapters with four divisions each. In each division the theme within is stated, reasons for it are given, examples are supplied to uphold the presented facts, the theme is then explained further for clearer understanding, and finally authorized quotations from the Vedas are supplied to support it. In this way, the information is given in a format meant to show the authenticity and reliability of the Vedic viewpoint.

       The first two chapters discuss how the material world manifested from the Supreme and the relationship between the living entity and the Supreme. The third chapter explains how one engages in the prescribed duties to perform and how to act according to the loving relationship we have with the Lord. The fourth chapter describes the result of such devotional service (or bhakti), which is ultimately to attain liberation or return to the spiritual world.

       The first verse of the Vedanta-sutras states: “athato brahma-jijnasa”, which means, “Now is the time to inquire about the Absolute Truth.” Why is it time? Because we are presently in the human form of life and should utilize it properly since only in the human form do we have the intelligence and facility to be able to understand spiritual reality. In animal forms, the living entities cannot understand such things because they do not have the brainpower. So we should not waste this human form of life by pursuing only the animalistic propensities, such as eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Therefore, the Vedanta-sutras begin by stating that now is the time for us to understand the Absolute Truth.

       The Vedanta-sutras, however, being written only in codes, can be somewhat vague and requires a commentary to elaborate and explain the aphorisms. Practically speaking, some of the codes are fairly unclear for anyone who is not experienced in Vedic philosophy. And since Vedanta comprises the purport of the Upanishads which contain knowledge of both the personal and impersonal aspects of the Absolute, which commentary on the Vedanta-sutras you read can make a big difference. Some commentaries sway toward the impersonal understanding of the Absolute, while other commentaries sway toward the personal realizations. Obviously, to reach a mature understanding in this regard, we need to comprehend both of these viewpoints. In fact, it is stated that unless one understands all the features of the Absolute Truth, namely, the impersonal Brahman, the localized Paramatma or Supersoul, and ultimately the Supreme Personality of God, Bhagavan or Krishna, one’s knowledge is imperfect.

       After studying the previous portions of the Vedic literature, only when we arrive at this Brahma-sutras or Vedanta-sutras of Srila Vyasadeva do we find an emphasis on doing bhakti-yoga, or devotional activities, for realizing God. This means that God is ultimately the Supreme Person from whom there is the imminent loving exchange that can be attained by lovingly surrendering to Him. That devotion and emotional absorption in God is the process for becoming free from the illusory attraction and attachments to the material world. This paves the way for genuine liberation from worldly existence.

       There have been many commentaries written on the Vedanta-sutras. The most influential were by such famous acharyas as Shankara, Bhaskara, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Madhva, and Baladeva. So let us review a few of these to get a better view of the development of the advaita and dvaita philosophies.

       Let me point out here that the Vedic process has a unique system of checks and balances found nowhere else. This involves what you could call the three “S” system, namely sadhu (saintly devotees), shastra (Vedic texts) and spiritual master or acharya. If you ever want to know if you are taking the right path and are not being mislead, you use this system. This means that any truth that you are given must be verified by these three sources of guru, shastra and sadhus. Even if a guru tells you something that cannot be verified in the shastra or by other sadhus, then it should be questioned or taken with caution. Sadhu, shastra and spiritual master must all verify the points in order to be considered authentic and truth. So now we are going to read about what some of the most prominent acharyas or spiritual authorities have said about what the ultimate reality is and how to understand it.

       One of the most influential was Shankara (509-477 BC, though others have said 788-820 AD). He was a follower of Shiva, born of a South Indian brahmana family in the town of Kaladi, on the banks of the Periyar River. His father’s name was Shivaguru, and he lost his father at a young age. When he was only eight years old he finished his studies of all the scriptures and took sannyasa from Govinda who stayed on the banks of the Narmada and was a disciple of Gaudapada, the author of Mandukya-karika, a commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad. Not long after that he left for Varanasi, and then for Badarikashrama in the Himalayas. There he stayed until his twelth year. While there he wrote his commentary on the Brahma-sutra, as well as on ten Upanishads and Bhagavadgita. He continued to travel and preach and made many disciples. He left this world at the early age of thirty-three.

       He established four main maths, or schools of study. These were at Dwaraka in the west, Jagannatha Puri in the east, Badrinatha in the north, and Shringeri in the south. These have records of their original establishment and list all of the successive acharyas who followed from the time of Shankaracharya. One of these lists, such as the one displayed at the Kamakoti Shankara Math in Kanchipuram, date back to 477 BC, thus dating earlier than the time of Christ.

       Shankaracharya’s two major works are the Vivida-cudamani and Sariraka-basya. When Shankara appeared, Buddhism and anti-Vedic thought had spread throughout India because it had been patronized by Emperor Asoka in the third century B.C., and the followers of Buddhism had given up the Vedas. The Buddhist philosophy establishes that the material creation is the only manifestation of the Absolute Truth, which itself is temporary and brought on by egoistic desires. It is asserted that these desires must be eliminated for one to enter back into the void. The void itself is said to be all that is real and eternal, and the source from which everything manifests. Shankara’s purpose, therefore, was to reform and purify religious life by re-establishing the authority of the Vedic scriptures. His interpretation of the Vedas is known as advaita or nondualistic because he taught that the individual jiva or soul is identical with God, and that there is ultimately no variety, no individuality or personality in spiritual existence. The individuality of both the Supreme Being and the jiva, according to him, is false.

       In order for Shankara to teach like this, he had to ignore the many statements in the Vedic literature which assert that the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person and the jivas are His subordinate parts. Therefore, by word jugglery, he developed a twofold theory that Brahman consists of the pure impersonal Brahman, and that any incarnation of God within this universe is simply a manifestation of that Brahman. This was a complete rejection of the personalistic teachings found in some of the Vedic literature, such as Bhagavad-gita, and in this way he differed with all orthodox Vedic schools at the time. Like Buddha, he also refused to answer questions about the origin of the cosmos and said that maya, the illusory energy, was inexplicable.

       This Mayavada philosophy teaches that the material world is false and the impersonal Brahman, or great white light or spiritual force, is the ultimate truth. One merges back into the Brahman, where there exists no activities or spiritual characteristics, after giving up the ego or bodily consciousness. Therefore, we find that impersonalists generally do not study the Vedas beyond the Vedanta-sutras because as we progress through the Vedic literature up to the Puranas, it becomes more specific about the personal characteristics of the Absolute Truth and the individual nature of the jiva souls, which contradicts the impersonal viewpoint.

       We must point out that some spiritual authorities say that Shankaracharya was an incarnation of Lord Shiva who had been ordered by the Supreme Lord to cheat the atheists. The Shiva Purana quotes the Supreme Lord as ordering Shiva: “In Kali-yuga mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings from the Vedas [Vedic literature] to bewilder them”:

dvaparadau yuge bhutva

kalaya manushadishu

svagamaih kalpitais tvam ca

janan mad-vimukhan kuru 1

 

       The Padma Purana also says that Lord Shiva would descend as a brahmana sannyasi and teach Mayavada philosophy in the verse:

mayavada ashat shastram prachchanna

boudhyam uchyate moya ebe godidam

devi kalou brahmana murtina

 

       To do this, Shankara gave up the direct method of Vedic knowledge and presented an indirect meaning which actually covered the real goal of Vedanta. This is confirmed in the Padma Purana where Lord Shiva addresses his wife, Parvati:

shrinu devi pravaksyami

tamasani yathakramam

yesham shravana-matrena

patityam jnaninam api

 

apartham shruti-vakyanam

darshayal loka-garhitam

karma-svarupa-tyajyatvam

atra ca pratipadyate

 

sarva-karma-paribhramsan

naiskarmyam tatra cocyate

paratma-jivayor aikyam

mayatra pratipadyate

 

“My dear wife, hear my explanations of how I have spread ignorance through Mayavada philosophy. Simply by hearing it even an advanced scholar will fall down. In this philosophy which is certainly very inauspicious for people in general, I have misrepresented the real meaning of the Vedas and recommended that one give up all activities in order to achieve freedom from karma. In this Mayavada philosophy I have described the jivatma and Paramatma to be one and the same.” 2  

       The Padma Purana, in the quote that follows, describes how Lord Shiva tells his wife, Parvati, that he would appear in Kali-yuga to teach the impersonalistic philosophy, which is impious and merely a covered form of Buddhism. Yet, as explained next, there was a purpose for it. 

mayavadam asac-chastram

pracchannam bauddham ucyate

mayaiva kalpitam devi

kalau brahmana rupini

 

brahmanas caparam rupam

nirgunam vaksyate maya

sarvasvam jagato’py asya

mohanartham kalau yuge

 

vedante tu maha-shastre

mayavadam avaidikam

mayaiva vaksyate devi

jagatam nasha-karanat

 “The Mayavada philosophy is impious. It is covered Buddhism. My dear Parvati, in the form of a brahmana in Kali-yuga I teach this imagined Mayavada philosophy. In order to cheat the atheists I mislead them by describing the Supreme Lord to be without any personal form or qualities.” 3

       Herein, Lord Shiva himself points out that to believe God has no form is not accurate and is equal to atheism. Even though this Mayavada philosophy was not good for pious people to hear because it would sway them toward an impersonalistic viewpoint, we should note that Shankara’s philosophy was just right for the time and circumstance. The Buddhists, who had spread throughout India and neglected the Vedas, believed in neither a soul nor a God and that, ultimately, the essence of everything is the nothingness or void wherein lies nirvana, freedom from all suffering. So considering how the Buddhists had followed a philosophy of what would generally be considered atheism for hundreds of years and would never have accepted a viewpoint which advocated a supreme personal God, Shankara’s was the only philosophy they would have considered. It was like a compromise between atheism and theism, but Shankara used portions of Vedic knowledge as the basis of his arguments. In this way, as Shankara traveled throughout India his arguments prevailed. Thus, Buddhism bowed and Vedic culture was brought back to prominence. Therefore, his purpose was accomplished, so much so that his Sariraka-bhasya is considered the definitive rendition of Vedanta even to the present day.

