Where are the original Vedas located?

The teaching of the Vedas

[A talk given by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was held on October 6, 1969 at Conway Hall in London, England.]

Hare Krishna.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Today's topic is the teaching of the Vedas. What are the Vedas now? The Sanskrit root of the word Veda can be interpreted in various ways, but ultimately there is only one goal. Veda means knowledge. All knowledge you unlock is Vedabecause the teachings of the Vedas are the original knowledge. In the conditioned state, our knowledge is impaired by many shortcomings. The difference between a conditioned soul and a liberated soul is that the conditioned soul is subject to four imperfections. First of all, we all make mistakes. In India, for example, Mahātmā Gandhi was celebrated as a very great figure, but he made many mistakes. Even at the end of his life, his co-workers warned him: 'Mahātmā Gandhi, do not go to the conference in New Delhi. Some friends of ours have heard that there is danger. But he didn't hear. He insisted on leaving and was killed. Even great people like Mahātmā Gandhi, President Kennedy (there are so many of them) make mistakes. To err is human. That is the one imperfection of the conditioned soul.

Another imperfection: having misconceptions. Illusion means accepting something that is not: Maya. Maya means what is not. Everyone accepts the body as the self. If you are asked who you are, you will say: 'I am Mr. Miller, I am a rich man. I am this and I am that. 'All of these are body-related identifications. But you are not that body. This is an illusion.

The third imperfection is deception. All people cheat on their neighbors. Even if a person is the greatest fool, he still pretends to be very intelligent. Although it has already been said that man is under illusion and makes mistakes, he will nevertheless theorize: 'I believe that is so, and that is so.' But man does not even know his own position. He writes books of philosophy, although imperfect. That is his illness. That's cheating.

And ultimately, our senses are imperfect. We are very proud of our eyes. Often someone will challenge you to say: 'Can you show me God?' But do you have the eyes to see God? You will never see if you don't have the proper eyes. If the room is getting dark right now, you won't even be able to see your hands. So what eyesight do you have then? Therefore we cannot expect knowledge (Veda) to be imparted to us through these imperfect senses. With all of these flaws in conditioned life, we are unable to impart perfect knowledge to anyone. We are not perfect ourselves. That is why we accept the Vedas as they are. You may call the Vedas Hindu, but the word Hindu is incorrect. We are not Hindus. Our real identification is varṇāśrama. Varṇāśrama are those who follow the Vedas and recognize that human society is divided into eight groups of Varṇa and Āśrama. There are four divisions in society and four in spiritual life. This is called varṇāśrama. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said: 'These subdivisions are everywhere because they are created by God.' The subdivisions are as follows: Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya, Śūdra. Brāhmaṇa means the really intelligent people, those who know what Brahman is. Somewhat less intelligent than the Brahmins are the Kṣatriyas, who are responsible for the administration. Then come the Vaiśyas, the merchants. These completely natural divisions can be found everywhere. All of this is rooted in Vedic principles, which we unreservedly accept. The Vedic principles are axiomatic truths because the possibility of any mistake is excluded. For example, in India, cow dung is considered pure, and yet cow dung is an animal's dung. Once we find in the Vedic teachings that we should wash immediately after touching feces. And then again it is said that the cow's dung is clean. If you put the cow's dung in an unclean place, that place becomes clean. Now you will argue that it is a contradiction in terms. And from the ordinary point of view, it's also a contradiction, but it really is. An established fact. In Calcutta, one of the leading scientists and doctors analyzed the cow dung and found that it contained all of the antiseptic properties.

If you say to someone in India: 'You have to do this', he will reply:' Why? Does the Vedas say that I must follow you without contradiction? ›It is not possible to interpret the Vedic teachings. But if you ultimately investigate carefully why these teachings exist, you will find that they are all correct.

The Vedas are not a compilation of human knowledge. Vedic knowledge has its origin in the transcendental world, in Kṛṣṇa the Lord. The Vedas are also called Śruti. By Śruti is meant the knowledge that is attained through hearing. It is not a matter of speculative knowledge. Śruti, it is said, be like mother. We learn a lot from our mother. For example, if we want to know who our father is, who can tell us? Our mother. If the mother says: 'Here is your father', then we have to believe her. It is impossible to find out through experiments whether this is actually our father. So if you want to know something that is outside your realm of experience, beyond your experimental knowledge, beyond the activity of your senses, then you have to accept the Vedas. It is impossible to experiment. It has already been experimented with. Everything is already fixed. What the mother tells us in this case must be accepted as truth. There is no other way.

