Seminar on Vaishnava Etiquette – Transcript – 3

Guru Maharaja recites:

om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah
sri-caitanya-mano-’bhishtam sthapitam yena bhu-tale
svayam rupah kada mahyam dadati sva-padantikam
sri-krishna-chaitanya prabhu-nityananda
sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda
hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

Just a little while ago I was talking to Mr. Pillay, the ex education minister. And Mr. Pillay was asking me whether we have any publication on Vedanta. And I briefly told him that all our publications, all the books that Srila Prabhupada has written, are actually on Vedanta. And we didn’t have much time to discuss. So, I told him, when I speak today, I will speak on that topic. I will elaborate or explain that how all the publications of ISKCON are actually on Vedanta.

To approach this topic the first thing I will consider is: what is Vedanta? The word itself signifies the Veda-anta, Vedasya, anta. The end of the Vedas is Vedanta. The Vedas, the word Veda means knowledge. This word Veda is derived from the root word Ved, which means to know. And Veda means knowledge. This knowledge is basically dealing with spiritual reality. The original Veda is: at the time of creation Krishna imparted this spiritual wisdom to the first created being, Brahma. And Brahma actually received this knowledge in the form of Gayatri. Krishna imparted this knowledge in the form of a seed. And that seed or the basis of that knowledge was in the form of Gayatri, which He gave to him by playing His flute. And Brahma, meditating upon Gayatri received the knowledge which revealed in his heart. Which has been described as: tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah. Tene Brahma hrda: this transcendental knowledge was imparted in the heart of Brahma.

The knowledge came. This wisdom or the awareness of the spiritual reality was dawned in Brahma’s heart. The Divya-jnana, the transcendental knowledge is revealed in the heart. The transcendental reality cannot be seen by our eyes or perceived with our senses. That is the first thing that we have to understand. With our material senses we can only see matter. The spiritual reality is beyond matter. The material senses can perceive only material things. And not only, all the material things are also not perceived by our senses. For example we know that we have mind, which is matter. But you cannot see your mind. You cannot touch your mind. Similarly in,.. there are subtle objects. The only thing that we can actually perceive; only aspects of material elements that can be perceived with our senses are: earth, water, fire and air. Earth we can touch, we can see. Water also we can see. Fire we can see. Air we cannot see. But we can feel air when the wind blows or when we breathe, we can see. We can perceive air. But ether cannot be seen, cannot be touched, cannot be perceived with any of our senses. Only in the form of sound the ether is perceived, which is the medium of sound. Now beyond these five gross elements there are three subtle elements. Those three subtle elements are: mind, intelligence and false ego. Mana, Buddhi and Ahankara. Those three things we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our hands or perceive with any of our senses. Now these are material objects but still cannot be perceived, although we can experience or comprehend their functioning. We see that mind works. We all know that we have a thing called mind. We all know that we have a thing called intelligence. We know that we have a thing called false ego or ahankara. Mana, Buddhi and Ahankara.

Now beyond all that is the soul. Soul is not a product of this material nature. The soul is coming from the spiritual reality. Now the spiritual reality is beyond our sense perception. Therefore the spiritual reality is described as Adhokshaja. Adhokshaja means beyond our sense perception. And therefore it has been described as acinta, a-cinta, beyond our imagination, beyond our ability to mental comprehension.
Mentally through our minds, through our intelligence we cannot actually perceive the spiritual reality. The spiritual reality is beyond the jurisdiction of material sense perception. With our intelligence we can conceive of the existence of the spiritual reality, that’s about all. How? For example, we see there is a dead body and a living body. A person is alive, he is functioning and he is talking, he is thinking, he is working. Then all of a sudden that body is dead. Now we consider, what made this body that was alive for so many years, has all of a sudden died. All his functioning.  Death means all the functioning of the body stops, you know, at that point. So what causes the death? Through our intelligence we can conceive that the person who made the body alive, is gone. Who is that, that made the body alive? That is the soul. In this way through our intelligence we can somewhat grasp or conceive of the existence of the spirit soul. But we cannot actually see the soul with our material senses. It is completely beyond our sense perception. Therefore it has been described as acinta. Cinta means thinking ability. So, beyond our sense perception. Even beyond the ability to grasp with our mind.

