The Goal of all Vedic Knowledge
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(Compiled from notes on lectures of H. H. Mahavishnu Goswami)
We understand from Bhagavad gita that the aim of all the Vedas is to understand the Supreme Lord (vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah). So studying scriptures is one of the imporant activities in devotional service and in any path of spiritual realization. However, when we make an academic study of the Vedas without focus on the Supreme Lord, then one will not derive the full benefit of such Vedic study. Recently while talking to Maharaja he mentioned, "Though Sripada Shankaracharya wrote many works glorifying knowledge, he finally said Bhaja Govindam. The Sanskrit grammar will not save you while dying. Only Govinda Bhajan will save you". Having made this statement, he silently dropped a nuclear bomb on my head, "Our Narahari is very interested in getting Vedic knowledge. May be he should take this indication from Shankaracharya". He also added, "Actually study of scriptures is not condemned as long as all our study leads us to the conclusion that Krishna is the cause of all causes. If our study leads to any other conclusion, then it is to be avoided." So our reading of Bhagavad gita and Bhagavatam is to be done in a spirit of service to please the Supreme Lord and the acharya and not to be done with an academic temperament. There is an interesting background in which the Bhaja Govindam was composed.
When Sripada Sankaracharya visited Varanasi, he collected water from Ganges for his worship and was walking along the banks of Ganges with his disciples. At that time, an old man was teaching his students about a subject called "Dukrun karan" in Sanskrit grammar (Vyaakarana) . When Lord Shiva plays his instrument called 'Dumadu' many sounds are produced, and they form the basic sounds for Sanskrit grammar and the old man was teaching them with great interest. At that time, one of Shankara's disciples slipped his vessel with water and it fell with some sound. The old man said, "See how the sound is coming from the falling vessel. This sound also has a grammar" and explained it in great delight. Shankaracharya approached him with great compassion, patted on his shoulders and sang,
bhaja govindam bhaja govindam govindam bhaja mudha mate
sampraapte sannihite kaale nahi nahi rakshati dukurun karane
"O foolish human being, Worship Govinda (with your body), worship Govinda (with your mind), worship Govinda (with your words). Because when your life comes to an end and death approaches you, the Vyaakarana lesson (dukrun karan) will not save you. Only Govinda Bhajan will save you".
And in this entire song, the great acharya glorifies the power of Lord's name and the power of the association of devotees. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada's contribution is unique because his books have not only imparted spiritual knowledge, but also made the people to follow the instructions of Bhagavad gita and Bhagavatam in the form of chanting, offering flowers, offering food and visiting the temple etc. During the temple inaguration at Dwaraka, Maharaja said in his lecture, "Srila Prabhupada has done a great favor to us by translating bhakti as devotional service instead of just devotion and has given us many avenues for serving the Lord practically".
The Vedas also gives us a stern warning about the dry academic approach to the Vedas with no reference to the Supreme Lord and devotional service. It is said in the Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.8:
rco aksare parame vyoman yasmin devaa adhivisve niseduh
yas tan na veda kim rca karisyati ya ittad vidus ta ime samaasate
"He who does not know that highest and imperishable God sung in the Vedas, in whom all the devatas are supported, what use can the Vedas be of to that person? One who knows Him fulfills the purpose of the Vedas."
It is also an offense to deride sincere devotees who do not possess sufficient knowledge of the scriptures, since the presence of sincere devotion itself implies the presence of all knowledge. I pray at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada and Gurudeva so that I will give up this disease of hunting for knowledge with an academic temperament and become fixed in chanting of the Lord's holy names.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Hare Rama Hare Rama
and be happy.