       Several times, however, Shankara revealed his true beliefs, that he was actually a devotee of Lord Krishna. For example, in the first verse of his Vivida-cudamani he explains that it is Krishna Himself who is the source of the supreme bliss and the Divine Master to whom he offers obeisance. Furthermore, in his birthplace of Kaladi there is a temple near the samadhi tomb of his mother that has a Deity of Lord Krishna that was installed by Shankara himself. So why would he give his mother the facility to worship Krishna if he was also not in favor of such a view? Also, in his Gita-bhasya, the first verse explains that Narayana (another incarnation of Lord Krishna), or Bhagavan, is transcendental to the material creation. In The Bhagavad-gita with the Commentary of Sri Sankaracarya, (p.6) Dinkar Vishnu Gokhale establishes that Shankara writes in his Meditations on the Bhagavad-gita: “Salutations to thee, O Vyasa [the incarnation of Krishna who compiled the essential Vedic literature]. Thou art of mighty intellect, and thine eyes are as large as a full-blown lotus. It was thou who brightened this lamp of wisdom, filling it with the oil of the Mahabharata.”4 Shankara also readily points out that it is Bhagavan Krishna “whose glories are sung by the verses of the Vedas, of whom the singers of the Sama sing, and of whose glories the Upanishads proclaim in full choir.”5

       This would seem to indicate that Shankara was encouraging everyone to read Bhagavad-gita and Mahabharata as written by Srila Vyasadeva to understand the conclusion of spiritual knowledge. This would also give evidence that Shankara’s own personal beliefs were different from the philosophy that he taught. There is no evidence that makes this more clear than texts eight and nine of his Meditations on the Bhagavad-gita as follows:

I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, the transcendental, blissful husband of the Goddess of Fortune, whose mercy turns the dumb into eloquent speakers and enables the lame to cross mountains. Let all obeisances be unto the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, whom Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Rudra, the Maruts, and all divine beings praise with the divine hymns of the Vedas and their supplementary parts, such as the Upanishads, whom the followers of the Sama-veda glorify with song, whom great mystics see with their minds absorbed in perfect meditation and of whom all the hosts of demigods and demons know not the limitations. To Him, the Supreme Lord, let there be all obeisances.

       Near the end of his life, Shankara wrote his Bhaja Govindam prayers. Verses 1 and 34, which are the conclusive verses in these prayers, are often overlooked by his followers. Yet they were written especially for those who might miss the actual purport of the Vedas. He wrote in verse one, “Worship Govinda [another name of Krishna], worship Govinda, worship Govinda, you intellectual fools. At the end of your life all your grammatical arguments will not help you.” And again in verse 34 he writes: “Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool. Other than chanting the Lord’s names, there is no other way to cross the material ocean [of birth and death].”

       In the final book that Shankaracharya wrote, the Prabodh Sudhakar, he established his true philosophy. He pointed out that God has two eternal forms, which are both personal and impersonal, that latter of which is difficult to realize. The supreme form is the beautiful and divine Lord Krishna, who appeared on this earth in the Yadu dynasty. Without devotion to Lord Krishna, one’s heart cannot be fully purified. Thus, as he says, it is one’s own ill fortune if one is not attracted to the form and pastimes of Lord Krishna.

       In this way, even Shankaracharya emphasized that it is Krishna who is the Supreme form of God, and that the supreme form of God-realization is through the process of worshiping Him and chanting Krishna’s holy names, which is the sure way of liberation from material existence.

 

       Ramanuja (A.D. 1017-1137) did not accept Shankara’s Mayavada interpretation of the Vedanta-sutras and sought to expose Shankara’s contradictory arguments which were actually in defiance of the real Vedic conclusions. He felt there was little difference between Shakara’s philosophy and the Buddhists.  Ramanuja wrote over forty books, but the three major commentaries for which Ramanuja is most known is his Vedanta-sangraha, which is on the Vedas; the Sri-bhasya on the Vedanta-sutras; and Bhagavad-gita-bhasya, which is on Bhagavad-gita. His prominent theme is his opposition to impersonal monism, especially of Shankara, and the support of Vaishnavism, worship of the one God Vishnu or Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

       Ramanuja’s interpretation of Vedanta, as related in his Sri Bhasya commentary, establishes that God is one and the soul is a part of God, but that it remains individual in nature even after liberation from the body, rather than merging into the Absolute. This is called vishishthadvaita. He also explains that the process for liberation includes surrendering to the personal form of God.

       Ramanuja accepted that the Supreme and the individual living entities are one in spiritual quality, but the individual souls are very small and God is unlimited, and between them is a relationship based on bhakti, or spiritual love. By logical reasoning, he taught that just as the jiva controls his own body and uses it as an instrument, God controls the whole material creation as well as the jiva souls within. The soul is eternal and after being liberated from material entanglement lives in an eternal spiritual body. The soul is the eternal servant of God, in which case the soul becomes fully happy after meeting and engaging in service to God. This, therefore, is the goal of the Vedic spiritual process.

 

       Madhvacharya (A.D. 1239-1319) was another prominent philosopher who wrote a commentary on the Vedanta Sutra and the Gita, along with more than thirty other books. He was also a Vaishnava who worked to combat Shankara’s impersonal philosophy. Madhava accepted the renounced order of sannyasa when he was only eleven years old. He studied the Vedanta and after traveling to the Himalayas, he met Vyasadeva who still lives in the mountains and who taught him to teach the glories of Vaishnava bhakti. Thereafter, he traveled around the country and established the importance of bhakti through his talent of debating with scriptural evidence.

       Madhva’s interpretation of Vedanta, as found in his Tatparya Nirnayas, also presents Vedanta philosophy as dualistic (dvaita), similar to Ramanuja’s but more developed. Madhva taught pure dualism and that there are three energies: the spiritual, marginal and inferior. The Lord is of the superior spiritual energy and controller of all other energies. The living entities are the marginal energy since they can be engrossed spiritually or materially. And the material energy is inferior due to its temporary nature. The Lord and the living entities are eternal and always distinct, but the Lord is always completely transcendental to the material world. The Lord is the ultimate cause of the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the material manifestation, thereby being completely independent while the living entities are completely dependent on the Lord. They remain bound up in material energy by the result of their own karma or activities based on their fruitive desires. But Madhva pointed out that through bhakti, devotion to God, people could eliminate their karma and reawaken their real spiritual identity and return to their natural position in the spiritual world.

 

       Nimbarka also delivered a commentary called Vedanta Parijata Saurabh based on the dualistic idea. He was born in South India, somewhere near the Godavari River, but it is not known exactly when. The tradition is that he was initiated by Narada Muni, another eternally living sage. In his commentary he establishes that God is one with but separate from each soul. This is called the dvaitadvaitvad philosophy. This means that God and the individual souls are spiritual in quality, yet God is infinite, and the living entities are infinitesimal. Nimbarka also explained that Radha-Krishna are the ultimate form of God, and the basis of the topmost spiritual development is devotion to Radha-Krishna.

 

       Vallabhacharya (1478-1530) also wrote a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras, called the Anu Bhashya. He also wrote on the Bhagavatam, along with a few other books, which emphasized that the Bhagavatam is the essence of all spiritual and devotional knowledge. His philosophy is called shuddhadvaita vad, or pure monism. This established that Krishna was the supreme form of God, and that the soul is not merely a part of God’s energy, but is qualitatively the same as God, but small in potency. Furthermore, Krishna gives a person everything for spiritual development when one surrenders with love to Him. This knowledge is said to have started from Lord Shiva (Rudra), and came down to Vishnuswami, then Gyanadeva, Nath Dev, and on down to Vallabhacharya. This is why it is also called the Rudra sampradaya or disciplic succession.

       Vallabhacharya was born in Raipur. By the time he was eleven years old he went to Kashi to study under Madhavendra Puri and became well educated in the knowledge of the Vedic scripture. After staying for a time in Vrindavana, he traveled to the major holy places of India and spread the understanding of devotion to Lord Krishna. After he returned to Vrindavana he started the temple of Sri Nathji at Govardhan. He established a structured form of Deity worship centered around the Deity of Lord Krishna. When he was 28, he was married and had two sons, Gopinatha and Vitthalnath. Vitthal became known as Goswamiji and started six more temples, of which four are in the area of Vrindavana, two in Kamban and one in Gokul. Kashi was the home to Vallabhacharya the last years of his life. It is said that once during bathing in the river, in front of hundreds of people, a big bright light appeared near him and he ascended up into the sky and disappeared into the spiritual world.

 

       Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1534) also strongly opposed Shankara’s Mayavada philosophy and established the principle of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. This specified that the Supreme and the individual soul are inconceivably and simultaneously one and different. This means that the Supreme and the jiva souls are the same in quality, being eternally spiritual, but always separate individually. The jivas are small and subject to being influenced by the material energy, while the Supreme is infinite and always above and beyond the material manifestation.

       Sri Chaitanya taught that the direct meaning of the Vedic shastras is that the living entities are to engage in devotional service, bhakti, to the Supreme, Bhagavan Sri Krishna. Through this practice there can develop a level of communication between God and the individual by which God will lovingly reveal Himself to those who become qualified. In this understanding, the Vedic theistic philosophy of Vaishnavism reached its climax.

       Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is considered and was established by Vedic scripture as the most recent incarnation of God, did not become much involved in writing. In fact, He only wrote eight verses called the Shikshastaka, but His followers compiled extensive Sanskrit literature that documented His life and fully explained His teachings. However, it is one of His followers, Baladeva Vidyabushana, who wrote a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras called Govinda-bhasya. (See Appendix Three for more information about Lord Chaitanya)

 

       Baladeva Vidyabushana also wrote a very important commentary on the Vedanta called Sri Bhasya, and established the individual nature of the soul. Baladeva had met Pandit Sri Radha-Damodara, a disciple of Sri Rasikananda Deva, who was a great follower of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Radha-Damodar instructed Baladeva in the pastimes and teachings of Sri Chaitanya and the Vaishnava Gaudiya tradition. Later Baladeva went to Vrindavana to stay with Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakur to continue his progress.

       One day in the royal court in Jaipur, the Ramanuja pandits were arguing that the Gaudiya line did not have any written commentary on the Vedanta. In other words, without a written commentary, they were not viewed as authorized. So the Ramanuja Pandits said the Gaudiya Vaishnavas should simply join them since they were an authorized line with their own written commentary. The Jaipur king, who was also a follower of the Gaudiya line, sent word of this to Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakur asking that if there was a commentary it should be sent at once. Sri Vishvanatha was too old and infirm to go, so he sent Baladeva to Jaipur.

       Baladeva was an excellent scholar and challenged the Ramanuja pandits in the huge assembly. Even after much debate, none of them could stand before Baladeva’s conclusions. However, he said that the Gaudiya Vaishnava line or sampradaya did not write a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras because they accepted Vyasadeva’s Srimad-Bhagavatam as the final commentary on Vedanta. The Ramanuja pandits could not accept this. So Baladeva promised to show a commentary to them in a few days.

       Baladeva, in a troubled state, then went to the temple to pray to Rupa Gosvami’s Deity, Lord Govinda, and related everything that had happened to the Deity, who is still one of the prominent Deities in Jaipur today. That night Baladeva had a dream in which Sri Govinda told him to write the commentary and it would be perfect. Thereafter, he meditated on the lotus feet of the Deity of Govinda and wrote the powerful commentary and called it Govinda-bhasya, signifying that it was the words of Sri Krishna Himself. He arrived at the assembly hall of the king and presented the commentary to the Ramanuja pandits, who were speechless. The Gaudiya tradition was declared victorious and that is when the pandits gave Baladeva the name of Vidyabhushana, meaning one whose decoration is knowledge. The Ramanuja pandits also accepted Baladeva as their acharya and desired to become his disciples. However, with humility he said that the Ramanuja or Shri sampradaya was also one of the four prominent spiritual successions.

       Baladeva wrote a number of other books besides the Govinda-bhasya, among the most noted are Siddhanta-darpana, Vedanta-samantaka, and Prameya Ratnavali. All of these presented different levels of spiritual understanding based on the fact that the Vedic knowledge is the best to use for realizing the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and the ultimate form of reality.

 

       There is, of course, one more commentary on the Vedanta-sutras that we cannot neglect. Srila Vyasadeva, the original author of the Vedanta-sutras, was still not satisfied after writing it. After explaining this perplexing situation to his spiritual master, Narada Muni, he was advised to write the Srimad-Bhagavatam (also called the Bhagavata Purana). After doing so, Vyasadeva considered it his own commentary on the Vedanta-sutras and the complete explanation and conclusion of all Vedic philosophy. This is why Sri Chaitanya never cared for writing a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras, because He considered Srimad-Bhagavatam to be the topmost commentary that had already been written, which will be discussed soon. This Srimad-Bhagavatam is part of the Vedic literature called the Itihasas.

 

THE ITIHASAS

       The Itihasas, or supplementary Vedic literature, helps explain the rituals of the Vedas and the highly compressed philosophy of the Vedanta-sutras by using historical events of the universe and factual stories of many great sages, demigods, and so forth.

       Included in the Itihasas is the Mahabharata, written by Srila Vyasadeva. It is an historical epic about the great kingdom of Bharatavarsa, or the region of India. It contains 110,000 couplets making it the longest poem and greatest epic in world literature. It is divided into 18 sections called parvas, such as the Adi Parva, etc. It is a treasure house of Indian lore and holds within it a code of life for ethical, social and spiritual relations. Throughout this great epic every sort of human situation is described and every kind of emotion is aroused. There is a saying that if it is not in the Mahabharata then it is not to be found.

       The Mahabharata deals with the activities of the Pandavas and Krishna’s relations, as well as topics that include the creation of the world, history of the sages, dharma, politics, military strategies, proper behavior of a king, and ways of spirituality and devotion to God. It includes the essence of the Upanishads and Vedic teachings, and the famous Bhagavad-gita.

       The Mahabharata also explains a great variety of historical incidents, mainly consisting of the story of how the demoniac Kuru dynasty cheated the family of pious Pandavas time and time again out of their rightful heritage of the kingdom of northern India. Finally, after the Pandavas are exiled to the forest and attempted peaceful means to gain their right to the throne, the epic centers around the eighteen day battle at Kuruksetra, a place which is still found in Madhyadesa, a three hour train ride north of Delhi. There the Pandava army defeated the Kurus and their soldiers. This is also where Sri Krishna speaks the Bhagavad-gita to His friend Arjuna just before the battle takes place.

       The Bhagavad-gita is from chapters 25 to 42 of the Bishma-parva section of the Mahabharata. It is a classic of Indian literature and considered the essence of all Vedic knowledge. It is the indispensable Upanishad and the important handbook or guide for traveling the spiritual path to God realization. It is especially good for those who do not have much time for reading or who cannot go very deeply into studying the Vedic literature. It contains knowledge of the soul, law of karma, reincarnation, attaining the Supreme, knowledge of God, and the essential purpose of life. It ultimately reveals the supremacy of the path of devotion, bhakti-yoga, as the best means for regaining our awareness of our relationship with the Supreme Lord. More importantly, the Bhagavad-gita is the direct instruction from God to His devotee. The Mahabharata is especially meant to draw the attention of people to the Bhagavad-gita through the format of an exciting, historical adventure, which is certainly found in the Mahabharata.

       The Ramayana is a similar epic, consisting of 24,000 verses, and first written during the time of Lord Ramachandra by the great poet Valmiki, which describes the life of Lord Ramachandra, an incarnation of God, and His wife Sita. This is also a most touching and exciting adventure which explains how Lord Ramachandra lived in the forest and fought against and killed the great demon Ravana and his armies in order to rescue His wife, Sita, who had been kidnapped. Many other stories are included in this storehouse of wisdom that has been an inspiration for thousands of years to all people who have read it. In the incarnation of Lord Ramachandra, God appears as the perfect king and ruler, and inspires all His subjects with the greatest love for Him.

       Even though the Itihasas are accepted as supplementary Vedic literature, the acharyas such as Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva have all presented the Itihasas as valid Vedic evidence and wrote commentaries on Bhagavad-gita. Actually Shankara thought the Gita was in fact the epitome of the essentials of all Vedic teaching. Madhva, commenting on the Vedanta-sutras (2.1.6), quotes the Bhavisya Purana, which states, “The Rig-veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda, Atharva-veda, Mahabharata, Pancaratra, and the original Ramayana are all considered Vedic literature. The Vaishnava supplements, the Puranas, are also Vedic literature.” The Chandogya Upanisad (7.1.4) mentions the Puranas and Itihasas as the fifth Veda. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.4.20) also states, “The four divisions of the original sources of knowledge [the Vedas] were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Puranas are called the fifth Veda.” Therefore, the Vedas themselves not only accept the four Vedas, the Upanishads, and Vedanta-sutras, but also the Mahabharata, Bhagavad-gita, the Ramayana, and the Puranas as being authentic Vedic literature.

       The point is, to be accepted as Vedic literature it must present the same purpose as the original texts. But if it deviates from the Vedic conclusion or is a hodgepodge of various concocted philosophies, as are many viewpoints that one will find merged under the name of “Hinduism,” then it cannot be relied upon. Therefore, to be sure something is authorized, we only accept the established Vedic teachings that are supported in the many Vedic texts. So Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, which do not refer to or support the conclusions of the Vedic texts, are considered non-Vedic, although outgrowths of Vedic philosophy and accepted as part of Hinduism by some.

 

THE PURANAS

       Another important part of the Itihasas are the Puranas. The Puranas are the histories of the universe and contain many stories that took place on earth or even on other planets and dimensions, or in which superhuman powers are commonplace. As we pointed out earlier, Vedic knowledge often consists of information about things from beyond our own sense perception or experience. We can be assured of its authenticity because of the fact that many Vedic scholars such as Sukadeva, Maitreya, Madhva, Ramanuja, and others have reached spiritual perfection with the help of information found in the Puranas.

       Each Purana is supposed to contain five basic subjects and in some cases ten. These include the creation of the world, its destruction and re-creation, the genealogy of the patriarchs and the demigods, the reigns of the Manus (who are the avataras in each duration of time known as a manvantara), and the history of the Solar and Lunar dynasties. Many of them also include descriptions of the activities of the incarnations of God, as well as the great sages and devotees of God. One thing that may seem somewhat confusing is that the stories are not in any particular chronological order and may be related at any time according to need. This is primarily due to the fact that the Puranas are generally related in a dialogue of questions and answers between sages and saints, or masters and disciples. Then the histories and stories are related in the answers.