Prakrtibhyah param yac ca tad acintyasya laksanam. Things that are beyond this material nature; that is the symptom of acinta. And this spiritual reality is acinta, beyond our sense perception. Therefore it has been described as adhokshaje. Adho-aksha- je, beyond our sense perception. Now things that are beyond our sense perception, how can we get to know about that? Therefore, the knowledge has been given by the Lord Himself, in the form of the Gayatri. And meditating upon the Gayatri, this knowledge was revealed in the heart of Brahma, tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah. This knowledge is so complex that even the demigods cannot understand this knowledge.

Anyway, this knowledge was given to Brahma in the form of Gayatri. And by meditating upon Gayatri, this knowledge about the spiritual reality was revealed in the heart of Brahma. Therefore, this knowledge is called Veda. And because this knowledge revealed through Gayatri, therefore Gayatri is considered to be Veda-Mata, the mother of the Veda’s. Veda-mata, Gayatri. 

Now, Brahma upon receiving that knowledge. This also has been very beautifully described in Brahma- samhita. That the way Brahma, after receiving the Gayatri, he meditated upon this Gayatri, and as a result of that, the spiritual reality was revealed in his heart.  And at that time what happened? Brahma was transported to the spiritual sky. He was transported. He found himself in the spiritual reality. And Brahma is describing that, what is this spiritual reality like? And he is describing: cintamani-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vrksa laksavresu surabhir abhipalayantam. He is seeing the spiritual reality. It is created. It is composed of cintamani – touch stone. That is again, it is a material definition. But cintamani is not really just touch stone. It is something beyond our imagination. It is composed of spiritual substance. And one of the definitions of the spiritual substance is that it can fulfill all our desires. Spiritual reality is a reality where all our desires can be immediately fulfilled. The spiritual reality is not composed of earth and water and so forth. It is composed of the spiritual reality, although the concept of earth or solid and liquid and all that are there. Solid, liquid, fire and other things are there. The land there is made of touch stone. That place is full of forest. That place is a forest, beautiful forest. The trees are desire trees. Those trees can also fulfill all our desires. In the material nature the trees bear fruits and flowers. But in the spiritual world, the trees just can produce anything that we want.
Now, cintamani-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vrksa . The place is filled with desire trees. Surabhir abhipalayantam, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is tending the cows there. And those cows are Surabhi cows. Again these cows can produce not only unlimited amounts of milk, but they also can produce anything that one desires. And laksmi-sahasra-sata-sambhrama-sevyamanam, hundreds and thousands of Laxmis are very respectfully serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead there. The Lord there is sporting with the gopis in Vrindavan. And all those gopis are Laxmis. So this is how Brahma perceived the spiritual reality, the spiritual sky. That description is very elaborately presented in the fifth chapter of Brahma Samhita. So upon perceiving the spiritual reality, Brahma was situated in transcendental knowledge. Then Brahma imparted that knowledge. Then the knowledge actually divided into two parts. One part to deal with the material nature, and the other one is to deal with the spiritual reality or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The aspect that dealt with the material nature is considered to be Karma-kanda section of the Vedas. And the aspect that dealt with the spiritual reality is considered to be Bhagavad.

In this way two lines of two paramparas developed: Karma-kanda,Jnana-kanda section of the Vedas and then the Bhagavad aspect or the devotional aspect of the Vedas, the spiritual aspect of the Vedas. Then in this way through the disciplic succession this knowledge was flowing. Brahma gave different aspects of this Karma-kanda and Jnana-kanda of Vedas to various sages. It is there.  All his manasa-putras produced from his mind. And the Bhagavad parampara flew through Narada, then Narada to Vyasa. Brahma gave it to his son Narada Muni. Narada Muni imparted the knowledge to Vyasadeva. Then in this parampara, this spiritual knowledge has been flowing.

