Why should we study Vedas

A lecture given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda on October 6, 1969 at Conway Hall, London.

Ladies and gentlemen, today's topic is “The Teachings of the Vedas”. You may ask, “What are the Vedas?” The verb root of the Sanskrit word veda can be interpreted in different ways, but ultimately its meaning is only one: veda means "knowledge". Any kind of knowledge we ingest is veda, for the teachings of the Vedas constitute the original knowledge. In the conditioned state, our knowledge is subject to many inadequacies. The difference between a conditioned soul and a liberated soul is that the conditioned soul has four defects. The first shortcoming is the inevitable tendency to make mistakes. In our country, for example, Mahatma Gandhi was considered a great figure, but he made many mistakes. Shortly before his death, one of his followers warned him: “Mahatma Gandhi, do not go to the meeting in New Delhi. I've heard from friends that there is danger there. ”But he didn't hear. He insisted on attending the meeting and was murdered. Even eminent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi or President Kennedy - there are so many of them - make mistakes. To err is human. This is the first lack of the conditioned soul.

Another shortcoming is that we are mistaken. "Deception" means taking something for reality that is not real: Maya. Maya means "that which is not". For example, everyone thinks the body is self. If I ask who you are, you will say, “I am Mr. John; I'm rich; i am this; I am that. ”All of these terms refer to your body. But you are not your body. This idea is a delusion.

The third flaw is the tendency to cheat. Everyone has a tendency to cheat on others. Although someone may be the greatest fool, they pretend to be very intelligent. Although it has already been made clear that he is subject to deception and mistakes, he makes assumptions: “I think this is so and that is so.” But he does not even know who he is. He writes philosophical books, though flawed. This shows his illness. That's cheating.

Finally, there is also the fact that our senses are imperfect. We are very proud of our eyes. Often someone asks challengingly: “Can you show me God?” But does he have the eyes to see God? He will never see him if he does not have the right eyes to do so. If the room got dark now, we wouldn't even be able to see our hands in front of our eyes. So how far does our eyesight go? We therefore cannot expect knowledge (veda) with our imperfect senses. Also, with all these inadequacies of conditioned life, we cannot impart perfect knowledge to anyone. We ourselves are not perfect either. It is for this reason that we accept the Vedens as they are.

You may think we are Hindus and that the Vedas are Hindu scriptures, but the word “Hindu” has nothing to do with us or the Vedas. We are not Hindus. Our correct name is varṇāśrama. With varṇāśrama are meant the followers of the Vedas, that is, those who recognize that human society is divided into eight subdivisions according to varṇa and āśrama is structured. There are four social divisions and four divisions of the spiritual life. This is called varṇāśrama. In the Bhagavad-gītā [4.13] it says: “These subdivisions are found everywhere, since they were created by God.” The social classifications are brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra. Brāhmaṇa refers to the most intelligent people, to those who know what Brahman is. The kṣatriyas, the managing class, are the next intelligent people; then they come vaiśyas, the merchants and peasants, and finally the śūdras, the workers and servants. This natural division can be found everywhere. This is a Vedic principle and we recognize it as such. Vedic principles are classified as axiomatic truths because there can be no fault in them. For example, in India, cow dung is considered pure even though cow dung is an animal's droppings. At one point in the Vedas one finds the instruction to take a bath as soon as one has touched the excrement of an animal; but elsewhere it is said that a cow's droppings are clean. If you rub cow dung into an unclean place, that place becomes clean. With our ordinary understanding, we may object, "That is a contradiction," and it is actually contradictory from the conventional standpoint. Still, it's not wrong. It's a fact. In Calcutta, a well-known scientist and doctor examined cow dung and found that it had antiseptic properties.

In India, if someone says, “You have to do this,” the other may reply, “What do you mean? Is it a Vedic instruction that I have to follow you without objection? ”Vedic instructions cannot be interpreted. However, if you carefully investigate why these instructions exist, you will eventually see that they are all correct.

The Vedas are not a compilation of human knowledge. The Vedic knowledge comes from the spiritual world, from the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The Vedas are also called śruti designated. With śruti is meant knowledge that is acquired through listening. It's not experimental knowledge. Śruti is viewed like a mother. We learn many things from our mother. For example, if someone wants to know who their father is, who can give them an answer? His mother. If the mother says, “Here is your father,” he has to believe her. It is not possible for him to determine through experiments whether the person she has named is actually the father or not. Similarly, if we want to know something that is beyond our realm of experience, beyond our experimental knowledge, beyond the range of our sensory perception, then we must acknowledge the Vedas. Experiments are out of the question. It has already been experimented with. Everything is already fixed. The representation of the mother, for example, must be accepted as truth. There is no other way.