       Other subjects included in various Puranas are geography, astrology, use of military weapons, organization of society, duties of different classes of men, characteristics of social leaders, predictions of the future, law of reincarnation and karma, analysis of the material elements, symptoms of consciousness, how the illusory energy works, the practice of yoga, meditation, spiritual experiences, realizations of the Absolute, etc.

       The Puranas explain more clearly and completely the spiritual philosophy found in the four original Veda samhitas. Thus, they especially are meant for all classes of people. Since all men are not on the same level of consciousness and are spread over many different types of thinking, feeling and desiring, the Puranas are divided so that any class of people can take advantage of them and utilize them to get out of the material entanglement either gradually or rapidly. So, depending on their position in life, people may use the particular Puranas that are most suited for them.

       The Puranas are divided into two main groups consisting of the primary Mahapuranas and the secondary Upa-puranas. The Upa-puranas consist of eighteen, entitled: Sanatkumara, Narasimha, Naradiya, Shiva, Durvasasa, Kapila, Manava, Ausanasa, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Saura, Parasara, Aditya, Mahesvara, Bhagavata or Bhargava, and Vasistha.

       The eighteen Mahapuranas are divided into three groups. One group considered to be related to the mode of tamo-guna, or the lower nature, consists of the Linga, Skanda, Agni, Matsya, Kurma, and Shiva (or sometimes the Vayu) Puranas. These are usually related to Lord Shiva. The next group is usually related to Lord Brahma and is considered connected with raja-guna, the mode of action or passion. These consist of the Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma-vaivarta, Markandeya, Bhavisya, and Vamana Puranas. The third group relates to Lord Vishnu with satya-guna prevailing, which is the mode of purity or goodness. These are the Vishnu, Bhagavata, Narada or Naradiya, Garuda, Padma, and Varaha Puranas.

 

A REVIEW OF THE PURANAS

       This review of the Puranas will exhibit some of the many topics found in each one. We offer this so that we can get an understanding of the basic content of each Purana and see the direction in awareness and understanding that can be reached by the study of particular Puranas.

       The Linga Purana has about 11,000 verses in two sections. It focuses mainly on the glories and activities of Lord Shiva. This Purana includes the manifestation of the Shiva-linga and its worship, the worship and fasting days for Shiva, descriptions of the holy city of Kashi (Varanasi), Shiva’s thousand names, his marriage to Parvati, the appearance of Ganesh, and more. The later section also includes some descriptions of the glories of Lord Vishnu and some of His pastimes, as well as more about the worship of Lord Shiva.

       The Skanda Purana is the largest with around 81,000 verses. It is divided into seven sections, mostly about Lord Vishnu and Shiva. It covers many different topics, some of which include the holiness of places like Kedar, Badarikashrama, Mathura, Kashi, Dwarka, and many other places and sacred rivers. It also covers worship of Shiva, the austerities of Parvati, worship of Vishnu and stories of prominent devotees, as well as activities and worship of Lord Rama,

       The Agni Purana has about 15,000 verses. Herein Agni, the fire-god, explains to the sage Vashishtha many spiritual instructions. These include descriptions of the Lord’s incarnations, the universal creation, the greatness of the Ganges River, the science of astrology, religious disciplines, yoga practice, Ayurveda, knowledge of Brahman, and the art of bhakti, or devotional service.

       The Matsya Purana has about 14,000 verses, which begins with the conversation between Lord Matsya and Manu. Again, it includes many topics, among which you can find descriptions of the universal creation, the family and descendants of King Iksvaku, Surya and Chandra, along with the ten avataras of God. It also relates the principles of worship and fasting on holy days, the pastimes of Parvati and Shiva, their marriage, and other stories.

       The Kurma Purana has around 17,000 verses about the occurrences of the day of Brahma called Lakshmi-kalpa. Herein, the Lord’s incarnation as Kurma presents His teachings to the great sages. These include the manifestation and maintenance of the universe, the pastimes of Lord Krishna, the greatness of Kashi and other holy places, the effects of devotion (bhakti) to God that everyone should strive to attain, and the duties or dharma for liberation.

       The Vayu Purana, or sometimes the Shiva Purana, has about 24,000 verses. In this book Vayu, the wind god, describes events of the present kalpa, or day of Brahma. It contains the usual information that a Purana explains, such as the process of creation, the incarnations of God, the manvantaras, the glories of the Narmada River, and detailed accounts of Lord Shiva.

       The Brahma Purana has around 10,000 verses. This includes the stories of Lord Ramachandra, many stories of Lord Krishna, along with those of Surya the sun god, and the birth of Parvati and her marriage to Shiva, and other aspects of the Vedic sciences.

       The Brahmananda Purana has around 12,000 verses in four parts. This provides descriptions of future kalpas (days of Brahma). Included are descriptions of the holy place of Naimisharanya, Bharatvarsha (the area of India) and other places in the world. It also describes other planetary systems, Svayambhuva Manu and other manvantaras, the activities of Lord Krishna, and the dynasties of King Iksvaku, Yadu and Vrishni, along with the dynasties and characteristics of people in the age of Kali-yuga. There are also descriptions of the creation and annihilation of the universe.

       The Brahma-vaivarta Purana has about 18,000 verses in four sections. This Purana is known for the information it provides about Lord Vishnu and Shiva, and shows their unity. It also includes the basic topics of most Puranas, such as the account of the universal creation. It also provides 129 chapters of many stories of the pastimes of Radha and Krishna and how to worship Him. It also discusses Goloka, the divinity of Krishna and appearance of Radha, and numerous descriptions of Her, the birth and marriage of Tulasi, the story of Vrinda, and more. There are also accounts of Narada going to Shiva’s abode and receiving instructions, along with activities of Ganesh, Kartikeya, Parashurama, and others.

       The Markandeya Purana has about 9,000 verses. Here we find the conversation between the sages Markandeya and Jaimini. A wide range of topics are discussed, a few of which include Lord Balarama’s pilgrimage when He refused to take part in the war of Kurukshetra, stories of Draupadi’s five sons, Dattatreya, the lineage of Vaivasvata Manu, stories of Lord Rama, Krishna, His incarnations, and various spiritual instructions.

       The Bhavishya Purana has about 14,000 verses in five sections, or parvas. This deals with the characteristics of Brahma, dharma, worship of Vishnu and Shiva for worldly prosperity as well as liberation, and information about Surya. There are also instructions for religious discipline, charity, etc. The fifth section is what this Purana is most known for, which contains the descriptions of the kings and characteristics of the future of this age of Kali-yuga. However, there are now parts of this Purana, namely of the fifth section, that are completely lost. Furthermore, some scholars feel that certain portions of it, such as the Uttara Parva, were later additions that were separate from the original. So, though many people look to the Bhavishya Purana for its predictions of the future, it is not considered fully dependable because of the additions and deletions. However, numerous predictions of the future are also found in other Puranas, many of which can help substantiate those in the Bhavishya by comparisons.

       The Vamana Purana has about 10,000 verses and describes the occurrences that take place in the day of Brahma called the Kurma-kalpa. It relates the fighting between the demons and demigods, Daksha’s unfortunate sacrificial ritual, the activities of Goddess Durga and Parvati, the greatness of Vishnu, and the conversation between Prahlada and King Bali, as well as the activities of Lord Krishna and His devotees.

       The Varaha Purana has about 24,000 verses. Herein there is a conversation between Lord Varaha and Bhumidevi (the Earth Goddess) about the manifestation of Gauri (Parvati) and her sons Ganesh and Kartikeya. Gauri’s battle with the demon Mahishasura, and the greatness of holy sites like Mathura and other places are also described. It also has more about general Vedic philosophy.

       The Narada Purana has around 25,000 verses. This Purana includes the teachings of the four Kumaras who offer their advice regarding such things as duties in family life and religious practice. There are also descriptions of the appearance and activities of Shukadeva Gosvami who learned the knowledge of the Bhagavatam and recited it for King Pariksit, along with the pastimes and characteristics of Lord Vishnu, Surya, Ganesh, Shiva, Durga, and others. It also offers descriptions of the other Puranas, as well as the greatness of such holy places as Haridwar, Kashi, Kuruksetra, Mathura, Vrindavana, and other places.

       The Garuda Purana has around 19,000 verses in which Lord Vishnu answers questions of his carrier, Garuda, on Vedic topics and activities of the day of Brahma called the Tarkshya-kalpa. This Purana primarily relates the glories of Lord Vishnu. It contains the thousand names of Vishnu (the Vishnu Sahasranama), ways of meditating on Lord Vishnu and worship of Lord Krishna. It also includes the pastimes of Lord Rama, the process of yoga, types of charity, Sankhya philosophy, descriptions of the spiritual domain, the celestial regions, and the process for attaining liberation from material existence.

       The Padma Purana is a large book of 55,000 verses in five sections. It includes the important stories of Lord Krishna and Vrindavana, Lord Rama, and other stories on the importance of various holy places, such as Pushkar, Jagannatha Puri, Kashi (Varanasi), Prayag (Allahabad), Gaya, and the Narmada and Ganga rivers. It also includes a section called the Bhagavata Mahatmya on the glories and greatness of the Bhagavata Purana.

