Date: March 13, 2008
Verse: Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.13.26
Speaker: HH Bhakti Raghava Swami
By Ananda Tirtha (das) PVS (Mayapur - IN)
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tesam satam veda-vitana-murtir brahmavadharyatma-gunanuvadam vinadya bhuyo vibudhodayaya gajendra-lilo jalam avivesa
TRANSLATION: Playing like an elephant, He entered into the water after roaring again in reply to the Vedic prayers by the great devotees. The Lord is the object of the Vedic prayers, and thus He understood that the devotees’ prayers were meant for Him.
PURPORT: The form of the Lord in any shape is always transcendental and full of knowledge and mercy. The Lord is the destroyer of all material contamination because His form is personified Vedic knowledge. All the Vedas worship the transcendental form of the Lord. In the Vedic mantras the devotees request the Lord to remove the glaring effulgence because it covers His real face. That is the version of the Isopanisad. The Lord has no material form, but His form is always understood in terms of the Vedas. The Vedas are said to be the breath of the Lord, and that breath was inhaled by Brahma, the original student of the Vedas. The breathing from the nostril of Brahma caused the appearance of Lord Boar, and therefore the boar incarnation of the Lord is the personified Vedas. The glorification of the incarnation by the sages on the higher planets consisted of factual Vedic hymns. Whenever there is glorification of the Lord, it is to be understood that Vedic mantras are being rightly vibrated. The Lord was therefore pleased when such Vedic mantras were chanted, and to encourage His pure devotees, He roared once more and entered the water to rescue the submerged earth.
Bhakti Raghava Swami: So it is our great fortune and great pleasure to get this opportunity to speak a little bit on this verse from the Bhagavatam. It is actually a great fortune for all of us that Srila Prabhupada has established this wonderful system of hearing.
Here in the purport Srila Prabhupada makes reference quite a few times to the Vedic knowledge or the Vedas. Because there was reference to the Isopanisad, I started looking up a little bit yesterday. Before I could get very far in the text in the Isopanisad, there is that whole very historical introduction. Srila Prabhupada gives a lecture in London on the topic of the Vedas. Our whole existence and all of our knowledge of course is originating, comes from the Vedic literatures as mentioned here by Srila Prabhupada, originally given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself to Lord Brahma himself, who Srila Prabhupada mentions is the first student.
The Vedas are a huge compilation of knowledge, much of which, according to the Goswamis of Vrindavan, has been lost especially during the various events that have taken place in Kali-yuga. And we find ourselves today with something like 7 percent or less than 10 percent of the original Vedic literatures.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has nicely established in his Dasa-mula tattva, the first tattva, that the basis of all tattvas, is actually the Vedas. Unless something is substantiated from the Vedic literatures, it cannot be accepted. That is why it is so important that we base all of our activities and all of our knowledge connected with the Vedas.
Of course, as it is nicely mentioned here, whenever, just like the sages in the higher planetary systems are chanting hymns which are coming directly from the Vedas and that is directly glorifying the Supreme Lord, means whenever we perform activities or speak on the strength of the Vedas that we are actually coming in direct contact with the Lord and we are actually pleasing the Lord as the Lord is being pleased here.
The Vedas are actually very confidential, there are very confidential sections of the Vedas. It is of utmost importance for us to understand the various levels that are presented in the Vedas. Of course as practicing Vaisnavas, as aspiring Vaisnavas following in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as ordered by Lord Caitanya to the six Goswamis of Vrindavan also, we especially give importance and emphasis on the bhakti element. Of course we know also that the essence of Vedic literatures, the essence of the Bhagavad-gita is the science of bhakti, the science of devotional service.
Coming back to the lecture that Prabhupada had given in London, Prabhupada begins his whole explanation of the Vedas by pointing out to his audience that actually we are not Hindus. We are following the system of varnashrama, and then Srila Prabhupada goes into a whole discussion in detail. We often refer or speak of sanatana-dharma. I’d like to pull in a few very important aspects which are connected actually with the whole theme of Vedic knowledge.