Then, five thousand years back the Kali-Yuga began. Kali-Yuga is a very degraded age, an age of adharma, when people are not at all concerned about spiritual activities. No one is interested about spiritual progress. Everyone is simply concerned about his material sense enjoyment. Therefore this knowledge had been presented.  Then it was decided that this knowledge has to be systematically presented for this specific age, when people are not going to be interested in spiritual advancement. Or even any kind of spiritual inclination. Therefore Vyasadeva again, he divided the Vedas into four sections. Those four sections of the Vedas are Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Then he gave the Veda-angas, different angas, different limbs of the Vedas, which are the Dharma-shastras, the Ithihasas and Puranas and Samhitas.  Of them the simplest one is Ithihasas or history, which is Mahabharata.  And in Mahabharata he gave the essence of the Vedas in the form of Bhagavad-gita. And then he gave another section which is the summary of the Vedic wisdom and that is the Vedanta. So this is how Vyasadeva divided the Vedas or simplified it for the benefit of the common people. But still he was not satisfied. He felt that the mission has not been properly accomplished. Therefore Vyasadeva was sitting on the banks of Sarasvati in completely dejected mood, wondering what actually happened. I tried to simplify it, divided it into systematic sections, and then gave different branches. Elaborately explained them and finally in one hand for the common people I gave the Mahabharata for less intelligent people, and for the most advanced individuals I gave the Vedanta. At that time Narada Muni came, and Narada Muni came and told him, “Vyasa, although you have compiled and systematically analysed the Vedas, but you haven’t presented the essence of the Vedas in a proper way. Although you have given the Vedanta, and although you have presented Mahabharata and other scriptures, through which it is becoming clear that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate object for meditation or comprehension of the Vedas.”

Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo, Krishna is saying in Bhagavad-gita, that in all the Vedas I alone am to be known. But still you have not directly and properly explained that point. Then Vyasadeva wrote Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the natural commentary, the natural commentary of Vedanta Sutra.

Bhagavatam has been described as the natural commentary. Artho yam brahma- sutranam,Vedanta another name of Vedanta is Brahma-sutra. Artho yam brahma-sutranam. The artho means the meaning. The purport of the Vedanta is Srimad-Bhagavatam. Bharatartha-vinirnayah, the purpose of Mahabharata has been presented also. This is what Srimad-Bhagavatam is. Artho yam brahma-sutranam  bhasyam brahma-sutranam, the natural commentary of Vedanta sutra or Brahma sutra and bharatartha-vinirnayam. The meaning of Mahabharata has been explained in the form of the Vedanta-sutra, in the form of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Now, let us consider. What is the Vedanta? There is a misconception. I won’t say misconception, rather say there are two ways of understanding.  Two understandings: one is impersonal and the other is personal. Impersonal aspect of the Vedas is the energy of the Lord which is known as Brahman, Brahma-jyoti. But this Brahma-jyoti is the bodily effulgence of the Lord. Wherever there is an energy, there has to be an energetic. Without an energetic there is no consideration of energy. So Brahma-jyoti, the light, the energy has a source, has an origin. That origin is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Again this point has been explained very clearly and very simply. As vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate. That is, those who are the knower of the truth, tattva-vidas. Vadanti , they say yaj jnanam advayam. They speak about the knowledge which is non dual. Yaj jnanam, the knowledge, the wisdom, that is advayam. Advayam means non dual , that does not have any second. So, now you see: vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam. The knower of the truth, speaks about the truth which is non dual as brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate. Non dual is described as Brahma, Paramatma and Bhagavan, brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate.

