The Scriptures (Vedas)
5. Sankara said that spiritual interest is the qualification for spiritual effort while Ramanuja said that only a Brahmana who has studied the Veda is eligible for spiritual path. How can you solve this contradiction?
9. Your interpretation of the Vedic mantra 'na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagenaike amrtatvam anasuh', supports sacrifice of wealth while the common interpretation of this mantra rejects wealth as the means to attain the spiritual goal. Could you please resolve the contradiction?
A) The Veda is the only authority in spirituality. It is the Word of the Lord in verse form. It was transmitted from generation to generation by the highly sophisticated tradition of oral recitation, which ensured preservation of the original verses without any corruption.
The great sage Vyasa says in the third Brahma sutra "Sastra yonitvat". Sastra means Veda, which is the Word of the Ruler (sasaka). The Bhagavad Gita also says that the Sastra is the authority. The Bhagavad Gita was given by Lord Krisna who is God Himself. It is said that the Bhagavad Gita is the essence of the Veda. One needs to carefully understand the meaning of this. Sugarcane juice is in the sugarcane but the sugarcane is not in the sugarcane juice. The sugarcane has more in it than merely juice. Thus when we say that the Bhagavad Gita is the essence of the Vedas, it means that the meaning of the verses in the Bhagavad Gita must be found in the Veda. However the entire Veda may not be found in the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is thus a subset of the Vedas.
Therefore if the meaning of a verse in the Bhagavad Gita is not traceable to the Veda then it is safe to assume that that verse is not part of the original text and that Lord Krisna never spoke this verse. Such a verse must have been added later on. Thus even in comparison with the Bhagavad Gita, the Veda alone stands as the authority. Any Samskrtam verse from any book written by any sage or saint, (Smrti) should not oppose the Veda. That which is not told in the Veda, cannot be accepted even if the Smrti (Sruti Smathi virodhetu) presents it. The statements and logic of the Smrtis can be accepted only as long as it does not contradict the Veda. This has been clearly told by Sankara (Sruti matah tarkah).
The logic behind accepting only statements which agree with the Veda is similar to the logic by which only the statement of a sane man is accepted and not that of a foolish man. The criteria of sanity or rationality that we impose in evaluating the veracity of a statement or experience of any person in day-to-day life is comparable to the criteria of agreement with the Veda of any spiritual work, experience or logic.
The Veda can be compared to the constitution of a nation. A law-maker or a lawyer in the court has to ensure that each law made and enforced is in keeping with the constitution. Any law that directly opposes the constitution cannot be accepted at any cost. In a court of law, only two lawyers are allowed to argue in the court. A lay man should employ an advocate on his behalf in the court as he is not competent enough to argue his own case. Similarly only two scholars of Vedas can argue on a concept relating to the Veda. A lay man or a person with little knowledge should not argue with a Vedic scholar (vivadasca samayoh). A lay man can be easily taught. A Vedic scholar can also be easily taught. However when it comes a person with partial knowledge, even Lord Brahma cannot convince him (brahmapi na ranjayati) .
A) The word adhyayanam actually means to know the Veda and not to recite the Veda. Of course in olden days when there was no printing, the Veda had to be learnt by heart and recited in order to study and inquire into Its meaning. The knowledge of the Veda was discussed and practiced. The Veda itself means Knowledge. The Sastra (Veda) condemns mere recitation of the Veda (anarthajnah patakadhamah) without understanding the knowledge.
At present Vedas are published and even stored electronically. So there is no need of recitation. Please note once again that adhyayanam means to understand the knowledge of the Veda and not mere recitation. I therefore do not condemn Veda adhyayanam (Vedic study). However when it comes mere mechanical recitation without study or understanding, the Veda Itself, mocks at the person who simply recites the Veda calling him a divine animal (devanam pasurah); divine because he recites the Veda, which is divine and animal because he does so unintelligently and mechanically.
A) The commentaries of the three Acarayas (great teachers and commentators on the Vedas) are different, but they do not contradict each other. Only the disciples of the Acarayas contradict each other. They did not follow the import of the commentaries given by their masters. They simply misunderstood the commentaries. The interpretation of each of the Acarayas can be understood from an observation of the Acarya's practical life since each Acaraya definitely knew and practiced what he was preaching.