Vedic knowledge, as Prabhupada explains and as we can understand from the Vedic literatures themselves, are perfect. Not only perfect but they are complete in themselves. And that is why we speak of sanatana dharma. Sanatana dharma needs to be understood, however, just like we understand the Supreme Absolute Truth and Lord Caitanya in five features, different tattvas are explained within the Panca Tattva, visnu tattva, sakti tattva, jiva tattva. Similarly, sometimes we don’t think about it I would say sufficiently, but there are two features, two essential features within the concept of sanatana dharma. And this is very, very important to understand.
The foremost and first level or feature of sanatana dharma, both of these are actually explained in different sections of the Vedas, we know that the Vedas are divided primarily into what is called sruti and smriti. Sruti being what is directly spoken and given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead without any change, whereas smriti is what is revealed by self realized souls, and is not directly necessarily the direct words spoken by the Lord. But it is by self realized souls and therefore both sruti and smriti we follow them.
So, within the context of sanatana dharma and our Gaudiya line, we have from the time of Lord Caitanya going down through our various acaryas up to Srila Prabhupada, a lot of the emphasis has been and continues to be, on what we could say the bhagavat-dharma aspect of sanatana dharma. Means, what is directly related to the jiva, spirit soul.
As we heard a few days ago, the very common instruction given by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, jivera svarupa haya krsna nitya dasa, so the svarupa or identity of the jiva, spirit soul, is to be engaged eternally in bhakti, devotional service, so that is clear actually. What is possibly less clear, that’s why I’m bringing this up in connection with the whole aspect of Vedas, because Vedas, if we, there’s a danger, that danger actually was, you could say, exemplified in the whole lila between Srila Vyasadeva and Narada Muni.
Srila Vyasadeva, we can remember, had not sufficiently described the glories directly of Lord Krsna, therefore Narada Muni came and underlined this. Of course, Srila Vyasadeva being such an elevated personality could sense that also, even before Narada Muni instructed him.
So this is one feature, a very, obviously essential feature, the bhagavat dharma, our eternal duty, responsibility, identity as spirit soul, as important is the other feature for those of us, that means all of us actually, who have come in this material world and have become conditioned by the modes of material nature, there is an eternal feature, not only within bhagavat dharma, but there is an eternal feature, aspect within what is called varnashrama dharma.
Means that in the same way that bhagavat dharma is a science, here Prabhupada has translated, the complete science of bhakti yoga, that is a complete science which we cannot, if we are not knowing about bhakti, devotional service, we are what you call materialistic, or karmis or in maya and therefore we suffer.
So in the same way that we have to come to understand about bhagavat dharma, the eternal features or the scientific aspect of varnashrama dharma also cannot be put aside or neglected. In the Bhagavatam, of course it mentions that, one devotee recently pointed this out, in one way we cannot say that varnashrama dharma is eternal because in Satya yuga, Prabhupada writes, there is no varnashrama dharma. However Srila Prabhupada points out that in Satya yuga everyone is a brahmana, everyone is self realised so there is no need of this elaborate system. However the principles of varnasharma dharma, the essence in terms of gradually elevating oneself at least to the mode of goodness and then of course beyond, is also there.
What is very interesting for us also and important for us to know as practitioners of devotional service and bhakti, is that one of the foremost authorities on the science of devotional service is who? Narada Muni. Narada Muni not only happens to be a foremost authority on the science of bhakti, but he is also the foremost authority on the science of varnashrama dharma. And it is very important for us to understand these two levels and to avoid neglecting either of them. Of course, as devotees primarily we identify or we have less difficulty although practicing devotional service is not so easy in itself also.
I would just like to bring out something which is in connection with this whole discussion and generally less well known within our ISKCON society. We all as we read Prabhupada’s books and as we practice devotional service, naturally come in contact with various aspects of the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and naturally we gain, that is part of the whole process, different realizations. We mentioned a little earlier that the whole basis is the Vedas, everything begins or has to be connected with the Vedas.
