Category Archives: Scriptures

Shastras,Vedas and Upanishads

Q. Explain the diffenece between: Sastras(scriptures), Vedas, and the Upanishads, with examples.

A. Shastra…..

Shastra is a broad term and include any book which has codes and conduct given by God. These are like law books for man kind to follow like a citizen of country has constitution of the country to follow.

Any person who has taken birth as human being should study scriptures as any one who is part of country should know the laws made by country.

Shastras include Vedas and Upanishads.

Vedas….

The original source of knowledge is the Vedas. There are no branches of knowledge, either mundane or transcendental, which do not belong to the original text of the Vedas. They have simply been developed into different branches, They were originally rendered by great, respectable and learned professors. In other words, the Vedic knowledge, broken into different branches by different disciplic successions, has been distributed all over the world. No one, therefore, can claim independent knowledge beyond the Vedas.

Formerly there was only the Veda of the name Yajur, and the four divisions of sacrifices were there specifically mentioned. But to make them more easily performable, the Veda was divided into four divisions of sacrifice (namely Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva), just to purify the occupational service of the four orders.

Upanishads….

The Upanishads are considered to be the topmost part of the subject dealt in the Vedic Literature.

There are 108 of them, like Ishopanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Samveda Upanishad, and Chhandogya Upanishad.

The Upanishads are parts of the four Vedas, and the Vedanta Sutra is the cream of the Vedas. And to summarize all these Vedic writings, the Bhagavad Gita is accepted as the cream of all Upanishads and the elementary explanation of the Vedanta Sutra.

Our Basic Philosophy

Q. What is your basic philosophy?

A. The Vedas teach us that our real identity is spiritual. All living beings in this world are souls identifying with the bodies they inhabit. Though we souls are tiny and God is infinite, like Him we are by nature eternal, full of happiness  and full of knowledge.

Though we belong with God, Krishna, in the spiritual world, we must stay in the material world until our pure love for Him awakens and we lose all desire to try to enjoy separately from Him.

We must understand the pitfalls of living in the material world. Sensual pleasure is temporary and fleeting. We suffer from old age, disease  and eventually die. The reactions to our activities or karma, compel us to take repeated births in various species.

Enlightenment involves coming in contact with a realized soul or guru, who can teach us how to purify our consciousness and reestablish our love and service attitude for God. In the current age, the easiest method of purification is to chant the holy names of God, the Hare Krishna mantra,

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

in the association of like-minded spiritual seekers or devotees of Krishna.

Life after Death…!

Q. What do you believe happens after we die?

A. After we die we go into another body—material or spiritual, depending on our actions in this world.

The Vedic literature tells us that we souls can inhabit any of millions of forms of life, including aquatics, plants, insects, reptiles, birds, animals, and human beings. At the time of death, we leave one body and enter a new one. That is called reincarnation.

The concept of reincarnation is not as foreign as it might seem. We can observe that we change from one body to another in our own lifetime. Your body at birth is completely different from your adult body. Yet throughout these changes, you—he conscious self—remain the same. Similarly, the conscious self remains from one body to the next in the cycle of reincarnation.

Our present body is the result of a long series of actions and reactions in previous lives. The law that governs this is known as karma: every action has a reaction. Our previous actions have produced our present body, and our current actions will determine our next body.

Krishna, through the agency of material nature, provides all these bodies for us in response to our desire to enjoy in the material world. Yet all species of life also share in the miseries of the material world. So for us eternal souls, moving from body to body means experiencing every imaginable kind of suffering. Only in the human form can we can free ourselves from the vicious cycle of reincarnation—by reestablishing our eternal, loving relationship with Krishna.

Suffering in a Subtle Body and in a Dream….!

Q. Tthe Srimad-Bhagavatam, Third Canto, Chapter 30, verses 19–31, explains the plight of the sinful soul after death, after it leaves the material body on earth. The dreadful account can’t be true, because the soul cannot reap the fruit of his actions, bad or good, until he gets a material body again. The subtle soul will never suffer any hardship, as explained in Bhagavad-gita2.22–25.

