5. Eternal Truths Vs. Everyday Realities
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Would you like to hear another question, Śrīla Prabhupāda?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: “It is said that whereas the śrutis [the four original Vedas, the Upaniṣads, and the Vedānta-sūtra] embody eternal truths, the smṛtis [the Purāṇas, the Mahābhārata, the Rāmāyaṇa, and corollary Vedic literature] embody the rules of conduct and thus need to be revised according to the dictates of the changing times. Will such a view be acceptable to all sections of society, and if so, how can the new smṛtis come into being, and who will give them sanction and sanctity?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The smṛtis are given by the Lord and His representatives. They come from spiritual authorities such as Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The śāstra, or scripture, also gives this authority. For instance, for this age, Kali-yuga, the Lord has prescribed a special means of God realization – the chanting of His holy name. Smṛtis such as the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa say the same thing – that in this age of Kali-yuga, the only possible means of God-realization is chanting the Lord’s name. In the Bhāgavata Purāṇa [12.3.51] also, Śukadeva Gosvāmī directs,
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
“Although in this age there are so many faults – it is truly an ocean of faults – still, there is one very great advantage: simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, one becomes fully purified and is liberated from all material miseries.” So this smṛti injunction we should take up, and actually we see all over the world how it is purifying all sections of people. Take to this chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa; then śruti, smṛti, everything will be fulfilled. This is the easiest method. Kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet: chant the Lord’s holy name and you’ll be liberated.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: So the śrutis are eternally relevant and constant?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, everything is based on the śrutis. As the Vedānta-sūtra says, anāvṛttiḥ śabdāt: simply by chanting the Lord’s names and instructions – His sound vibration – one becomes spiritually realized. Śabda brahman means “spiritual sound vibration,” and as the Vedānta-sūtra instructs us, by chanting this spiritual sound vibration – the instructions and holy name of the Lord – one can become liberated.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Also, the smṛtis are directly based on the original śrutis?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, for instance, Bhagavad-gītā is considered smṛti. And Bhagavad-gītā also says, satatāṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ: “Fully endeavoring with determination, the great souls are always chanting My glories.” And as the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, which is also considered smṛti, explains: śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi – the great devotees heed both the śrutis and the smṛtis. Another smṛti, Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa, enjoins, harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam: “In this age of quarrel, the only way to realize the Lord is to chant His holy name, chant His holy name, chant His holy name.” So because He was in the role of a great devotee, Lord Caitanya followed these injunctions of śruti and smṛti. Kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ sāṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam. Kṛṣṇaṁ varṇayati: Lord Caitanya was always chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. These examples are evidence that the smṛtis are directly based on the śrutis. So introduce this Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Everyone will be purified.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Is smṛti more than just rules of conduct?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Here is what smṛti means:
The four original Vedas are considered śruti. But simply by hearing them, one cannot understand fully. Therefore, the smṛtis have explained further. Purayati iti purāṇa: by hearing the Purāṇas and other smṛtis, one makes his understanding complete. The Vedic mantras are not always understood. For instance, the Vedānta, which is śruti, begins with the mantra janmādy asya yataḥ: “The Supreme is that being from whom everything has emanated.” This is very abbreviated. But the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is smṛti, explains, janmādy asya yato ’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñāḥ sva-rāt: “The Supreme Being, from whom everything has emanated, is directly and indirectly cognizant of everything and is fully independent.” In this way the smṛti explains the śruti.
So whether you take śruti or smṛti, the subject matter is the same. Both śruti and smṛti are spiritual evidence. We cannot do without either of them. As Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu [1.2.101],
aikāntiki harer bhaktir
You cannot become purified or actually God conscious without reference to both śruti and smṛti. So as we push on this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, it is not whimsical. It is based on śruti, smṛti, and pañcarātriki-vidhi, the principles of śruti, smṛti, and the Nārada Pañcarātra. Therefore, it is becoming effective
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Nevertheless, Śrīla Prabhupāda, the question asks, “Do the smṛtis need to be revised according to the changing times?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: They cannot be changed.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: The smṛtis cannot be changed?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Nothing can be changed. But according to the time, you have to apply the principles properly. For instance, in Kali-yuga the smṛti order is kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet: to obtain spiritual liberation, one must chant the holy name of the Lord, Hare Kṛṣṇa. So you have to do this. For instance, a doctor may order, “In the morning, take this medicine; in the evening, take that medicine.” It is not a change of the doctor’s orders. It is simply that according to the time, the doctor’s orders call for a particular medicine. But the particular medicine is recommended by the doctor, not by your whims. Śruti and smṛti cannot be changed, but they may recommend a particular process at a particular time. So there must be adherence to both śruti and smṛti – to scriptural authority. You cannot modify.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: There is no question, then, of – as the magazine puts it – “new smṛti.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. New smṛti? They may take it as “new smṛti,” but smṛti is smṛti – it is not new. In any spiritual statement you have to give references to śruti and smṛti. Otherwise, it is not valid. There must be veda-pramāṇa, śabda-pramāṇa: evidence from the Vedas and from the explanatory Vedic literature. Otherwise, there is no evidence. Your statement is not valid: you cannot change the original śruti-smṛti. But you have to take their particular recommendation for the particular time, just as Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu did when He urged His followers to heed the injunction of Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa [3.8.126]:
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“Chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. In the present age of quarrel and anxiety, there is no other way to attain God realization, no other way, no other way.” So śruti-smṛti-pramāṇa – citing evidence from the Vedas and the corollary literature – is the only method for making a spiritual statement. You have to take it.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Can anyone change …
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No!
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: … the rules of conduct as described in the smṛtis?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Nobody can change them. But these particular rules and regulations in śruti-smṛti are for particular times, particular circumstances. So we have to take these rules and regulations. You cannot change them.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: And who will sanction a particular application for a particular time and place?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. This was done by Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. When he appeared five hundred years ago, he sanctioned the application of śruti-smṛti because He’s a genuine authority. He’s a genuine ācārya. And we are following in the footsteps of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It is not whimsical. You have to follow the authority in all circumstances.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Is this Vedic religion, this sanātana-dharma, so broad that everyone is included?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Sanātana means “eternal.” As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre: “The living entity within the body is not destroyed when the body is destroyed, because he is eternal.” So that eternality belongs to everyone. Not that the Hindus, after giving up this body, exist, and the Muslims or Christians do not exist. Everyone exists eternally. So sanātana-dharma is meant for everyone.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Then is there anyone actually outside of sanātana-dharma?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Nobody is actually outside. Everyone is an eternal spirit soul, and therefore everyone is meant for the eternal religion, sanātana-dharma. You may think that you are not an eternal spirit soul, but that is simply illusion. There are so many rascals who think that with the death of the body everything is finished. They may think so, but that is not a fact. Similarly, you may think, “I am not a sanātana-dharmī – a follower of sanātana-dharma – I am a Christian,” but actually you are a sanātana-dharmī. Of course, if you wish to think otherwise, you can. Who can check it?
Hari Śauri: So whether one can be accepted as following sanātana-dharma depends on how one acts?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. If one does not act accord to the rules and regulations of sanātana-dharma, that is his business. That’s all.