So, this has been explained further. That, why one that is without any duality, without any second, is described in three ways. In one hand it is saying advayam, but then the definition again is coming, as described in three ways: brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate. So, this has been explained as Brahma is the bodily effulgence of the Lord. Paramatma is the localized aspect of the Lord whereby He is situated in everyone’s heart. But He Himself is Bhagavan or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

This point again has been clarified. Like, during the daytime you are inside a room and you are seeing the light of the sun. You are seeing the sun in the form of the light. But then you go out of the room, then what do you see? You see the sun globe. You are not only seeing the light, you are seeing the source of the light, the sun globe. And then, if you can manage to go into the sun planet, then there you will find the variegatedness there. And there we will see the sun god, and his associates and paraphernalia. So it is from the distance, depends upon from what perspective or from which distance you are looking at it and as a result of that your perception will vary. Although it is one -one sun – but the perceptions are differing from your degree of, or distance of perception. Srila Prabhupada made this point in a rather simple way for our understanding. At night when you are standing in a station, on a platform waiting for a train. From a distance you’ll see the light. You know the train is coming. And then, when the train comes closer then you see the train. From a distance, at night you didn’t see the train, you simply saw the light. But when the train came closer, then you could see the train. And when the train came onto the platform, then you see the compartments and people inside the compartments. The same train appears in three different features according to our perception. Similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, when we see Him from a distance, through the process of meditation.  And which is known as jnana, when we perceive Him through knowledge, through meditation we try to perceive Him, He appears as Brahma-jyoti. Through yoga when we project our consciousness internally, then we see Him as the Supersoul in the heart. But with devotion when we develop our loving relationship with Him, then we see Him as Bhagavan. Jnana, yoga and bhakti. Jnana is farthest away. What is the jnana? Neti, neti.  Not this, not this. It is an external endeavour. Is this transcendental, is this spiritual? Obvious the answer is no. When you are making an approach from the material direction, is this the spiritual reality? Is this the spiritual reality, is this the spiritual reality? What will be the answer? No, no, no. Therefore this process is known as neti, neti, not this, not this. And in this way we come to a dead end. And there our perception is in the form of Brahma-jyoti. Somehow, if we can break the barrier of matter, then we will see that spiritual light, the Brahma-jyoti. But actually it is a dead end. One will see that through this process I have come to a dead end. Therefore the tendency would be to go in the opposite direction through the external endeavour we came to this dead end.

So, what is the course open to us now? To go internal, go within. And that process of going within is yoga, astanga yoga. Astanga, it has eight forces, eight aspects. Although the purpose is meditation, meditation means projection of the consciousness internally, focused onto one point. Which is that point? The core of our heart. But in order to qualify that there are other aspects: yam, niyam, asana, pranayama and pratahara. These are the five aspects out of eight which is just preparatory. What is the preparation? External purification – yama. Niyama – internal purification. Asana – to become properly situated in this body, using the body to reach our destination. Then pranayama – controlling the breathing. Controlling the breathing doesn’t mean just breathing in a certain way. Controlling the breathing actually means to stop breathing all together. This is how arduous this process is. Prana and apana, there are actually two types of air that we are dealing with here. Prana, the air that goes internally and apana, the air that goes externally. And sometimes it is described as the air – prana vayu is going downwards and apana vayu is going upwards.  So through this prana and apana we are doing this, our respiration is going on. We are inhaling and we are exhaling. Inhalation is taking place through the prana effect, through the effect of prana. And exhaling is going on according to apana vayu. And the breathing process is not only consisting of inhaling and exhaling. There is another very important aspect of the breathing process, which generally we don’t take into consideration. We are simply concerned about inhaling and exhaling. What is the third consideration? Retaining.  Rechaka, puraka and kumbaka. Exhalation, exhaling, rechaka. Puraka, filling up or inhaling. And kumbaka, retaining. Now for yoga this kumbaka aspect is the most important aspect. And yogi, ultimately what he does, he stops his inhalation and exhalation. Inhaling and exhaling, he is simply retaining the life air within himself. That is the purpose of pranayama.