I remember many years ago when Srila Prabhupada happened to be in Montreal and we had come from Ottawa. That was in 1975, and Srila Prabhupada was translating the Fifth Canto of the Bhagavatam which deals with the structure of the universe, very complex, very difficult actually to understand. Srila Prabhupada had mentioned at that particular time that when this Fifth Canto would be published, many of my devotees would leave [chuckles] because some of the statements are just too far out, difficult to accept.
I happened to be, like all the devotees who were in Montreal, most of the devotees we were eager to just be close to Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada was staying in one small apartment, Nandakesvara Prabhu’s apartment, close to the temple in Montreal. And he was inside one small room having discussions with many of the senior disciples. I was brahmacari at that time, but everybody was pulling their ears trying to hear, listen to what was being said. At one particular time there was–I’ve never heard it on a tape, but I mean I heard it directly–some questions were being asked to Srila Prabhupada that one particular time I found that very interesting, Prabhupada mentioned this particular point, I forget the actual point but “What I am explaining to you is based on realization.” Very important, “it is based on my own realization.”
So of course we have to cautious about realisations and they must also equate, must also be supported by sastra, sadhu, guru and sastra. The important point I am wanting to make in connection with the whole question of varnashrama dharma, Srila Prabhupada, way back in 1949, that means many, many years before coming to the West, before traveling to the West, had written two important texts.
One of them was actually a letter to someone who was like Deputy Minister here in India, practically the Prime Minister, and the essence of that letter was actually reproduced in the essay on Gita Nagari. If I can get this small message across, I am sure some of you are familiar with it, but I think it is so important and it needs to be studied I would say more deeply.
The essence of the message in that letter, which was again repeated, anyone can read it, the essay on Gita Nagari is the Srila Prabhupada’s folio, and so is that letter of 1949. Srila Prabhupada, actually, not only in that letter of 1949, not only in the essay on Gita Nagari, but also if we observe how Srila Prabhupada introduced Krsna consciousness within the society, those same four basic, you could say, divisions, actually Srila Prabhupada calls them movements. Prabhupada refers to four movements, part of the larger sankirtan movement of Lord Caitanya.
And it is a little confusing in one sense because the first movement he refers to as sankirtan. In the context that he is writing Srila Prabhupada refers to what actually he did when he went to New York. Sankirtan in this context means the holy name, the beginning. Just like Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya introduced the sankirtan movement. How? By going with mrdangas, khol, karatala in the streets of Navadwip and introducing, actually even before that in the house of Srivasa Thakur for one year was chanting the holy name, then he brought it out and it is being brought out especially by Srila Prabhupada all over the world since then.
So that is the first movement that is referred to by Srila Prabhupada, and if we follow these four movements, four divisions, we will observe how such a natural sequence is there, such logical sequence is there. And if we miss out on any of these sequences or leave any of them out, then we are losers, it is not complete. If somebody tells you there are four steps before you arrive at your destination, well if you take only three you are not going to arrive at your destination, isn’t it? Or if you get stuck on one of them then your’re not going to reach the destination.
So the first division, Prabhupada explained, was introducing the holy name, which would broaden, which would expand into the larger mrdanga. The holy name is with khol and karatala. Srila Prabhupada, like the Goswamis of Vrindavan also expanded that to what is called the brhad mrdanga, books, book distribution.
In the beginning, those who are Prabhupada disciples from the very beginning who are here understand there were no books practically, just magazines. I mean, you spent 8 hours just chanting the holy name every day practically, which was very nice. So the first movement or division introduced by Srila Prabhupada, and spoken of way back in 1949, is, what he coined as sankirtan, sankirtan movement, referring to the holy name and the books.