If you see the life of Sankara, He left His mother and trekked the whole of India and preached divine knowledge. The entire world became His family. He, with is unmatched scholarliness and intellectual prowess, could have earned lot of money by visiting any king and displaying His skills. However He never cared for money and possessions. This shows that He had cut all His bonds with family and money. Also, He did not ever sit idle. He propagated divine knowledge and worked day and night for it. He worked for the upliftment of all people. He swallowed molted lead and preached to His disciples that He alone is the Lord in human form.
Sometimes, one may not understand a certain concept clearly in a science classroom, however when the same concept is demonstrated in the laboratory, there is ample clarity without room for doubt. The commentaries and philosophical works that the Acarayas wrote, are the theory which may or may not be clear to us. However their practical life was their laboratory. Through it, they demonstrated what they preached. They actually lived according to their preaching. Observation of their life will enable us to clear all doubts and confusions.
Sankara gave the knowledge of the Self, which is pure awareness. This awareness is the Brahman (Consciousness, Awareness). Therefore your Self is the Brahman and not the body. By this knowledge, you get peace since all the bonds with the body and the family are removed. However this is only an intermediate stage. Sankara preached this stage to all the people. The final stage is reaching Isvara, who is in the human form. Sankara, Himself was the Lord in the human form. He preached this to a few deserving disciples by swallowing molted lead, a feat that His disciples could not emulate. He showed them that He was the Lord while they were individual souls.
After Sankara came Ramanuja came, who was a re-incarnation of Sankara Himself. He showed the final goal that is Isvara (the Lord) as Lord Visnu who is not before your eyes. Thus from seeking peace within one's Self, He took the devotees to accept the Lord as the ultimate goal. However people were not prepared to believe in the human incarnation of the Lord, right before their eyes due to their ego and jealousy. Therefore He merely alluded to God without specifying where and how to find Him.
At last Madhava came and introduced Hanuman who is the servant of the Lord in human form (Rama). He claimed Himself to be the younger brother of Hanuman. The younger brother serves the elder brother. Likewise, you must first serve the servant of the Lord before you become the direct servant of the Lord. This step enables you to conquer your ego and jealousy. Once the ego and jealousy fall off, the person is able to accept the human incarnation of the Lord. The human incarnation of the Lord is the ony vehicle to God-realization. Serving Him and attaining His Grace, is the ultimate goal of spirituality.
Thus the three Acarayas came in the correct sequence of time to show the correct sequence of the steps in the spiritual path.
4. I have read the translation of the commentary of Sankara in my mother tongue (Telugu). Your interpretations deviate from the commentary of Sankara. Therefore your interpretations deviate from the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita. Then how do you justify them?
A) You say that my interpretation deviates from Sankara. That is correct. How can you say that my interpretation deviates from the original texts (Vedas)? Do you think that the interpretation of Sankara is the only correct interpretation? Ramanuja wrote a commentary deviating from Sankara. Then according to you, Ramanuja must have also deviated from the Veda. You have made two mistakes. The first mistake is to think that the commentary of Sankara alone is correct. The second mistake is that you have not read the Vedas since you do not know Samskrtam and the Sastras (Vedas).
If you see the commentary of Ramanuja it is also correct because His commentary was in agreement with all the Sastras. When you don't know Samskrtam and the Sastras how can you say that Sankara is correct and Ramanuja is wrong? Now you say that I am also wrong like Ramanuja. You can oppose my interpretation and blame me for deviating from the original text, provided you show any contradiction to my interpretation of the Sastras. However you don't know the Sastras therefore you are not competent to say so.
Your knowledge of the scriptures relies on commonly available translations of the Samskrtam texts. Unfortunately scholars as well as ignorant people try their hand at translations. You can never trust a translation completely. For example, the literal (word-to-word) translation of the verse "karmajam buddhi yuktahi phalam tyaktva" in the Bhagavad Gita is "wise scholars sacrifice the fruit of the work". Now in many books the literal translation is followed by a more liberal translation or a commentary. If you see that translation or commentary, the translator writes "wise scholars sacrifice the desire for the fruit of the work". In his commentary, the translator contradicts his own (literal) translation.
Generally people do not read the word-to-word translation carefully. They read only the translation below as a commentary which may be wrong as in this case. Therefore translators are likely to mislead you.