Pran apanau samau krtva nasabhyantara-carinau. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna is actually describing this process. That pran apanau, they are merged into one another, and retaining within the nostrils, meaning stopping to breath. When one masters that art of pranayama, then only he is qualified to enter into the fifth aspect of yoga, astanga yoga. What is the fifth aspect? The fifth aspect of astanga yoga is pratyahara – withdraw. Pratyahara: the senses are withdrawn from the objects of the senses. At that stage the objects can be in front of the yogi, but he won’t perceive that. A form may be there, somebody may be there in front of his eyes and his eyes may be open but he won’t see him. The sound may be there but he won’t register the sound. In this way all the activities of the senses are completely withdrawn. Now why it is called withdrawn? Because the perception takes place, because of the projection of the mind. The senses are there, but the senses register only when the mind is tuned into that. An object may be there in front of our eyes, but if our mind is not there, then we won’t see it. Sound may be there, but if the mind is not tuned into that or projected through that, we won’t hear. So, ultimate consideration of perception is in the mind. And a yogi withdraws the mind and as a result of that his perception of his senses or the activities of the senses come to a standstill. He does not register to different objects of the sense perception. At that point he becomes qualified to meditate, dhyana. Dhyana is not just a matter of closing your eyes for five minutes. That is not the meditation that astanga yoga is promoting. So, dhyana means: now he is qualified to focus his mind. It has been withdrawn from external in order to project internally, in the core of the heart. And when that projection becomes fixed, then it is called dharana. And then when one sees the Lord in the heart, that is samadhi.

It is a very difficult process. In order to master this art individuals not only had to go to a solitary place, but practise it for thousands of years. Visvamitra Muni, after practising this astanga yoga for sixty-four thousand years, he fell down. For sixty-four thousand years he practised it. Indra became worried, “oh my God, he may take over my position”. So he sent Menaka, a very beautiful apsara from heaven. Visvamitra’s senses were completely withdrawn, he was meditating. But just his eyes were not registering.  All other senses were completely shut down. Menaka just started to move her feet in a rhythmic way and her ankle bells started to tinkle. That sound entered through Visvamitra’s ears, and just that sound made him open his eyes and see this beautiful form of a woman. He could not restrain himself, he fell down. Sixty-four thousand years of endeavour was just rinsed and due to his union with Menaka, Shakuntala was born. These anecdotes are there in Mahabharata.

So, this is the process of yoga. When one achieves the perfection of the yoga, then one sees the Lord in the heart as the Supersoul or Paramatma. Now, when one surrenders, when one sees the Supersoul, the Supreme Soul and recognises himself as a minute jivatma or individual soul. When one small person comes across a great personality, then what happens? Naturally his head bends down in reverence. He surrenders himself to that personality. So after achieving the perfection of yoga one naturally surrenders himself onto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And that surrender is called saranagati or prapathi and that leads to devotion to the Lord. Which begins with surrender, the surrender to the Lord and bhakti begins.

So in this way we can see the different aspects. There is like jnana, yoga and bhakti are a gradual progression of the same course. It starts off with jnana, it continues with yoga and it culminates into bhakti. And through bhakti when one begins to express his love for the Lord, then the Lord manifests himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead – Bhagavan.

Jnana, Shyam sundaram,  acinta guna svarupam, His most beautiful form that has the complexion of monsoon cloud. And that Personality is endowed with inconceivable qualities, and every single aspect of His qualities are the source of attracting. Therefore He is All-Attractive. Therefore He is Krishna. The word Krishna means all attractive. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is all attractive, therefore He is Krishna. So that is how brahmeti  paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate.

