कर्माकर्मविकर्मेति वेदवादो न लौकिक: ।
वेदस्य चेश्वरात्मत्वात् तत्र मुह्यन्ति सूरय: ॥ ४३ ॥
veda-vādo na laukikaḥ
tatra muhyanti sūrayaḥ
śrī-āvirhotraḥ uvāca — the sage Āvirhotra said; karma — the execution of duties prescribed by scripture; akarma — failure to perform such duties; vikarma — engagement in forbidden activities; iti — thus; veda-vādaḥ — subject matter understood through the Vedas; na — not; laukikaḥ — mundane; vedasya — of the vedas; ca — and; īśvara-ātmatvāt — because of coming from the Personality of Godhead Himself; tatra — in this matter; muhyanti — become confused; sūrayaḥ — (even) great scholarly authorities.
Śrī Āvirhotra replied: Prescribed duties, nonperformance of such duties, and forbidden activities are topics one can properly understand through authorized study of the Vedic literature. This difficult subject matter can never be understood by mundane speculation. The authorized Vedic literature is the sound incarnation of the Personality of Godhead Himself, and thus Vedic knowledge is perfect. Even the greatest learned scholars are bewildered in their attempts to understand the science of action if they neglect the authority of Vedic knowledge.
Prescribed duties authorized by revealed scripture are called karma, whereas the failure to execute one’s highest duty is called akarma. The performance of forbidden activities is called vikarma. Thus karma, akarma and vikarma are established by the authorized explanations of Vedic literature. They cannot be ascertained merely through mundane exercises in logic. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.16.51) the Lord says, śabda-brahma paraṁ brahma mamobhe śāśvatī tanū: “I am the form of the transcendental vibrations of the Vedas, such as oṁkāra and Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Rāma, and I am the Supreme Absolute Truth. These two forms of Mine — namely, the transcendental Vedic sound and the eternally blissful spiritual form of the Deity — are My eternal forms; they are not material.” Similarly, it is stated in the Bhāgavatam (6.1.40), vedo nārāyaṇaḥ sākṣāt svayambhūr iti śuśruma: “The Vedas are directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, and are self-born. This we have heard from Yamarāja.” In the Puruṣa-sūkta (Ṛg Veda, maṇḍala 10, sūkta 90, mantra 9) it is stated, tasmād yajñāt sarva-huta ṛcaḥ sāmāni jajñire/ chandāṁsi jajñire tasmāt: “From Him, Yajña, came all sacrificial offerings, hymns of invocation and songs of praise. All the mantras of the Vedas come from the Lord.” All the incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are completely transcendental and free from the four defects of conditional life, namely mistakes, illusion, cheating and imperfect senses. So Vedic knowledge, being a plenary manifestation of the Supreme Lord, is similarly infallible and transcendental.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has pointed out that in the material world, which is controlled by the illusory energy of the Lord, a particular sound vibration is discarded after describing its object. But on the spiritual platform called Vaikuṇṭha nothing is ever lost, and thus śabda-brahma, or the Personality of Godhead in His form as transcendental sound, is eternal.
In ordinary human discourse one can ascertain the meaning of human words by understanding the intention of the speaker. But since Vedic knowledge is apauruṣeya, or transcendental, one can appreciate its purport only by hearing from the standard authorities in the chain of disciplic succession. This process is prescribed by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gītā (evaṁ paramparā-prāptam). Thus, even highly learned scholars who proudly neglect this simple descending process are certainly bewildered and embarrassed in their hopeless attempt to ascertain the ultimate meaning of Vedic knowledge. The four sons of Lord Brahmā declined to answer the question of King Nimi since at that time the King was a mere child and therefore not capable of seriously surrendering to the process of hearing through disciplic succession. Śrīla Madhvācārya has pointed out in this regard, īśvarātmatvād īśvara-viṣayatvāt. Because the Vedas describe the unlimited Personality of Godhead, Vedic knowledge cannot be approached by mundane methods of comprehension.