The Vedas are regarded as the mother and Brahmā as the grandfather or forefather because he was the first to be instructed in Vedic knowledge. Brahmā was the first creature in the universe. He received the Vedic knowledge and passed it on to Narada and other students and sons, who then passed it on to their students. This is how the Vedic knowledge comes down to us through the disciples' following. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is confirmed that the Vedic knowledge was transmitted in this way. If we do our own research, we will come to the same conclusion, but to save time we should simply accept the Vedic knowledge. If we want to know who our father is and we recognize our mother as an authority, we can accept whatever she says without protest.

There are three ways of acquiring knowledge: pratyakṣa, anumāna and śabda. Pratyakṣa means "immediate perception". Immediate experience is not very reliable because our senses are not perfect. For example, we see the sun every day and it looks like a small disk, but in reality it is much larger than our planets. So what is the value of such seeing? We must therefore read books; then we can understand more about the sun. So direct experience is not perfect. The next is anumāna, inductive knowledge: “It could be so.” Conjectures. For example, Darwin's theory is, “It could be like this, or it could be like that,” but that's not science. These are only imperfect guesses. But when we receive knowledge from the relevant sources, it is perfect. If we receive the program preview from the broadcasting line of a radio station, we acknowledge it. We do not reject them, nor do we need to experiment, because we have received the communications from an authoritative source.

Vedic knowledge is called śabda-pramāṇa designated. Another name is śruti. Śruti means that this knowledge must be received through the ear. The Vedas urge us to hear from an authority in order to understand transcendental knowledge. Transcendental knowledge is knowledge from a world that is beyond our universe. Within our universe there is material knowledge and beyond that there is transcendental knowledge. We cannot even get to the end of the universe; so how can we go to the spiritual world? It is therefore impossible to acquire comprehensive knowledge on your own.

There is a spiritual world. There is also another nature, beyond matter that is sometimes unfolded and sometimes undeveloped. But how do we find out that there really is a world where the planets and their inhabitants exist forever? All this knowledge is there, but how do we want to experiment? This is not possible. Therefore we must use the Vedas for help. This is called Vedic knowledge. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we accept knowledge from the highest authority, Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is recognized as the highest authority by all kinds of people. I will begin by speaking of the two types of transcendentalists. Some are called impersonalists, Māyāvādīs or Vedāntists, and their head is Śaṅkarācārya. The others are called Vaiṣṇavas, and their main representatives include Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, and Viṣṇusvāmī. Both Śaṅkara-sampradāya and Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya recognize K erkennta as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śaṅkarācārya is considered a representative of apersonalism who preached the doctrine of impersonal Brahman, but it is a fact that he was a hidden personality philosopher. In his comment on the Bhagavad-gītā he writes: “Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is beyond cosmic manifestation.” And then he further affirms: “This Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, is Kṛṣṇa. He came as the son of Devakī and Vasudeva. ”He especially mentions the names of Kṛṣṇa's father and mother. So Kṛṣṇa is recognized by all transcendentalists as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is no doubt about that.

Our source of knowledge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is this Bhagavad-gītā, which comes directly from Lord Këa. We have them under the title Bhagavad-gītā as it is published because we accept Kṛṣṇa's words without interpretation as He originally spoke them. That is Vedic knowledge. Since Vedic knowledge is pure, we accept it. Whatever Kṛṣṇa says, we accept. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This saves a lot of time. If we stick to the right authority or the right source of knowledge, we will save a lot of time. There are two ways of acquiring knowledge in the material world, inductive and deductive. Taking the deductive path means, for example, recognizing that man is mortal. The father says man is mortal; the sister says man is mortal; everyone says man is mortal - so we don't experiment. We recognize it as a fact. To tread the inductive path means to investigate whether a person is mortal. We have to examine every single person, and it may occur to us that there may be a person who won't die and that we just haven't seen him yet. That way, our research will never end. This way is called in Sanskrit āroha, the ascending path. If we seek knowledge through personal endeavor or through the use of our imperfect senses, we will never arrive at the correct conclusions. It's just not possible.

In the Brahma-saṁhitā it says at one point: “Imagine that you are sitting in an airplane that flies at the speed of the mind.” Our material airplanes can fly 2000 kilometers an hour, but let's consider the speed of the mind. You sit at home and think of India, which is thousands of kilometers away from here, and in a moment you are there. Your mind has gone there. The speed of the mind is tremendously fast. This is why it is said, "If you move at this speed for millions of years, you will see that the spiritual sky is limitless." It is not possible to even approach this sphere by material means. For this reason, the Vedic teaching is to turn to a real spiritual master, one guru, must turn (the word “inevitable” is used). And what makes a true spiritual master stand out? He correctly heard the Vedic message from the right source. It must be firmly anchored in Brahman in practical life. These are the two qualities that it must possess. Otherwise it is not real.