My interpretation cannot coincide with Sankara or Ramanuja or Madhva. If it coincides with the interpretation any Acaraya, I become the follower of that Acaraya. My interpretation is the fourth path in which all the commentaries of the three Acarayas are correlated. I want to prove that all the three Acarayas are correct and their interpretations differed according to the circumstances in which they preached. I cannot be the follower of any Acaraya when my aim is to correlate all the three Acarayas. Therefore the follower of Ramanuja and the follower of Madhva will also blame me like you.
5. You say that Ramanuja is the re-incarnation of Sankara. Sankara said that any individual who is interested in the Lord is eligible for the spiritual effort. Ramanuja said that only a Brahmana, (commonly means a member of the priest caste) who has studied the Veda is eligible for spiritual path. How can you solve this contradiction?
A) As I told you, you must understand any commentary of the Acaraya from His practical life. Ramanuja left His wife for observing the difference between a Brahmana and a non-Brahmana. How can the same Ramanuja can say that the Brahmana alone is eligible for spiritual path? Therefore you must try to understand the inner meaning of His commentary.
The real meaning of Brahmana is "He who knows Brahman". Brahman means pure awareness, which is the soul. Therefore Brahmana means any one who has attained the knowledge of Brahman or self. Sankara's teaching was directed to the attainment of the knowledge of self (Atma jnanam). Ramanuja showed the next half of the journey to reach Isvara. By attaining Atma jnanam, one gets peace and serenity so that he can withstand the suffering in the next half of the journey. The Veda means knowledge. Therefore a Brahmana who has studied the Veda means any individual who has attained the knowledge of self.
Sankara told that the qualification to attain self-knowledge is spiritual interest and Ramanuja told that self-knowledge is the qualification to attain Isvara (God). Therefore the intermediate goal of Sankara is the qualification to start in the path of Ramanuja. Therefore there is no contradiction and both statements are valid and they pertain to different stages in the same continuous spiritual path.
A) Your question shows your ignorance about the Vedas. In the Vedas, several figures of speech are used. The simile is also used at several places. For example, yathorma nabhih sambhavatiha visvam, which means that the world came out of the Lord as the web comes out of the spider and as plants come out from the earth. Another example is akasavat sarvagatah, which means that the Lord pervades the world as space pervades all objects. Thus Alankara Sastra or figures of speech are common in the Veda.
Therefore when I interpreted the Maha Vakyas in terms of a simile, it is certainly not absurd. My interpretation is different from the interpretations of the three Acarayas because I have to correlate all the three in my interpretation. The first three Maha Vakyas say that the external form of the Lord (human form) is like 'you', 'him' and 'myself' respectively. The fourth Maha Vakya says that the inner form of the human incarnation is a special knowledge; it is something that is unlike any other human being.
Thus the four Maha Vakyas speak about the human incarnation of the Lord. Even great scholars have an attraction of the unknown. They refuse to see what is at hand. The Vedas call this paroksa priyah. The Veda says that Brahman is right before one's eyes (yat saksat aparoksat Brahma). This statement refers only to the human incarnation of the Lord. The Bhagavad Gita also says (manisim tanumasritam). In the majority of people, jealousy and egoism obstruct this recognition.
A) The Lord in human form alone could be a Guru and preach divine knowledge. In the verse you mentioned the human form bore an insult. In the Bhagavad Gita it is said "Vasudevah sarvam" which means that the son of Vasudeva (the human form of Lord Krisna) is everything and is the highest form. In the Vibhuti Yoga chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krisna says that He is to be found in the highest form in each category of objects, creatures, humans or celestial beings. The essence of Vibhuti Yoga is that He is in the highest form. Man is the highest form in this world. Therefore the Lord comes in the form of a human being to preach.
When He says that He is the inert sun among the inert planets (jyotisam ravih), He means that the highest inert form among a category of the inert objects is a representative model to understand the Lord. The sun controls all the planets. It is independent while the planets depend upon it. Likewise the Lord os the Controller and the only Independent Entity and Creation depends upon Him. The cited example, does not mean that He is the sun. The Veda contradicts such a misinterpretation by saying that the sun is not the Lord (nedam tat) and that the Lord does not exist in inert objects (natasya pratima).
