CC Madhya 25.56
‘mahājana’ yei kahe, sei ‘satya’ māni
“By studying the six philosophical theories, one cannot reach the Absolute Truth. It is therefore our duty to follow the path of the mahājanas, the authorities. Whatever they say should be accepted as the supreme truth.
In his Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura gives the following summary of the six philosophical processes. Prakāśānanda admitted that Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, being very eager to establish his philosophy of monism, took shelter of the Vedānta philosophy and tried to explain it in his own way. The fact is, however, that if one accepts the existence of God, one certainly cannot establish the theory of monism. For this reason Śaṅkarācārya refuted all kinds of Vedic literature that establishes the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead. In various ways, Śaṅkarācārya has tried to refute the Vedic literature. Throughout the world, ninety-nine percent of the philosophers following in the footsteps of Śaṅkarācārya refuse to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Instead they try to establish their own opinions. It is typical of mundane philosophers to want to establish their own opinions and refute those of others. Therefore: (1) The Mīmāṁsaka philosophers, following the principles of Jaimini, stress fruitive activity and say that if there is a God, He must be under the laws of fruitive activity. In other words, if one performs his duties very nicely in the material world, God is obliged to give one the desired result. According to these philosophers, there is no need to become a devotee of God. If one strictly follows moral principles, one will be recognized by the Lord, who will give the desired reward. Such philosophers do not accept the Vedic principle of bhakti-yoga. Instead, they give stress to following one’s prescribed duty. (2) Atheistic Sāṅkhya philosophers like Kapila analyze the material elements very scrutinizingly and thereby come to the conclusion that material nature is the cause of everything. They do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes. (3) Nyāya philosophers like Gautama and Kaṇāda have accepted a combination of atoms as the original cause of the creation. (4) Māyāvādī philosophers say that everything is an illusion. Headed by philosophers like Aṣṭāvakra, they stress the impersonal Brahman effulgence as the cause of everything. (5) Philosophers following the precepts of Patañjali practice rāja-yoga. They imagine a form of the Absolute Truth within many forms. That is their process of self-realization.
All five of these philosophies completely reject the predominance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and strive to establish their own philosophical theories. However, Śrīla Vyāsadeva wrote the Vedānta-sūtra and, taking the essence of all Vedic literature, established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All five kinds of philosophers mentioned above understand that impersonal Brahman is without material qualities, and they believe that when the Personality of Godhead appears, He is contaminated and covered by the material qualities. The technical term used is saguṇa. They speak of saguṇa Brahman and nirguṇa Brahman. For them, nirguṇa Brahman means “the impersonal Absolute Truth without any material qualities” and saguṇa Brahman means “the Absolute Truth that accepts the contamination of material qualities.” More or less, this kind of philosophical speculation is called Māyāvāda philosophy. The fact is, however, that the Absolute Truth never has anything to do with material qualities because He is transcendental. He is always complete with full spiritual qualities. The five philosophers mentioned above do not accept Lord Viṣṇu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but they are very busy refuting the philosophies of other schools. There are six kinds of philosophical processes in India. Because Vyāsadeva is the Vedic authority, he is known as Vedavyāsa. His philosophical explanation of the Vedānta-sūtra is accepted by the devotees. As Kṛṣṇa confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15):
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”
The ultimate goal of studying all Vedic literature is the acceptance of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is propagating the philosophical conclusion of Śrīla Vyāsadeva and following other great ācāryas like Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, Nimbārka and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself.