6. The Ultimate Knowledge
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, this is the next question: “In the Kali-yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, bhakti [devotional service to the Lord] has been described as the most suitable and easiest of paths for God realization. Yet how is it that Vedantic teachings, with their accent on jñāna [cultivation of knowledge], are being given the pride of place by noted savants?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The so-called Vedantists, the Māyāvādīs [impersonalists], are bluffers. They do not know what Vedānta is. But people want to be bluffed, and the bluffers take advantage of it. the two words combined in the word Vedānta are veda and anta. Veda means “knowledge,” and anta means “goal” or ”end.” So Vedānta means “the end of all knowledge, or veda.” Now, in the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa says, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ: “By all the Vedas I am to be known.” So the whole Vedānta-sūtra is a description of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The first statement in the Vedānta-sūtra is athāto brahma jijñāsā: “Now, having attained a human birth, one should inquire into Brahman, the Absolute Truth.” In a nutshell, Brahman is then described: janmādy asya yataḥ – “Brahman is the origin of everything.” And in Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says, ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavaḥ: “I am the origin of everything.” So, again, the Vedānta-sūtra actually describes Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Now, because Śrīla Vyāsadeva knew that in this Kali-yuga people would not be able to study Vedānta-sūtra nicely on account of a lack of education, he personally wrote a commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra. That commentary is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Bhāṣyaṁ brahma-sūtrānām: the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the real commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra, written by the author of the Vedānta-sūtra himself. The Vedānta-sūtra was written by Vyāsadeva, and under the instruction of Nārada, his spiritual master, Vyāsadeva wrote a commentary on it. That is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
But the rascal Māyāvādīs – without understanding Vedānta-sūtra and without reading the natural commentary, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam – are posing themselves as Vedantists. That means they are misguiding people. And because people are not educated, they’re accepting these rascals as Vedantists. Really, the Māyāvādī Vedantists – they are bluffers. They are not Vedantists. They do not know anything of the Vedānta-sūtra. That is the difficulty. Actually, what is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam – that is real Vedānta.
So, if we take Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the real explanation of Vedānta-sūtra, then we will understand Vedānta, the end of knowledge. And if we take shelter of the Māyāvādī Vedantists, the bluffers, then we cannot understand Vedānta. People do not know anything, and as a result they can be bluffed and cheated by anyone. Therefore now they should learn from this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement what Vedānta is and what the explanation of Vedānta-sūtra is. Then they will be benefited.
If we accept Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the real commentary on Vedānta-sūtra, then we’ll find that in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said, kaler doṣa-nidhe rājann asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ: “In this Kali-yuga, which is an ocean of faults, there is one benediction, one opportunity.” What is that? Kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet: “One can become liberated simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.” This is real Vedānta. And actually, this liberation by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is happening. But people want to be misguided. And there are so many bluffers to misguide them. What can be done? Vyāsadeva has already given the perfect explanation of Vedānta-sūtra – the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. So let people read the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam; then they will understand what Vedānta is.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Then are the conclusion of the Vedānta-sūtra and the conclusion of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam one and the same – bhakti?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Find this verse: Kāmasya nendriya-prītir…
lābho jīveta yāvatā
nārtho yaś ceha karmabhiḥ
“Life’s desires should never be directed toward sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation, since a human being is meant for inquiry about the About Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one’s works.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.10]
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. This verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam proceeds directly from the Vedānta-sūtra – athāto brahma jijñāsā: “Now is the time to inquire about the Absolute Truth.” Here the very same thing is explained. “Don’t be entrapped with these temporary, bodily ‘necessities of life’ – sense gratification. You must inquire about the Absolute Truth.” The next verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explains, vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam: “Those who know the Absolute Truth describe Him in this way …” Tattva means “truth.” The truth is explained by the tattva-vit, one who knows the truth. How? Brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate: the Absolute Truth is explained as Brahman, the all-pervading spiritual effulgence; as Paramātmā, the localized Supersoul; or as Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord. Understanding these is what Vedānta-sūtra means when it says athāto brahma jijñāsā: “Now one should learn about the Absolute Truth – what Brahman is, what Paramātmā is, what Bhagavān is. In this way, one should make advancement in his spiritual consciousness.”