       The Devi Bhagavat is another prominent Purana not mentioned in the main groups that is said to be written by Srila Vyasadeva. It has 18,000 verses in 12 cantos. It offers descriptions of the other 18 Puranas and the 18 Upa Puranas. It also describes the 28 Vyasadevas who appeared at the end of each of the 28 Dvapara-yugas during the present time period known as the manvantara of Svayambhuva Manu. It also contains the typical information found in most Puranas, but the 10th canto specializes in information about the goddesses Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Sarasvati. The 9th canto explains that Vishnu and Shiva ultimately appeared from Lord Krishna, and both Lakshmi and Sarasvati manifested from the Supreme Goddess Srimati Radharani, while Durga appeared in front of both Radha and Krishna. This shows that Radha and Krishna are the source of all other forms of the Divine.

       The Devi Bhagavat Purana says, as do other Puranas, that Vyasadeva appears at the end of every Dvapara-yuga to compile and write the four Vedas, and to reorganize the Puranas for the good of the people of Kali-yuga. This means that this information is eternal and is the same as that produced in its written form in the earliest Kali-yuga many thousands of years ago.

       Out of all the Puranas, many scholars seem to agree that the Vishnu Purana seems to conform most closely to what a Purana is expected to be. It has around 23,000 verses. It contains the five essential subjects that a Purana is supposed to relate and also describes many other topics that are dealt with in detail. The central theme is praise of Vishnu, so it describes many aspects of Him and prominent stories of the Lord’s famous devotees, such as Prahlada, Dhruva, Prithu, and others. It also contains many stories of Lord Krishna in Vrindavana and Mathura, and His incarnations, along with the evils and predictions of the age of Kali-yuga, and many other facets of Vedic knowledge. This Purana is quite similar to the contents of the Bhagavata Purana, otherwise called Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is also centered around the theme of praise of Lord Krishna, the source of all other incarnations of God, and relates many stories of Lord Krishna’s pastimes.

 

THE SRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM

       The Bhagavatam, or Bhagavata Purana, is held to be the most significant of all the Puranas. It has about 18,000 verses in 12 cantos and is the most widely read and one of the greatest works of devotion ever written. It is a book that goes to the core of understanding God and reveals the bliss of devotion to the Supreme Being, the depths of which make the other Vedic gods, such as Shiva, also hanker for it. This Purana describes how Vyasadeva came to write it and details the pastimes of the various avataras of God and His prominent devotees, but especially the pastimes of Lord Krishna. Other descriptions include the process of the universal creation and annihilation, the characteristics of the four ages or yugas, and much in the way of the teachings of Lord Krishna and Vedic knowledge.

       Five hundred years ago Sri Chaitanya Mahaprahu, along with other scholars of the Vedas, relied on and researched the Bhagavatam extensively for information on the Absolute Truth and became immersed in many stories about Sri Krishna in their spiritual ecstasies.

       The Bhagavatam is Sri Vyasadeva’s own commentary on all the Vedanta philosophy. It brings to light all the different aspects of the Absolute Truth, but especially the personal characteristics of Bhagavan Sri Krishna as the final conclusion of all Vedic understanding. This is why those who are impersonalists or monists, believing God ultimately has no form and, therefore, performs no activities, never reach the Bhagavatam in their Vedic studies. But if they do read the Bhagavatam, they are sure to interpret it in an impersonalistic way and, thus, deprive themselves of the truth and purity that they could derive from it.

       Srimad-Bhagavatam is considered the postgraduate study of the Bhagavad-gita. The Bhagavatam does not elaborate on worship of the other demigods or on rituals that award various temporary material benedictions as do some of the other Vedas and Puranas. Therefore, the Bhagavatam completely transcends all other philosophical viewpoints of the Vedic literature. This is confirmed in the Garuda Purana (Brahma Kanda, 1.45) where it states: “The wise declare knowledge to be manifold, consisting of various grades–high, low, and middling. All that knowledge is found in the Bhagavata Purana. Hence, Bhagavata is the highest of all Puranas.” Furthermore, in the “artho ‘yam brahma-sutranam” verse, it fully states: “The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the authorized explanation of Brahma-sutra, and it is a further explanation of Mahabharata. It is the expansion of the gayatri mantra and the essence of all Vedic knowledge. This Srimad-Bhagavatam, containing 18,000 verses, is known as the explanation of all Vedic literature.”

       It is explained in the first verse of the Bhagavatam that it aims only at selfless devotional service to Lord Krishna. This is what separates it from all other Puranas. It ultimately delivers one to the Divine bliss found in the loving pastimes that Lord Krishna displays in His spiritual abode of Goloka Vrindavana. This topic is beyond the Vedas and Upanishads, which do not go near to that depth or level of spiritual understanding.

       The Shruti scripture (Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads), besides giving information on the process of rituals, primarily consists of knowledge of the futility of material existence, the temporary nature of the material creation, the bondage of the jiva souls in this existence, and the spiritual nature of the individual souls and the Supreme Being. They explain that the goal of life is liberation from the material worlds by returning back to the spiritual domain through the process of understanding karma, spiritual knowledge, renunciation, and devotion (bhakti). They do not explain much beyond this, or at least the finer details of what is beyond. They do not take you to the bliss of spiritual activities, nor the pastimes of Goloka Vrindavana, the most intimate and confidential spiritual abode of the Lord.

       That is why it is especially the Bhagavatam that begins to explain the supreme bliss of devotional love in the eternal pastimes that go on in the Vaikuntha planets, and in the Vrindavana atmosphere. It is this Bhagavata Purana that first reveals the supremacy of Lord Krishna’s love and the reciprocation that He provides above all other forms of God. The Bhagavatam is the highest manifestation of the bliss that comes from purely concentrating on the Supreme without any material inebriates. It is from this platform that one can go deeper and deeper into such love and bliss, which then manifests even profounder realizations and experiences.  

       The second verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam explains this point and what this Purana consists of and who can understand it:

Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, the Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva, is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need for any other scripture? As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhagavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within the heart.

       As it is stated, this knowledge can be understood by those who are pure in heart. This means that those who are envious, atheists, or who read it with some ulterior motive will never be able to fully comprehend it. But for those who listen submissively and sincerely with an open mind, all the mysteries of the highest truth will gradually be revealed. That highest truth is “reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all.” Not that we can make up our own reality, but we must understand what is actually reality.

       Even though we can find information about Lord Krishna’s pastimes in all the Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Vishnu Purana, and the 129 chapters of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, as well as details about Radharani in the Devi Bhagavat, there is a difference in the Bhagavatam. The difference is that the other texts relate the pastimes like a reporter giving a description of the events. But in the Bhagavatam, especially in the 10th canto, the bliss of these pastimes is presented from a participant’s point of view, one who is involved, and not from a spectator who is merely watching and describing the proceedings. This is the way Vyasadeva was inspired by Narada, and how the Bhagavatam had been spoken by Shukadeva Gosvami to King Pariksit. King Pariksit had seven days left to live and asked for the most essential spiritual truth, so Shukadeva Gosvami spoke the Bhagavatam to him. This is also how the reader can dive deep into the rasa, or the taste of the loving relationship that is displayed between Lord Krishna and His devotees in Goloka Vrindavana. This loving bliss is not experienced or seen in the relationships with Shiva, Durga, Brahma, or Vishnu, or in their abodes. It is only available with Sri Krishna in Vrindavana. It is this bliss, this ever-increasing happiness, for which we are always searching, intentionally or not, knowingly or unknowingly. This is what the Bhagavatam delivers for one who can dive deep enough.

 

THE PREEMINENT NATURE OF THE SRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM

       Many quotations regarding the extraordinary importance of the Bhagavatam can be found in several other Puranas, such as the Bhagavata-Mahatmya section of the Padma Purana, wherein we find such verses as the following:

The holy scripture known as Srimad-Bhagavatam was expounded in this age of Kali by the sage Sukadeva Gosvami [Vyasadeva’s son] with the object of completely destroying the fear of being caught in the jaws of the serpent of time. There is no means other than this conducive to the purification of the mind. One gets to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam only when there is virtue earned in one’s past lives. (1.11-12)… All the evils of Kali-yuga [this present age of quarrel and confusion] will surely disappear at the very chanting of Srimad-Bhagavatam, even as wolves take flight at the very roar of a lion. (1.62)… If you seek the highest destiny, read even yourself daily one half of a quarter of a verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam. (3.33)… Indeed, this is the righteous course prescribed in the Kali age for washing away all agony, poverty, misfortune and sin as well as for the conquest of passion and anger. Otherwise the illusory energy of the Lord is most difficult to get rid of even for the gods. How then can it be set aside by men? Hence, the course of hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam has been recommended. (3.64-65)… Like bubbles appearing in water or mosquitoes among living beings, those who remain deprived of hearing an exposition of Srimad-Bhagavatam are born only to die. (5.63)

       There are many other verses in the Padma Purana that point out the potency and importance of the Bhagavatam. The importance of the book is also described in the Bhagavatam itself:

This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krishna to his own abode accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana. (Bhag.1.3.43.)

       Another example (Bhag.12.13.14-16) is where Suta Gosvami emphasizes its significance, stating that the glorious Bhagavatam is considered to be the cream of all the Upanishads, and a man who is satisfied with tasting the nectar from it will not find such pleasure anywhere else. “All other Puranic scriptures shine forth in the assembly of saintly devotees only as long as that great ocean of nectar, Srimad-Bhagavatam, is not heard. Srimad-Bhagavatam is declared to be the essence of all Vedanta philosophy. One who has felt satisfaction from its nectarean mellow will never be attracted to any other literature. Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Achyuta, the supreme among deities and Lord Shambhu [Shiva], the greatest of Vaishnavas, so Srimad-Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas.” Suta Gosvami also says (Bhag.1.2.3):

Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto him [Sukadeva], the spiritual master of all sages, the son of Vyasadeva, who, out of his great compassion for those gross materialists who struggle to cross over the darkest regions of material existence, spoke this most confidential supplement to the cream of Vedic knowledge, after having personally assimilated it by experience.  