The second one, actually all of this is also referred to, Prabhupada makes the connection with Gandhi. I won’t get into that so much. If you read those references you can understand. The second one was what is called temple worship movement. Once you have attracted people by chanting the holy name, you have to go somewhere, you need a place. So temples. And Srila Prabhupada demonstrated this especially when he came back to India by establishing, this is one of the major, or initial, first temples Sridham Mayapur, Mayapur Candradoya Mandir, and then Vrindavan, Krishna Balarama Mandir, and then Bombay, then of course this continues. This is the second movement which is very important to give association for devotees to worship the Lord etc.
The third movement Srila Prabhupada speaks of and which he also introduced is what is called the spiritual initiation movement. Spiritual initiation refers to congregational preaching, whereby people are attracted by the holy name, they come to the temple and they become more serious and then the idea is to encourage them to become connected in guru parampara. They become intiated, more committed, and take vows, they sit in the fire yajna. That is the third movement.
Srila Prabhupada spoke of the fourth movement and also introduced it within our society but it is less understood. The fourth movement Srila Prabhupada referred to it as the classless society movement, classless society. Actually Prabhupada speaks of a classless society referring to varnasrama. It is a very bold statement to make, that varnashrama is a classless society movement. What does Srila Prabhupada mean? It means that actually when we practice bhakti, devotional service and put Krsna in the centre of our activities, we are all the same, we are all devotees, aspiring devotees, aspiring vaishnavas. So it is classless in that sense. But not that we do away with the four varnas and the four asramas.
Srila Prabhupada, we all know, very much wanted that understanding that this is very much dharma, and based on principles given directly by the Supreme Lord Himself. So in other words, it is very important for all of us, whether we are just, as we say, rank and file devotees, especially those who are leaders within our society need to understand these four divisions or four main movements so to speak, which, if they are properly understood and properly applied can actually bring in and give an opportunity actually for everyone in the whole world to become engaged.
And that is actually the purpose, or the mission, the sankirtan movement of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is meant, as we know, according to the predications which are given in the sastras, to introduce or bring in a golden period, Satya-yuga, for ten thousand years.
And these two features will be there, bhagavat dharma and varnashrama dharma. How we go about doing it actually that is the responsibility that has been given to us by Srila Prabhupada, following in the footsteps of the previous acaryas also. And this is, just like here the sages are vibrating vedic hymns, whenever we again, speak in relation to what is in the sastra, there’s one very nice quote I’ll just finish on this quote, spoken by Narada Muni connected also with the whole theme of the Vedic knowledge and the principles of dharma.
Narada Muni in the Seventh Canto of the Bhagavatam, Chapter 11 where he speaks about the four social divisions, varnas, very interesting. He begins also with the varnas then afterwards he goes into the asramas. That’s why Prabhupada says first is varna then iss ashrama, there’s a reason, very scientific reason why it is like this. So Narada Muni he mentions:
dharma-mulam hi bhagavan sarva-sastramayo harih smrtam ca tad-vidam rajan yena catma prasidati
The root of dharma is Bhagavan, rendering service to the Supreme Lord. sarva-sastramayo harih, means the essence of all vedic knowledge, means the essence of both sruti and smrti, means the essence of bhagavat dharma and the essence of varnashrama dharma is also the same, harih. Means Krishna.
That is why we speak of daivi-varnashrama dharma. Smrtam ca tad-vidam rajan, those who know, those who are in knowledge, they are constantly remembering and explaining about these principles which are found in the sastras. And if that is done then yena catma prasidati. Very interesting how Prabhupada’s translates this atma.
We know atma means the souls but actually atma means more than the soul. It means the body, the mind and soul, in that translation Prabhupada ends by saying body, mind, soul, you know, material, mental, and then he adds ‘and everything.’ Means everything will be satisfied when we understand the principles of dharma and are successful in applying them.
So this is a very great responsibility, very great order that has been handed down to all of us. We have a tremendous responsibility as members of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. And it is especially the duties of those who are especially able to give time, like in the varnashrama system means those more brahminically inclined to actually deeply study the various, that is why Lord Caitanya sent the Goswamis to Vrindavan so that they could scrutinizingly study and extract from the Vedic literatures what is the essence.