The Māyāvādī Vedantists follow the impersonal commentary of Śaṅkarācārya, Śārīraka-bhāṣya. But there are other commentaries on the Vedānta-sūtra. Besides the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the natural commentary by the author of Vedānta-sūtra himself, there are Vedānta-bhāṣyas written by Vaiṣṇava ācāryas such as Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, and Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. Unfortunately, the Māyāvādī Vedantists do not care to read these Vaiṣṇava Vedānta-bhāṣyas. They simply read Śārīraka-bhāṣya and call themselves Vedantists.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Why do the Māyāvādī Vedantists read only one commentary? What is the reason for that?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The reason is that they want to read something that will confirm their illusion that they are God.
The Māyāvādī Vedantists cheat. Suppose I present some proposition. If it is a misconception, generally there are others also who can say something to clarify this misconception. For instance, in a court of law, there are two lawyers. One lawyer is speaking on one point of the law, the other lawyer is speaking on another point of the law. But if the judge listens to one side only, then how will he make a proper judgment? Similarly, the Vedantists are simply reading the Śārīraka-bhāṣya. They are not reading other bhāṣyas, such as the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the natural commentary. And they are cheating people. That’s all.
Now, the Vedānta-sūtra says, janmādy asya yataḥ: “The Absolute Truth is that from which everything emanates.” But this needs some explanation. One may ask, “Is that Absolute Truth personal or impersonal?” Therefore in the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa clearly says, ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate: “I am the origin of everything; everything comes from Me.” So why don’t you Māyāvādī Vedantists take it? Why do you simply remain stuck at the point that the Absolute Truth is that from which everything emanates? When Kṛṣṇa, the Absolute Truth, comes before you and says, “I am the origin of everything – everything comes from Me,” why don’t you accept Kṛṣṇa as the Absolute Truth? Why do you take the impersonalist view only, that the Absolute Truth has no form? Here is the Absolute Truth speaking – a person. Why don’t you take it?
Of course, if people want to be cheated, then who can stop them? In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa also says, vedānta-kṛd … eva cāham: “I am the compiler of Vedānta.” Why do these rascals not consider who compiled Vedānta? Vyāsadeva is the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. He compiled Vedānta. Why do these rascals not consider the original Vedantist, Kṛṣṇa? They approach a Māyāvādī instead. So how will they understand Vedānta?
Suppose I have written a book. If you cannot understand something in it, then you should come directly to me for an explanation. That is sensible. Why go to a rascal who has nothing to do with my book? Similary, some rascal Māyāvādī may claim, “I am a Vedantist,” but why should I go to a rascal instead of the real compiler of the Vedānta-sūtra?
Those who approach the Māyāvādī Vedantists for knowledge are also rascals. They are willingly being cheated. Let the Māyāvādī Vedantists and their followers accept the conclusions of Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Then they will understand Vedānta-sūtra. They’ll be real Vedantists. Otherwise, they will remain cheaters. So if you go to a cheater you’ll be cheated, and that is your business.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, are you saying that the Māyāvādīs have no knowledge at all?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Once again, Vedānta means “the ultimate knowledge.” And what is that knowledge? Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā [7.19]: bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate. “After many births, one who is actually in knowledge at last surrenders unto Me.” So unless one surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, there is no jñāna, no knowledge.
Therefore the Māyāvādī Vedantists are all nonsense – they have no knowledge at all. The subject matter of ultimate knowledge, Vedānta, is Kṛṣṇa, God. So if one does not know who God is, who Kṛṣṇa is, and if one does not surrender to Him, then where is the question of knowledge? But if a rascal claims that “I am a man of knowledge,” what can be done?
In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa goes on to explain: vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ. “When one understands that Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa, is everything, then that is knowledge. But such a mahātmā is very rare.” Before coming to this understanding, one has no knowledge. His so-called understanding is simply misunderstanding. Brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate: one may begin with understanding impersonal Brahman by the speculative method; then, in the secondary stage, one can understand the Paramātmā, the Lord’s localized aspect; and the final stage is to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyam: by all the Vedas, Kṛṣṇa is to be known. That is the ultimate knowledge. But if you do not understand Kṛṣṇa, then where is your knowledge? Half-way knowledge is not knowledge. It must be complete knowledge.
That complete knowledge is possible, as it is said in the Bhagavad-gītā, bahūnāṁ janmanām ante – after many births. Those who are striving to acquire knowledge – after many, many births, when actually by the grace of God and by the grace of a devotee they come to knowledge, then such persons agree, “Oh, vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti: Kṛṣṇa is everything.” Sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ: that mahātmā, that great soul, is very rarely to be found. Durlabhaḥ means “very rarely found,” but the word used is su-durlabhaḥ – “very, very rarely to be found.” So you cannot easily find such a mahātmā who clearly understands Kṛṣṇa.