       Srila Suta Goswami explains the benefit of studying the Bhagavatam in this way, “Simply by giving aural reception to this Vedic literature, the feeling for loving devotional service to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sprouts up at once to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion and fearfulness.” (Bhag.1.7.7)

       When Maharaja Pariksit learned that he had merely seven more days to live, only a week to bring his life to any kind of spiritual perfection, he asked the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami what he should do. Shukadeva was the son of Srila Vyasadva, the compiler of the Vedic literature. At the time, no one was more qualified than Sukadeva Gosvami to give such advice to the great king. In reply, Sukadeva Gosvami told Maharaja Pariksit: “The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life. O King Pariksit, mainly the topmost transcendentalists, who are above the regulative principles and restrictions, take pleasure in describing the glories of the Lord. At the end of Dvapara-yuga, I studied this great supplement of Vedic literature named Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is equal to all the Vedas, from my father, Srila Dvaipayana Vyasadeva. O saintly King, I was certainly situated perfectly in transcendence [realized in the impersonal Brahman], yet I was still attracted by the delineation of the pastimes of the Lord [Krishna], who is described by enlightened verses. That very Srimad-Bagavatam I shall recite before you because you are the most sincere devotee of Lord Krishna. One who gives full attention and respect to hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam achieves unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord, the giver of salvation.” (Bhag.2.1.6-10)

       “My dear Maharaja Pariksit, that great personality Srila Vyasadeva taught me this scripture, Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is equal in stature to the four Vedas.” (Bhag.12.4.42)

       Sukadeva Gosvami explained elsewhere that, “This Srimad-Bhagavatam has elaborately described in various narrations the Supreme Soul of all that be–the Personality of Godhead, Hari [Krishna]–from whose satisfaction Brahma is born and from whose anger Rudra takes birth.” (Bhag.12.5.1)

       Regarding the power of the contents of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami relates that there are ten divisions of statements regarding the creation of the universe, the secondary level of creation, planetary systems, protection by the Lord, the creative impetus, the change of Manus, the science of God, returning home back to Godhead, liberation, and the summum bonum. (Bhag.2.10.1)

       After a full description of the contents of the Bhagavatam, Suta Gosvami explains that for the person who glorifies this Bhagavata Purana by chanting or hearing it, the demigods, sages, Siddhas, Pitas, Manus, and kings of the earth bestow all desirable things. By studying this Bhagavatam, a brahmana can enjoy the same rivers of honey, ghee and milk he enjoys by studying the hymns of the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas. A brahmana who diligently reads this essential compilation of all the Puranas will go to the supreme destination, which the Supreme Lord Himself has herein described. However, not only can a brahmana who studies the Srimad-Bhagavatam achieve firm intelligence in devotional service, but also a king [kshatriya] who studies it gains sovereignty over the earth, a vaishya who studies it acquires great treasure, and a shudra is freed from sinful reactions. Lord Hari, the supreme controller of all beings, annihilates the accumulated sins of the Kali age, yet other literature does not constantly glorify Him. But that Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in His innumerable personal expansions, is abundantly and constantly described throughout the various narrations of this Srimad-Bhagavatam. (Bhag.12.12.62-66)

       “From beginning to end, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is full of narrations that encourage renunciation of material life, as well as nectarean accounts of Lord Hari’s transcendental pastimes, which give ecstasy to the saintly devotees and demigods. This Bhagavatam is the essence of all Vedanta philosophy because its subject matter is the Absolute Truth, which, while non-different from the spirit soul, is the ultimate reality, one without a second. The goal of this literature is exclusive devotional service unto that Supreme Truth.” (Bhag.12.13.11-12)

       “Srimad-Bhagavatam is the spotless Purana. It is most dear to the Vaishnavas because it describes the pure and supreme knowledge of the paramahamsas [the swan-like saints]. This Bhagavatam reveals the means for becoming free from all material work, together with the processes of transcendental knowledge, renunciation and devotion. Anyone who seriously tries to understand Srimad-Bhagavatam, who properly hears and chants it with devotion, becomes completely liberated.” (Bhag.12.13.18)

       Furthermore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam has not always been a book but is an ancient work and has been a spoken tradition from time immemorial. This is illustrated by the following narration. Once Maitreya Muni began to describe to Vidura, saying, “Let me now begin speaking on the Bhagavata Purana, which was directly spoken to the great sages by the Personality of Godhead for the benefit of those who are entangled in extreme miseries for the sake of very little pleasure. Some time ago, being inquisitive to know, Sanat-kumara, the chief of the boy saints, accompanied by other great sages, inquired exactly like you about the truths regarding Vasudeva, the Supreme Lord Krishna, from Lord Sankarshana, who is seated at the bottom of the universe. At that time, Lord Sankarshana was meditating upon His Supreme Lord, whom the learned esteem as Lord Vasudeva [Krishna]. For the sake of the advancement of the great learned sages who were there, He slightly opened His lotus-like eyes and began to speak. The sages came from the highest planets down to the lower region through the water of the Ganges, and therefore the hair on their heads was wet. They touched the lotus feet of the Lord, which are worshiped with various items by the daughters of the serpent-king when they desire good husbands.

       “The four Kumaras, headed by Sanat-kumara, who all knew the transcendental pastimes of the Lord, glorified the Lord in rythmic accents with selected words full of affection and love. At that time Lord Sankarshana, with His thousands of raised hoods, began to radiate an effulgence from the glowing stones on His head. Lord Sankarshana thus spoke the purport of Srimad-Bhagavatam to the great sage Sanat-kumara, who had already taken the vow of renunciation.

       “Thereafter, Sanat-kumara in turn, when inquired of by Sankhyayana Muni, explained Srimad-Bhagavatam as he had heard it from Sankarshana. The great sage Sankhyayana was the chief amongst the transcendentalists, and when he was describing the glories of the Lord in terms of Srimad-Bhagavatam, it so happened that my (Maitreya Muni’s) spiritual master, Parashara, and Brihaspati both heard him. The great sage Parashara, as aforementioned, being so advised by the great sage Pulastya, spoke unto me this foremost of the Puranas [Bhagavatam]. I shall also describe this before you, my dear son, in terms of my hearing, because you are always my faithful follower.” (Bhag. 3.8.2-9) In this way, for thousands of years before the Bhagavatam was ever compiled by Srila Vyasadeva in a written form, it had been handed down and spread through an oral tradition.

       The Matsya Purana also says that which contains many narrations of spiritual instructions, begins with the gayatri mantra, and also contains the history of Vritrasura, is known as the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Whoever makes a gift of this great work on a full moon day attains to the highest perfection of life and goes back to the spiritual world.

       All these references conclude that Srimad-Bhagavatam is the most ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge consisting of the most clearly defined and highest realizations and understanding of ultimate reality–the Absolute Truth. Over and above that it is also considered the incarnation of God in the form of sound vibration, as confirmed in the following verse: “This Srimad-Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and it is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-successful, all-blissful and all-perfect.” (Bhag.1.3.40)

       From this verse it is made clear that Srimad-Bhagavatam is meant for the benefit of everyone who is sincerely interested in the highest truth, regardless of their background. Furthermore, it is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva who was an incarnation of God. He appeared in this world in order to give people this knowledge for the highest good. After all, who can explain the characteristics of the Supreme better than the Supreme Himself? This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (15.5) in which Krishna explains that He is seated in everyone’s heart and from Him comes remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. He is the knower and compiler of the Vedas, by which He is to be known.

       This is further elaborated in the Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Three:

In every Dvapara [or third] age, Vishnu, in the person of Vyasa, in order to promote the good of mankind, divides the Vedas, which is properly but one, into many portions: observing the limited perseverance, energy and application of mortals, he makes the Veda four-fold to adopt it to their capacities; and the bodily form which he assumes, in order to effect that classification, is known by the name of Vedavyasa.

Know, Maitreya, the Vyasa called Krishna Dvaipayana (Vedavyasa) to be the Deity Narayana; for who else on this earth could have composed the Mahabharata. . . That form of Vasudeva. . . composed of the Rig, Sama, and Yajur Vedas, is at the same time their essence, as He is the soul of all embodied spirits. He, distinguished as consisting of the Vedas, creates the Vedas, and divides them by many subdivisions into branches: He is the author of those branches: He is those aggregated branches; for He, the eternal Lord, is the essence of true knowledge. (Vishnu Purana, Book 3, Chapter 4)

       These verses clearly explain that it is none other than the incarnation of the Supreme Being who has appeared in this world to compile and divide the Vedas so that people of all levels of intelligence can understand them. It is explained that no ordinary person can do such a thing. How can people who are limited and finite understand the Unlimited and Infinite unless that Supreme Being descends to explain this knowledge Himself? Therefore, as stated in the above-mentioned verses, the essence of the Absolute Reality is found in the Vedic literature, especially within the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

 

DIFFERENT PATHS IN THE VEDAS

       Even though Vyasadeva had worked for the welfare of all by writing the many portions of Vedic literature, before he wrote Srimad-Bhagavatam he had still felt dissatisfied. This is a great lesson. Naturally, we all desire freedom from the problems that material life causes us, but only by engaging in direct spiritual activities does the spiritual living entity, the soul within these temporary material bodies, begin to feel any real relief or happiness. How to do this by engaging in service or bhakti-yoga to the Supreme Being is what the Vedas are ultimately meant to establish. Because this had not yet been prominently presented in the literature Vyasadeva had written, he was still feeling dissatisfied. Now he was trying to understand the cause of his dissatisfaction.