So our point and we’ll finish on this here is that there are two essences. The essence is both in terms of understanding our position as eternal servants of Krishna, bhagavat dharma principles, and also in our conditioned state, understanding there is a means by which to get there, ideal perfect system which is given by Krsna, which is varnashrama dharma, and it is our duty and responsibility to actually deeply understand and come to the point of one day applying it on a very large scale all over the world.
Thank you very much. Hare Krishna. We have a few minutes if you have any questions. Yes?
Question: You explained the fourth movement is a classless movement but varnashrama has classes. It seems to be a discrepancy. Can you explain please?
Bhakti Raghava Swami: We mentioned briefly, I’ll just repeat, that’s why I was mentioning that is a very bold statement. Prabhupada is using the term classless society specifically referring to varnashrama. Why? Because when we understand about daivi varnashrama, daivi means divine, spiritual varnashrama based on bhakti, so Krsna is in the centre. So whether I am a brahmana or a sannyasi or vaisya, whatever varna I may be in or whatever asrama, we are all servants of Krsna, so in that sense in the spiritual sense it is a classless society.
Again, not that we do away with the different positions, material positions. Because, you know, perfection of life is not to become a brahmana, perfection of life is not to become a sannyasi, but those social positions and those spiritual divisions are there and they are the ideal system given by Krsna whereby we can actually come to the transcendental platform. So it is classless, it is not my term, Prabhupada is using that term, that is there in the essay on Gita Nagari.
Visuddha Sattva Das: Hare Krishna. This is a very important point because Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was a sannyasi in varnasrama dharma, but he gave fourteen disciples babaji initiation. So he was criticised by the smarta brahmanas. The point is, as you very well mentioned, that Vaisnava is beyond these conceptions, but for a preaching movement we need to regulate according to varnasrama dharma. The reason is that inside himself, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was a paramahamsa. It doesn’t matter what varna we belong, but he goal is to become pure devotees which is beyond the classification of varnasrama dharma.
Bhakti Raghava Swami: Any other, one more question here.
Question: Thank you for your class, Maharaja. What are your thoughts, we’ve made attempts in North America to establish self sufficient varnashrama farming communities, I was wondering what you thought have been our greatest obstacles in helping these communities to flourish and prosper and how do you think we can best overcome the obstacles we face?
Bhakti Raghava Swami: Most of our obstacles, a major portion of our obstacles are on the level of, I think its obvious, on the level of sambanda, relationships. Just like we cannot understand or appreciate anything beyond the level of nistha, like ruci and asakti and bhava and prema unless we go through the right beginning levels of association and coming to the level of being really fixed up as devotees.
Nistha means situated in the mode of goodness, following strictly the principles, like this, which only, this basic foundation is what can enable us to establish proper relationships.
Sambandha, it’s a great challenge, a tremendous challenge within our society because we are dealing with so many different levels of relationships. Especially we have many what we call siksha gurus, diksha gurus, a lot of controversies and misunderstandings and vaisnava ettiquite may be not known or followed, so relationship is actually the key to opening up and succeeding in any activity.
If our sambandha understanding is more deeply known, realized, understood, applied, and followed, then our activities will naturally go on nicely. So I think there may be other aspects but in my estimation, and anyway it’s a part of our philosophy, it’s the basis of our philosophy also, sambandha.
And as a matter a fact, we mentioned earlier in the class and I’ll finish on this point, also Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Dasa-mula-tattva, after establishing the Vedas as the basis, everything has to be connected with the Vedas, he mentions that the seven following principles are in connection with sambandha. Then the ninth is in connection with abhideya, and the tenth is prayojana. Our acarya Bhaktivinoda Thakur is giving so much importance on sambandha, different levels of relationships.
I think we’ll stop here. Srila Prabhupada ki jai! Jai gaura premande!