The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is fully authorized by Vedic principles. In the Bhagavad-gītā says Kṛṣṇa: “The goal of all Vedic studies is I” Brahma-saṁhitā it says: “Kṛṣṇa, Govinda, has innumerable manifestations, but they are all one.” They cannot be equated with our bodies, which are imperfect. His form is perfect. My body has a beginning, but His body has no beginning. He is ananta, infinite, and its manifestations are innumerable. My body sits here now, and not in my apartment. You are sitting here, too, and not in your apartment. But Kṛṣṇa can be everywhere at the same time. He can reside in Goloka Vṛndāvana and be everywhere at the same time - He is all pervasive. He is the original one, the oldest, but if you look at a picture of Kṛṣṇa, you will always see a young man aged fifteen to twenty. You will never find an old man. You might have in the Bhagavad-gītā Seen pictures depicting Kṛṣṇa as a charioteer. He was over a hundred years old then. He already had great-grandchildren, but He looked like a youth. Kṛṣṇa, that is, God, never grows old. This is a sign of His omnipotence. And if we want to know Kṛṣṇa through studying Vedic literature, we are likely to fail. It may not be impossible, but it is very difficult. However, we can very easily learn about Him from His devotee. The devotee can give us Kṛṣṇa: “Here He is, take Him.” That is in the power of the devotee Kṛṣṇas.

Originally there was only one Veda and there was no need to read it. People were so intelligent and remembered that they only had to hear from the lips of the spiritual master once to absorb and understand what was being said. The whole meaning was immediately clear to them. Then five thousand years ago Vyāsadeva put the Vedas in writing for the people of the present age, the Kali-yuga. He knew that people would only have a short life expectancy, that their memories would be very weak and their intelligence would not be very sharp. So he thought: “I want to teach the Vedic knowledge in writing.” He divided the original Veda into four parts (Ṛg, Sāma, Atharva and Yajur) and placed them in the care of his students. Then he thought of the less intelligent people, namely strī (the women), śūdra (the workers) and dvija-bandhu. A dvija-bandhu is someone who was born into a high-ranking family but is not qualified to do so. A person in a brāhmaṇa-Family was born but not the suitability of one brāhmaṇa owns is called dvija-bandhu designated. For these people, Vyāsadeva wrote this Mahābhārata, also called "the history of India", and the Purāṇas. So the Vedic scriptures include the Purāṇas, das Mahābhārata, the four Vedas and the Upaniṣads. The Upaniṣads are part of the Vedas.

Next, Vyāsadeva summarized all of the Vedic knowledge for scholars and philosophers in the Vedānta-sūtra together. This work is considered "the essence of the Vedas". Vyāsadeva wrote that Vedānta-sūtra personally under the guidance of Narada his Guru Maharaja [spiritual master], but he was still not satisfied. This is a long story to watch in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam can read. Even after Vedavyāsa compiled the numerous Purāṇas and Upaniṣads, and even after doing the Vedānta-sūtra he was not satisfied. Thereupon his spiritual master, Narada, gave him the instruction: “Explain that Vedānta.“ Vedānta means "the last, the highest knowledge," and the highest knowledge is Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa says that He is the goal of studying the Vedas: vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo. He also says: vedānta-kṛd veda- vid eva cāham. "I am the author of the Vedānta-sūtraand I am the knower of the Vedas. ”The ultimate goal, therefore, is Kṛṣṇa. This is explained in all the commentaries of the Vaiṣṇavas on Vedānta philosophy. We Gauḍīya-Vaiṣṇavas have our own commentary on Vedānta philosophy, den Govinda-bhāṣya by Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. Rāmānujācārya and Madhvācārya also wrote a comment. Śaṅkarācārya's interpretation is not the only comment. So there are a lot of comments on the Vedānta, and only because the Vaiṣṇavas are not the first to get one Vedānta-Commentary, the wrong impression was created that the Śaṅkarācāryas was the only one. Apart from that, Vyāsadeva himself wrote the finished one Vedānta- Comment - that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam begins with the first words of the Vedānta-sūtra: janmādy asya yataḥ. And this janmādy asya yataḥ will be in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explained in detail. The Vedānta-sūtra only suggests what the Brahman, the Absolute Truth, is: janmādy asya yataḥ. “The Absolute Truth is that from which everything proceeds.” This is a summary, but im Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam you will find a detailed explanation. If everything starts from Absolute Truth, what is the essence of Absolute Truth? That will be in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explained. The Absolute Truth must be Consciousness. It is enlightened by itself, it glows out of itself (sva-rāṭ). We develop our consciousness and knowledge by receiving knowledge from others; but the Absolute Truth is said to be enlightened by itself. All Vedic knowledge is in Vedānta-sūtra summarized, and this Vedānta-sūtra explains its author himself in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Finally, I would like to ask all those who really strive for Vedic knowledge to explain all Vedic knowledge based on the explanations in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and in the Bhagavad-gītā to understand.