       In all the literature compiled by Vyasadeva, there are many descriptions of the temporary universe, prayers to the demigods, the process for attaining one’s material necessities, information about the soul, the Brahman, the Supersoul, and the process of yoga for attaining spiritual realizations. There is also information about the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan Krishna. But the detailed descriptions of God, His form, His incarnations, names, activities, potencies and energies, and how He is the source of everything, including the ever-increasing spiritual bliss for which we are always looking, had not yet been fully described. Therefore, although the spiritual truths are presented in different degrees, it could be asked why the Vedic literature seems to also recommend different processes for people to achieve various levels of material and spiritual perfection.

       This question was also asked by Uddhava in his conversation with Sri Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.14.1). He asked whether all the processes, recommended by the learned sages who know the Vedic literature, are equally important or if one process is superior.

       As is revealed shortly, there is one process that is more effective than others, but why there are different methods and rituals included in the Vedic literature is explained first. So in answer to Uddhava’s question, as related in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.14.3-8), Sri Krishna replied that the Vedic knowledge disappeared during the annihilation of the universe. Then after the subsequent universal creation took place, He spoke the Vedic knowledge to Brahma. Brahma in turn taught this knowledge to his eldest son Manu, along with the seven great sages and Bhrigu Muni and other sons of Brahma who are associated with the creation of the universe. From these fathers of creation came many descendants who took the forms of demigods, demons, human beings, Guhyakas [spirits who have secret powers], Siddhas [a class of beings with all mystic abilities], Gandharvas [angel-like beings], Vidyadharas [inhabitants of the heavenly planets], Caranas, Kindevas [demigod-like humans on another planet], Kinnaras [similar to human beings but with a horse-like body], Nagas [a race of extraordinary serpents], Kimpurusas [a race of extraordinary monkeys similar to humans], and so on. All of these species of beings had different desires and natures. To accommodate these different characteristics, there are many kinds of Vedic rituals, mantras and rewards. And due to the great variety of desires and goals among human beings, there are so many different theistic as well as atheistic viewpoints. Therefore, with their judgement clouded by the illusory energy, they all speak their own whimsical ideas of what is good for people without knowing the truth.

       From this we can understand that as various kinds of living entities evolved with different natures and desires, the Vedic literature also expanded to accommodate the different levels of consciousness. The Vedas, of course, are to provide the means by which the living beings can regulate their activities and thus be materially happy while simultaneously making spiritual progress. In this way, a variety of theistic philosophies have been handed down through tradition according to the level of illusion by which people are influenced.

       Everyone is essentially spiritual in nature, but as people forget their spiritual identity they become motivated by material desires for mental or sensual pleasure. Thus, people become engaged in a particular type of activity according to the mode of nature that influences them the most. Then they pursue a lifestyle or religious process that is conducive to the mentality they have developed. This is further explained in Bhagavad-gita (17.2-4): depending on the nature into which the embodied soul evolves, he develops a faith characterized by goodness, passion or ignorance. Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods, those in passion worship demoniac beings, and those in darkness worship the departed and ghosts. Bhagavad-gita (9.25) also explains that those who worship demigods take birth among them, those who worship ghosts take birth as such, those who worship the ancestors go to them, but those who worship Krishna return to Him.

       Herein we can understand that whatever mode of worship or activity we engage in brings particular results. Some may strive for happiness simply by filling their belly full of food and are content to work hard for no other reason. Others are satisfied by the pursuit for sex life, or by political power, or by religious activities, or by giving charity, or by achieving peace of mind. But if this is somehow or other based on pleasing the temporary body and mind of yourself or others, then all such happiness, being material, is temporary. The results are very meager, like trying to be satisfied with one drop of water while living in a desert. People who struggle to achieve one drop of happiness here and another drop there are busy running around, working very hard, and yet miss the real goal of life. This is explained in the Bhagavatam (11.21.28) by Sri Krishna that people dedicated to pleasures of the body that are obtained through the performance of Vedic rituals, or any other process for material happiness, cannot know Him though He is situated in their hearts and the whole universe emanates from Him. Such people are like persons whose eyes are covered by mist and cannot recognize what is right in front of them.

       In this way, according to the Vedic texts, people remain blind and cannot understand how to reach the real happiness that exists within them since they always focus on external comforts. Processes for attaining such things as external pleasures, heavenly bliss, a good future birth, or different levels of mystic awareness are included in the Vedas for those who want them. But such people miss the essence of the Vedic teachings that emphasize the need to reach the ultimate spiritual perfection.

 

THE ULTIMATE PATH TO THE ABSOLUTE

       Ultimately, the Vedic system is to engage everyone in a process that will elevate them from whatever position they are in to a higher mode of living. Thus, there are many levels of understanding found within the Vedic tradition in order to accommodate the various forms of consciousness and tendencies of the innumerable living beings, especially humans. But without coming to the highest level of knowledge and realization, they will continue to engage in activities resulting in different degrees of anxiety and lamentation. Being concerned about this problem and foreseeing the troubled times ahead, the great sages 5,000 years ago requested Suta Gosvami to explain the Srimad-Bhagavatam after having learned it from Srila Vyasadeva and others. Thus they put forth the following request:

O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed. There are many varieties of scriptures, and in all of them there are many prescribed duties, which can be learned only after many years of study in their various divisions. Therefore, O sage, please select the essence of all these scriptures and explain it for the good of all living beings, that by such instruction their hearts may be fully satisfied. (Bhag.1.1.10-11)

       In this way, the sages pointed out that in Kali-yuga, this present age, men are easily distracted by so many things and their lives are very short, so now let us not waste time but hear only the essence of all spiritual knowledge so that everyone can be satisfied and know the real goal of life and not remain confused. It was also for this reason that Srila Vyasadeva was feeling dissatisfied, even after compiling all the previous Vedic knowledge into written form in the earlier texts. The essence of all spiritual and metaphysical understanding and realizations had not yet been put into a concise and conclusive format.

       Vyasadeva, while questioning his unexpected dissatisfaction, was at that very moment greeted by the sage Narada Muni who had just arrived at Vyasadeva’s cottage. Suta Gosvami, in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto One, Chapters Five and Six, relates the story in this way:

       Narada Muni asked Vyasadeva whether he was satisfied after having written the great Mahabharata. Sri Vyasadeva answered that in spite of all he had done, he was not content and, accepting Narada Muni as his spiritual master, questioned him about the root cause of the dissatisfaction he felt. Narada replied that the cause was that Vyasadeva had not written about the sublime characteristics of the Supreme. The philosophy that does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Supreme is considered worthless, but that literature which is full of the transcendental descriptions of the name, form, and pastimes of the unlimited Supreme can bring about a revolution amongst the misdirected civilization of the world. Even though improperly composed, such literature is heard and accepted by saintly and intelligent men.

       This is exactly what is missing in the earlier Vedic texts as well as most other religious scriptures found in the world today. Narada is recommending that to include the topics he mentioned will certainly bring about a revolution to help all those who are living in a misguided civilization. The reason for this is simple: one may defend the science of religion or engage in so many philosophical conversations, but there will never be any final conclusion to such talks without practical experience of the Supreme. Without this genuine experience, all religious or philosophical talk is merely cultivated knowledge or mental speculation. It is another way of passing time for the armchair philosophers because anyone, simply by juggling words or taking things out of context, can steer various controversial topics towards any conclusion they want. This is the way some so-called religious leaders or propagandists use things like religion to justify their own selfish intentions.

       More light is shed on these points in the Bhagavatam (11.22.5-6) wherein Krishna explains to Uddhava that when philosophers cannot agree on the way they view things; it is simply the interaction of Krishna’s illusory energies that motivate their disagreements. But for those who have fixed their minds in Krishna, the Absolute Truth and ultimate conclusion of all spiritual realizations, the cause for argument and differences of opinion disappear.

       Just as when you may have several hungry people in a room discussing the various causes of and means to extinguish their pains of hunger, no one has to tell them that the process of eating a nice meal has worked when, after having done so, they automatically feel their hunger subside. The experience is universal and, after eating and feeling satisfied, leaves no room for argument. Similarly, after having reached the platform of experiencing the Absolute Truth, what need could there be for further argument or disagreement? The experience is universal for those who have reached it. And for those who have, participating in a religion or faith which condones the idea of deliberately quarreling or fighting wars with members of other faiths is utterly absurd. Indeed, such fighting only shows the gross ignorance of one’s real spiritual identity and the animalistic qualities of such people, though they may claim strong allegiance to a particular religion. Of what use to the world is such a religion or philosophy? As pointed out in the Manu-samhita (12.95-96), such a religion is simply based on darkness and is worthless, producing no good reward after death. Therefore, to help avoid further quarrel and confusion among the people in this age, Narada Muni encouraged Vyasadeva to write and describe the eternal spiritual truths in a more direct manner.

       Narada explained to Vyasadeva that spiritual knowledge, though free from material faults and connections, is still incomplete if devoid of an understanding of the transcendental characteristics of God. But Vyasadeva, who is completely perfect, can meditate on the Lord’s pastimes for the liberation of all people from material existence. Only one who has retired from activities for material happiness deserves to understand such spiritual knowledge and experience spiritual bliss. Therefore, Narada emphasized that by Vyasa’s mercy, those who are attached to material existence should be shown how to attain spiritual realization. Those who are truly intelligent will endeavor to reach this goal.