So, although the Vedic wisdom initially deals with the impersonal energy aspect, but ultimately it ends with the energetic aspect. And that energetic aspect is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And that relationship is simply based on love. Bhakti or devotion means love. Love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

So, my conclusion therefore is that the natural explanation of Vedanta Sutra is Srimad-Bhagavatam, that describes the qualities and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the most profound way. And that is why the ultimate consideration of Vedanta is Srimad-Bhagavatam. Or as Krishna, is also saying in Bhagavad-gita: vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo Vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham. That in all the Vedas I alone am to be known. Vedais ca sarvair, in all the Vedas, aham eva vedyo, I alone am to be known. Previously I mentioned that the word Veda is coming from the word ved, which means to know. And vidya means to be known.  Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo and Vedanta-krd, I am the ultimately consideration of Vedanta. And veda -vid, I am the knower of the Vedas. So the real understanding of Vedanta is to understand Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the information that we received from Srila Prabhupada through this disciplic succession. This knowledge is not Prabhupada’s concocted ideas. This knowledge is the preeminent wisdom that is flowing through the disciplic succession. The knowledge that was first revealed by Krishna to Brahma, then Brahma gave it to Narada. And Narada to Vyasa, and in this way in a chain, an unbroken chain of guru and disciple, the same knowledge is flowing. It is not that something, somebody concocted or developed through his intellect. No, it is the understanding of the absolute reality which is flowing in a process, in a specific process. The process is teacher to the student. In course of time, the student becomes the teacher and gives it to his student. That student becomes a teacher in course of time and gives it to his student. And in this way this knowledge is flowing.  Evam parampara-praptam this knowledge flows and this knowledge can be received, praptam, through this disciplic succession. And when one becomes connected to this parampara, he receives this knowledge. There is no secret about it. It is simple knowledge. Knowledge means information about things.

So, if you are interested about spiritual reality, this is the way you have to receive it, from a qualified source, because you are dealing with something that is beyond your sense perception. At least material knowledge you can verify with your senses. But when it comes to this knowledge which is beyond your sense perception, what option do you have open to you but to receive it from a bonafide source. At least, I can say for myself that I was searching and I was totally confused, until I came across Srila Prabhupada. And when I came across Srila Prabhupada, everything became crystal clear.
Knowledge is simple when you have it. When you don’t have it, yes then it is very complex. It is simple. Like, when you don’t know how to ride a bike is very difficult. But when you know how to ride a bike, it is simple. You just hop into the bike and automatically you balance and start peddling. Swimming is very difficult but those who know how to swim it is very easy.  You just go into water and automatically it happens. In this respect I often recall one anecdote. There was a time when I was trying to learn French. And I thought of giving it up. And I told my teacher, I can’t, it is too tough for me. And she said, no French is easy. I said it may be easy to you, but not to me. And she kept on insisting, no French is very easy. In France even children speak French. So, this is how simple knowledge actually is. When you have it, it is easy, it is simple. But we have to receive it in a proper way.

Hare Krishna. Mister Pillay, I hope I have been able to convey the information that we received from our spiritual master. And that is why I was saying, that all our books are actually dealing with Vedanta. Because Vedanta – anta veda – is Krishna. Now somebody says no, anta veda is Brahma-jyoti. Then my question will be: what is the source of Brahma-jyoti? Where does Brahma-jyoti come from? Let’s go to the source. And Brahma-jyoti, the effulgence, the light is the bodily effulgence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Brahmeti  paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate, the bodily effulgence that for me is the spiritual reality is Brahma-jyoti. Material nature is an eternal darkness. Spiritual world is eternal light. But that light is the bodily effulgence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And then that Supreme Personality of Godhead is situated in everyone’s heart. But that aspect of the Lord is inactive. He is just standing there in the heart. He is just there in the heart as Upadrastan umanta ca, as the Witness and as the Sanctioner. Upadrastan , upadrastan means witness. He is watching us. Everything that we are doing, He is registering. And we desire and our desires are fulfilled by His approval, anumanta. But when we begin to serve Him with love, then He reciprocates. When the Lord is inactive in the heart, He is the Supersoul. But when through love, He becomes active and He begins to reciprocate that love, then that aspect is Bhagavan. That is He Himself.

Hare Krishna. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Thank you all very much.
I know many of you have questions. But considering the situation here, I thought that tonight I won’t invite any question. But if you have questions, please write them down. Tomorrow I will be in our temple in Phoenix Radha Golokananda temple. And I will be very happy to answer your questions.

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