Whereas the Bhagavatam describes the punishment of the sinful person in hell, the Gita states that after leaving the material body, the soul gets another material body. I find a lot of variance between the two books. Please elucidate the correct position. Both cannot be right.

A. Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, present the same teachings in essence, but the Bhagavatam elaborates points discussed briefly in the Gita. The Gita (7.4) explains that besides the gross material body, the soul also inhabits a subtle material body, made up of the mind, intelligence, and false ego. It is this subtle body that undergoes punishment in the hellish planets. While it is true, as the Gita says, that the soul goes on to another body, it is also true, as the Bhagavatam says, that the sinful soul first of all undergoes punishment in hellish planets. Because the suffering takes place on a subtle plane, the time duration seems very long, when in fact it is brief. (Researchers tell us that although episodes in dreams seem to last a long time, they are actually very short.)

We can understand how the subtle body feels pain by considering what happens in our dreams. During the day we identify with our gross, physical body, and at night we identify with our subtle body, in dreams. When we dream, the experience seems real. If something harms us in a dream, we “feel” it. We might, for example, wake up screaming because of pain or fright. This is an indication of how the subtle body is punished in the hellish planets.

Serving God by Serving Man OR Serving Man by Serving God

Q. When you say that we serve all living things when we serve Krishna.Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  I mean when we help someone else aren’t we serving the Lord indirectly?

A. When we water the root of the tree all the leaves and branches are nourished. When we feed our stomach we nourish all of our bodily parts. Do we feed our stomach by sticking our hand in the rice and trying to digest the rice through our skin? No. By taking the rice in our hand and feeding it to the mouth the food goes to the stomach and from the stomach the hand gets its nourishment. Our so-called service to man will always remain imperfect until we make God the absolute center of our life. We will simply render some service to their temporary material bodies without benefiting their eternal spiritual beings even the slightest bit.

In India it is popularly said, “Manav seva, Prabhu seva–Serving man is serving God,” but this is a modern day misconception that is not supported in the Vedic literatures. The real fact, according to the Vedic wisdom is that by serving God we automatically give the best service to all living beings.

Try to understand that we cannot factually help anyone in the real sense unless we are reconnecting them with God. We may provide someone with all material facilities but they will still get sick, get old and die. But if we can awaken their dormant Krishna consciousness, we are eternally and unlimitedly benefiting them. They will become forever free from birth, death, old age and disease.

In the Vedic culture material help is also given but it is always understood to be less important than giving them Krishna consciousness. We give material help and at the same time give them Krishna. Material help gives limited temporary relief. Krishna consciousness gives permanent relief from all forms of suffering.

Pinching Words

Q. In your Bhagavad-gita ‘ in text 9.11 the word ‘mudha’ is translated as “rascals,” “fools,” etc. Please don’t use words that pinch new learners. This is my humble request.

A.  As Prabhupada himself would point out, he is simply repeating Krishna’s words. Krishna certainly has the right to label someone a fool, and people should know who Krishna considers foolish. That’s part of the wisdom of the Gita. Krishna makes distinctions.

As followers of Srila Prabhupada we don’t feel it is proper for us to interfere with his preaching style. If he felt it was important to repeat Krishna‘s words in pointing out who is foolish, it’s not our position to challenge him.

We ourselves might use a gentler approach when preaching, and Prabhupada did that also, but if Prabhupäda felt that strong words were sometimes needed, we have to agree with that assessment. Besides, we might not be able to predict the effect of strong words. Someone might read them and think, “Oh, Krishna says I’m a fool. So I should stop being a fool and surrender to Him.”

Srila Prabhupada often spoke strongly and he inspired thousands—maybe millions—of people to become devotees of Krishna.

Why Animal Sacrifice?

Q. If the Lord dislikes killing, why are animal sacrifices to God found in the scriptures?

A. Although animal sacrifice to God is mentioned in the scriptures, it is ultimately forbidden there. Sometimes the scriptures recommend animal sacrifice for meat-eaters who can’t give up their habit all at once. They can offer the animal in sacrifice and then eat it, gradually becoming free of the desire to eat meat.