       Vyasadeva knew all about spiritual knowledge and the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Being because he is a plenary portion of the Lord. Though he is birthless, he appeared in this world for the welfare of all. And to teach a lesson, he displayed dissatisfaction when he had still not engaged himself in writing the glories of the Supreme’s spiritual qualities, and then accepted Narada as a spiritual master to learn the reason for his discontent. Thus, Narada continued to explain to Vyasadeva that learned men have concluded that the actual purpose for engaging in austerities, sacrifices, studying the Vedas, chanting the hymns, etc., is to advance in the knowledge of the transcendental characteristics of the Supreme, which is the only way to remove all difficulties.

       This is the ultimate process for perfecting one’s life and for attaining full spiritual realization. This is the answer to Uddhava’s question about whether a particular process in the Vedic literature is superior. Without understanding the Absolute Truth, one’s knowledge of his real identity, or the universe, the purpose of life, and everything else in one’s experience, is incomplete. So the conclusive purpose of the Vedic process is to increase one’s knowledge of the Supreme, which will encompass all other forms of knowledge. The most direct way of doing that is through the practice of hearing about the Supreme Being from the Vedic literature, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam. Simply hearing or studying this literature is a part of the process of bhakti-yoga. As explained in Bhagavad-gita (11.54), only through bhakti-yoga can one enter into the mysteries of understanding the Supreme as He is. Similarly, Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.20) points out that only by bhagavata-bhakti, devotion to the Lord, can one get positive scientific knowledge of the Supreme Personality. Therefore, Narada requested Vyasadeva to describe the spiritual activities and qualities of the Supreme to satisfy inquisitive and learned men, and mitigate the sufferings of the people in general. After all, by engaging in ordinary yoga people may attain some peace of mind and freedom from desire and lust, but to give satisfaction to the soul requires the performance of devotional service, bhakti-yoga, to the Supreme. This is the means of establishing a link between the soul and the Infinite Lord. This is what Vyasadeva had yet to do. And the perfection of this was to compile the great devotional work of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

       Then, when Sri Krishna had left this planet after performing His various pastimes by which He attracts the conditioned souls, and on the new moon night near the end of the month of Phalguna (February-March), the planets aligned themselves in one direction above the Earth, with the planet Rahu over India. On that night in 3102 BC, according to the Vedic scholars, the world slipped into the depths of forgetfulness as Dvapara-yuga ended and the age of Kali-yuga began. Shortly after this occurrence the great sage Vyasadeva had heard all these instructions from Narada Muni.

 

CONCLUSION

       The conclusion of this story, as related in the Bhagavatam (1.7.2-6), is that after Narada Muni had explained all these points, he took leave of Vyasadeva. Then Vyasadeva, in his cottage at Samyaprasa on the western bank of the River Sarasvati, sat down to meditate. He fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it in devotional service, bhakti-yoga, without any tinge of materialism, and thus he saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead along with His external energy, maya, which was under full control. Deluded by maya, the living entities think they are a part of the material world and thus undergo the reactions of material miseries. However, such miseries, which do not really touch the soul, can be counteracted by engaging in devotional service, bhakti-yoga. But the mass of people do not know this, so to dispel their grief, materialistic infatuation, and fear, the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature, Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth.

       In this way, Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the original Vedic literature, wrote his concluding commentary on Vedanta in the form of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadeva very clearly establishes that real Vedanta, or the ultimate end of all knowledge, is to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna:

In the revealed scriptures, the ultimate object of knowledge is Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead. The purpose of performing sacrifice is to please Him. Yoga is for realizing Him. All fruitive activities are ultimately rewarded by Him only. He is supreme knowledge, and all severe austerities are performed to know Him. Religion [dharma] is rendering loving service unto Him. He is the supreme goal of life. (Bhag.1.2.28-29)

        Herein, it becomes clear that the aim of all austerity, penance, charity, scriptural study, yoga practice, and religious activity is to regain one’s love for God, Krishna. Without that, all religious and pious acts, however positive and pious they may be, remain incomplete. Only through selfless love can God be captured or attracted, or can one bind oneself to Him. From this study of all the Vedic literature and its purpose, it becomes clear that this is the real goal of all yoga and spiritual activities. This is what leads us to the heart of Hinduism, sanatana-dharma, the awakened love for the Supreme Being and all other living beings, which are His parts and parcels.

       As the Bhagavatam explains, the practice of yoga or karma-yoga alone is unable to cut the bondage of attraction to the illusory energy or worldly attachments. Therefore, the easiest way to achieve the most complete form of liberation is through the process of bhakti, loving attachment to the Supreme Being through devotional service, which can overtake all other forms of attachment.

 

VAISHNAVISM

       As we can see, the science of Vedanta is extensive and thorough. There is not much that it has not considered. It not only includes the knowledge of the Absolute Truth, but also explains the path by which one can attain his or her own individual realizations of the Absolute. This in itself separates it from most religions we find today that usually do not include higher principles of spiritual self-realization, but depend mostly on basic moral doctrines and the blind faith of the followers in their connection with the religious institution as the means of approaching God, or for being saved. The Vedic system, on the other hand, allows everyone individuality to take up the process in whichever way they feel is most appropriate. The sages, gurus and Vedic texts provide the necessary insights and directions for progress, but an individual can work with full liberty of thought, and not on the basis of some institutional dogma. Thus, a person is allowed the freedom to explore the various avenues within the Vedic system to understand and perceive the Ultimate Reality and regain one’s own relationship with God.

       This divine knowledge is for the entire world, not merely some portion of it or for a certain class of people. These Vedic scriptures contain such a wide range of knowledge and information that can help one understand God and the process of realizing Him that anyone from any background can find assistance by adding them to their life. These scriptures provide many descriptions of God, His beauty, characteristics, His pastimes and personality that are not available elsewhere. No matter whether one is merely inquisitive or is already a sincere devotee, these descriptions, especially from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, can fill one’s heart with the nectar of devotional love for the Supreme Being.

       Saints such as Shukadeva, who was already absorbed in the bliss of the Brahman, gave up that bliss to become absorbed in the devotional love of Lord Krishna in His pastimes in Vrindavana. And Shankaracharya, though he was the great preacher of advaita (nondualism) philosophy, appreciated the beauty and characteristics of Lord Krishna so much that he wrote the book, “Prabodha Sudhakar” in praise of Krishna. So these scriptures reveal the whole process from understanding the details of God’s creation up to entering into the Divine bliss of devotional love for the most beautiful and loving Supreme Being.

       Within this process, as we can see, the worship of Lord Krishna and His expansions as Vishnu, Narayana, Rama, etc., is as old as the Vedic tradition itself. In fact, it is the essence of Vedanta according to the proposal and explanations of Srila Vyasadeva. So, the conclusion of Vedic philosophy is essentially the doctrine of Vaishnavism, the worship of the personal form of God, especially as Vishnu or Krishna. The path of Vaishnavism is, basically, sanatana-dharma, which is the practice of acting according to the eternal nature of the soul and reawakening our consciousness to our spiritual identity and the loving relationship we have with the Supreme.

       The Vaishnava bhakti movement has grown in many areas across India and beyond. It has also produced many volumes of devotional literature and poetry by numerous adherents in that tradition. The Vaishnava sect is one of the three major divisions of Hinduism, the others being Shaivism and Shakta. Vaishnavas have four major sects: the Ramanujas founded by Ramanujacharya; the Madhvas founded by Madhvacharya; the Vallabhas founded by Vallabhacharya; and the Gaudiya sampradaya, founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is regarded as an incarnation of Krishna Himself. Some of the aspects of following this Vaishnava philosophy are described later in this book.

       Essentially, a Vaishnava is a person who accepts Sri Krishna as the Supreme Being and worships Him or any of His expansions or incarnations. The essence of Vaishnavism is expressed in the process of bhakti-yoga, unity with God through devotion. There is nothing more powerful than love and devotion to give one the impetus to absorb one’s thoughts in thinking of another, the beloved. Bhakti puts less emphasis on ritual, austerity and sacrifice, and more on the sadhana and practice that can increase one’s devotion. This is something that anyone can follow and develop, regardless of caste, status, background or disposition. Bhakti is not simply for Vaishnavas, but Shaivites also develop bhakti for Lord Shiva. However, Shiva does not reciprocate in quite the same way or in the number of ways of blissful exchange as does Lord Krishna.

       So the process of spiritual realization practiced by all Vaishnavas is bhakti-yoga. Elements of this devotional process are easily recognized in all other religions of the world, but bhakti-yoga has been developed into a multifaceted science. Thus, all systems of philosophy and religion reach their culmination in Srila Vyasadeva’s Vedanta, as specifically and conclusively described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

       The main difference between the Vaishnava philosophy and all others of the world is that the goal is also the means of attaining the goal. In other words, bhakti, devotional service to the Supreme, is attained by engaging in devotional service to the Supreme. This devotional process of engaging in service to God refines and purifies one’s consciousness to the level where he or she becomes completely spiritually realized, at which time a person knows his or her real spiritual identity. The Supreme also reveals Himself to such a pure soul, and thus one’s relationship with the Lord becomes awakened. Then bhakti is no longer merely a process to be followed, but it becomes a spontaneous flow of emotion and attraction for the Supreme who reciprocates such love. Then the eternal, spiritual, loving activities and pastimes, along with a person’s spiritual realizations and ecstasy, knows no limits.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila,  7.110, pur.

2. Ibid.,

3. Ibid.,

4. Bhagavad-gita wih Commentary of

     Sri Sankaracarya, Dinkar Vishnu

     Gokale, edit.

5. Ibid.,