One must interpret the Bhagavad Gita in such a way that it does not contradict the Veda. If the Bhagavad Gita opposes the Veda I would not hesitate to even reject that particular verse in the Bhagavad Gita on the grounds that it may not be an original verse of the Bhagavad Gita given by the Lord. It is likely to be added on later by some scholar.
A comparison with the Veda is the only acid test since the Vedas, which are the Word of God, have been preserved in pristine condition, by the tradition of oral recitation and communication. Other scriptures, including the Bhagavad Gita were not preserved by this foolproof tradition and hence are susceptible to corruption.
A) Drastavyah means that something should be seen. Of course according to the context drastavyah can also be used in the sense of knowing something because the Samskrtam grammar allows such a usage (gatyardhanam.... jnanartha katvat). However it does not mean that the original meaning of drastavyah, which is 'to see', cannot not be taken. As per the amarakosa the meaning of the word atma', can be taken as 'the body', although, more commonly, it means 'the soul'. Therefore my interpretation of the statement is equally valid and cannot be contradicted. The interpretation that you mentioned is given by Sankara. I do not oppose that meaning. My interpretation is also not against the Sastras and so can be taken. Therefore the idol (of the Lord) in the temple should be seen and then the priest should explain the divine qualities. The devotee must meditate on these divine qualities of the Lord till he is totally absorbed in His devotion. This meaning may also be taken in the context of temples.
9. The Vedic mantra 'na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagenaike amrtatvam anasuh', is explained by You as "Not by action, nor by progeny, but by sacrificing wealth alone, can one achieve Immortality". Therefore you say that the Lord is pleased by the sacrifice of wealth or karmaphala tyaga. However in interpreting this statement, an additional word 'na' (not) can be added before the word dhanena (wealth) according to a rule in Sanskrit grammar. The rule says that a negative used for one noun can be extended to subsequent nouns in a list (ekatra padam...). This interpretation changes the meaning of the above line significantly. It now means "Not by action, nor by progeny, nor by wealth but by sacrifice alone, can one get Immortality." Then the Lord cannot be pleased by sacrificing action (work), issues (progeny) and wealth. Only by sacrifice can one please the Lord. This interpretation contradicts your theory of karmaphala tyaga (sacrificing the fruit of work). Could you please explain?
A) The quoted mantra is only one sentence because there is only one verb (anasuh) in the entire mantra. You cannot divide this mantra in two sentences as you did while interpreting the line according to your method. We often find in the Vedas that there may be only one sentence in the four lines of a verse. Sometimes several verses may constitute a single sentence. The principle of grammar, which you have quoted, must be understood in its proper sense. It says that a negative used before one noun could be extended in its scope by putting it before subsequent nouns in a list if necessary.
e.g. na Ramah Laksmanah Bharatah agatah. Literally, this means "Not Rama, Laksmana or Bharata came" or in other words none of the three came. The negative 'na' is used only once before (Rama) and is extended to the subsequent nouns (Laksmana and Bharata). This is the correct application of the rule quoted by you.
However, if the negative 'na' is used twice, once each before two consecutive nouns then it cannot be extended to the third noun n the list.
e.g. na Ramah na Laksmanah Bharatah agatah. Literally, this means "Not Rama, not Laksmana, Bharata came". In other words neither Rama came nor Laksmana, but Bharata came. The application of the rule of extension of a negative cannot be used in case of two consecutive negatives and a third positive.
In the Vedic mantra in question, 'na' is used twice, once before karma (action) and once before praja (progeny). It cannot therefore be extended to the third noun dhana (wealth). If such an extension is made it is clearly invalid. Therefore your interpretation of the above line based on this rule in grammar is flawed.
Besides, what you said is also against logic and common sense. Suppose you say, "My thirst will not be pacified by drinking milk, juice and buttermilk, but it will be pacified only by drinking". This sentence sounds illogical. It lists items that cannot satisfy your thirst. It mentions that your thirst will be satisfied by drinking (something) and yet it keeps a complete secret of what exactly will satisfy your thirst. The important point is that you should specify the item by which your thirst can be satisfied. The items, which cannot pacify your thirst, need not be stated at all because they are not nearly as important.