Fortunately, today we can perform the sacrifice of chanting Hare Krishna and eating delicious vegetarian food offered to Krishna .That will quickly purify us and free us from the base desire to eat meat. There’s no good reason for anyone to kill animals today.

Demigod Worship or Worship of the Devas

Q. In Chapter 7, verse 20–23, of the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna describes the worshipers of devas (demigods) as less intelligent. But in Chapter 10 He describes Himself as many devas, such as Indra, Shiva, and Brahma. So is Chapter 10 saying that worship of the devas is all right?

A. In Chapter 10 Lord Krishna reveals that the best of everything in this world represents Him. In that sense these things are Krishna but Krishna doesn’t suggest we worship Him by worshiping examples of His opulence. He says that among fish He is the shark but we don’t worship sharks. Similarly, because Indra, Shiva and Brahma are chief among the devas, they represent some aspect of Krishna’s unlimited power but Krishna says in the ninth chapter that worshiping them is avidhi purvakam or against the rules. Because everything in the material world is Krishna’s energy, it is in a sense Krishna. But Krishna tells us to worship Him—the person—and not His energy.

Devi Bhagavatam

Q. One of my friends recently mentioned about Devi Bhagvatam wherein Devi Bhagvati is mentioned as supreme. She also said that this has been written by Vyasadeva. Can you help me on this.

A. There is no reference in any scripture to something known as Devi Bhagavatam. Bhagavatam refers to Bhagavan and Bhagavan according to all scriptures is Krishna. He is the Supreme. Devi (Durga,Kali,Parvati…!) is just the manifestation of the external energy of Krishna.

Krishna and Vishnu – The difference

Q. Can you let me know what is the difference between Vishnu and Krishna? I do agree that Krishna is the supreme but can you answer me that how Krishna is supreme than Vishnu. Please provide me with some references from Srimad Bhagavatam.

A. Krishna in Vrindavan is like God at home, while Krishna  as Vishnu in various Vaikuntha planets, is like God at office. A person at home is most comfortable and relaxed and has intimate loving dealings with his family members, while at office he has very formal dealings with his associates. Similarly in Vrindavan, all the Vrajavasis have very intimate dealings with Krishna in sakhya (friendship), vatsalya (parental) or madhurya (conjugal) rasas. No one there is aware of Krishna’s supreme position as God that usually results in very formal and reverential dealings. In the Vaikuntha planets, however, all the residents are always aware of Vishnu’s supreme position as the controller and maintainer of the whole creation. Therefore, all their dealings with Him—including those of sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya are tinged with the feelings of awe and reverence.

So, from an impartial study we can see that Krishna’s pastimes are more sweet and enchanting than those of Vishnu. In that sense, Krishna is superior to Vishnu.

Krishna also has four additional unique qualities not found in Vishnu. Srila Prabhupada explains them in The Nectar of Devotion:

1.Lila-madhuri—He is the performer of wonderful varieties of pastimes (especially His childhood pastimes).
2.Bhakta-madhuri—He is surrounded by devotees endowed with wonderful love of Godhead.
3.Venu-madhuri—He can attract all living entities all over the universes by playing on His flute.
4.Rupa-madhuri—He has a wonderful excellence of beauty which cannot be rivaled anywhere in the creation.”

Brahma-samhita compares Krishna to a candle from which several other candles are lit. These candles are compared to Lord Vishnu and the various incarnations. Diparcir eva hi dasantaram abhyupetya . . . . (Bs. 5.46) Although all candles have the same potency, the original candle still retains its uniqueness. Krishna is like that original candle, the source of all the incarnations.

After describing the various incarnations of the Lord, Suta Gosvami quotes the following verse (Bhag. 1.3.28):

ete camas kala pumsah
krsnas tu bhagavan svayam
indrari vyakulam lokam
mrdayanti yuge yuge

“All the incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the 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.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam also describes the pastime of Maha-vishnu stealing the sons of a brahmana in Dvaraka so that He could somehow get the darshan of Lord Krishna. This incident proves how Lord Krishna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead and Vishnu an expansion. You may read this pastime in the Krishna book, chapter eighty-nine, The Superexcellent Power of Krishna.