If you carefully take a second look at your interpretation, it leads to a similar situation; "Not by the sacrifice of action, progeny and wealth but by sacrifice alone..." In your way of explanation the important item by the sacrifice of which one can attain Immortality, is not mentioned at all. What is the point in listing out things that will not enable you to attain Immortality? What is it by the sacrifice of which, one can please the Lord? No sane person will say such an illogical thing. The Vedas are authored by God. He is the last person to commit such a logical blunder.
Therefore based on grammar and based on logic, your interpretation is flawed. My interpretation that the sacrifice of money alone can please the Lord therefore prevails. This interpretation is in keeping with other Vedic statements such as "tena tyaktena bhunjithah ma grdhah kasyasviddhanam" in the Isavasya Upanisad. This means "one should enjoy the minimum required wealth after sacrificing the rest and if one accumulates wealth he is a thief".
Whose wealth is all this? All this wealth belongs to the Lord. Therefore one has to return the wealth that comes to one as a result of one's efforts, back to God after keeping only as much as is essential for one's sustenance. The Bhagavad Gita also emphasizes karmaphala tyaga (sacrifice of wealth). The word karma in the case of a human being means the effort put forth for earning money in order to sustain oneself (sarira yatrapica). Dharma Sastras say "adaksina hato yajnah", which means that any ritual sacrifice is a waste without sacrificing money. Scriptures also talk about remedial action to alleviate the effects of sins committed, (prayaschittam) in which they recommend the sacrifice of money to deserving people (dana).
Saktuprasta was tested by the Lord for his ability to sacrifice food (a form of wealth). Sai Baba often asked for guru daksina (donations) from people who would come to visit Him and listen to His preaching. He did so to practically make people understand the importance of the sacrifice of wealth in spiritual life. Sage Vasistha says that money is the root of all worldly bonds. (dhana mulamidam jagat). The most important yantra or cakra is 'Sri Cakra'. Sri means wealth. Sri Cakra means the most important whirlpool, which obstructs the swimmer in the ocean of this world.
The true color of an individual comes out only when he is made to sacrifice his wealth. The bond with money (dhanesana) is responsible for the bonds with wife (daresana) and children (putresana). Unless this root cause is cut, salvation is impossible. Therefore this mantra emphasizes this key point which obstructs salvation.
10. The Vedic statement "na karmana" says that you should not do work while another Vedic statement "kurvanneveha" says that you should constantly work. How do you reconcile these two mutually opposing statements in the Veda?
A) If you bring the third Vedic statement "dhanena tyagena", the two can be reconciled. You must work and sacrifice the fruit of the work to the mission of the Lord. You should not do selfish work, the fruit of which, you and your family alone enjoy. Of course, the Lord allows enjoyment of fruit of your work to a minimum level. However you should not indulge in the enjoyment beyond what is necessary. Neither should you stop working after your minimum requirements are met. You should constantly work, earn and sacrifice the fruit of your work to the Lord (tyaktena bhunjithah, sarira yatra picate). Even after meeting all your necessities, you should work equally hard. Your sacrifice lies in giving up the excess wealth for the mission of the Lord and in actually working for God in His mission.
A) Several scholars have written philosophical verses in Samskrtam, which speak on behalf of the Lord. They do so in order to make their work appear valid. It has become a habit of writing "Isvara uvaca..." which means, "The Lord says...".
All these books cannot be the authority in spirituality unless they are in line with the Vedas. If there is a contradiction between the Veda and a certain Samskrtam verse, the Samskrtam verse in question is rejected in favor of the Vedas. (Sruti Smrti virodhetu). The Vedas were preserved and communicated by the complex and foolproof oral tradition of recitation by the old sages since there was no paper and printing. Apart from recitation they also discussed the meaning of the Vedas and practiced it.
Today the Vedas are available in print. There is no need for recitation anymore. However there is a pressing need to inquire into the meaning of the Vedas and practice it. Unfortunately, this is not done. Only unnecessary things are being given undue importance. It is important to discriminate between what is said in the Vedas and what is not. Many derivative works have assumed more importance in the tradition, than the Vedas themselves. The extraneous texts and verses which have been inducted into the tradition subsequently are not the absolute authority in religion and need not be practiced if they contradict the Vedas. Only those verses that are in keeping with the Vedas need be practiced.