The Vedas are called the mother and Brahmā is called the grandfather and ancestor because he was the first to be instructed in Vedic knowledge. The first living being was Brahmā. He received the Vedic knowledge and passed it on to Narada and other disciples and sons, and they in turn passed it on to their disciples. In this way Vedic knowledge comes to us through following the spiritual masters. The Bhagavad-gītā also affirms that Vedic knowledge is to be understood in this way. If you are to struggle with experimental evidence, you will come to the same conclusion, but to save time you should accept that. If you want to know who your father is, and if you accept your mother's authority, then what she says can be accepted without objection. There are three types of reasoning: Prakyakṣa, Anumāṇa, and Śabda. Prakyakṣa means direct. Direct evidence is insufficient because our senses are imperfect. We see the sun every day and it seems as big as a small disk, but in reality it is much larger than many other planets. What is the value of this seeing then? That is why we have to read books to understand the sun. So direct experience is imperfect. Then there is inductive knowledge: 'It could be so', hypothesis. For example, Darwin's theory says it could be one way or another, but that's not science. That is a guess, and that too is imperfect. But when you receive the knowledge from the right authority, then that knowledge is perfect. If you get a program booklet from the radio, don't doubt it. You don't refuse it, and you don't need to speculate either, because it comes from the competent authority.

The Vedic knowledge is called Śabda-pramāṇa. Another name is Śruti. Śruti means that this knowledge must be heard through the ear. The Vedas teach us that we must hear from the relevant sources in order to understand transcendental knowledge. Transcendental knowledge is knowledge that comes from the realm that is beyond the universe. Within this universe there is material knowledge, and beyond this universe there is transcendental knowledge. We can't even get to the end of the universe. How then should we be able to reach the transcendental world? Therefore it is not possible to have perfect knowledge in this way.

There is the transcendental world. There is another nature that is beyond manifestation and non-manifestation. But how will you know that there really is a realm in which the planets and their inhabitants are immortal? The knowledge about it is there, but how are you going to speculate about it? That's impossible. That is why you need the help of the Vedas. This is what Vedic knowledge is for. In our movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness we accept the knowledge from the highest competent authority, Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is accepted as the highest authority by people of different schools of thought. I am now speaking of the two types of transcendental scientists. One is called Māyāvādī, followers of the impersonal. They are usually considered to be Vedantists who follow the teachings of Śaṅkarācārya. The others are called Vaiṣṇavas like Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇusvāmī. Both Śaṅkara-sampradāya and Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya have accepted Kṛṣṇa as the supreme divine person. Śaṅkarācārya is supposedly a Māyāvādī, a follower of the impersonal who preached the doctrine of the impersonal, of the unqualified Brahman, but in reality he indirectly professes his personal God. In his commentary on Bhagavad-gītā, he wrote: 'Nārāyaṇa, the supreme divine person, is beyond this cosmic manifestation.' He appeared as the son of Devakī and Vasudeva. ›Śaṅkarācārya particularly emphasized the names of Kṛṣṇa's father and mother. And so all transcendentalists agree that Krsna is the supreme divine person. There is no doubt about that. Our knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness comes directly from Kṛṣṇa, from the Bhagavad-gītā. We have published the Bhagavad-gītā as it is because we accept Kṛṣṇa's words as He spoke them without interpreting them. That is what is meant by Vedic knowledge. We accept the Vedic knowledge as perfect. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That saves a lot of time. If you accept the real authority, the source of knowledge, you will save a great deal of time. For example, there are two types of knowledge research in the material world, inductive and deductive. By deducing we accept that man is mortal. Our father says man is mortal. Our sister says man is mortal, everyone says man is mortal, and we don't doubt it. We accept that as a fact. Man is mortal. If we want to find out whether man is really mortal, then we have to examine every single person, and then we will begin to believe that there may be a person who does not need to die. In this way, our research will never end. This path is called Āroha, the ascending path, in Sanskrit. If we seek knowledge through our own efforts, through our imperfect senses, then we will never get there. This is not possible.

The Brahma-saṁhitā says that we should imagine that we are sitting in an airplane moving at the speed of the mind. Our planes today may fly at a speed of three thousand kilometers per hour. But how great is the speed of the mind? When we sit at home and think of India, maybe ten thousand kilometers away, India is with us right away. Our spirit has gone there. The speed of the mind is enormous. That is why they say, 'If we move at this speed for millions of years, then we will find that the transcendental world is unlimited.' It is not even possible to approach it. Therefore, in the instruction of the Vedas (in this context the word 'mandatory' is used) it is said that we must seek out a real spiritual master, a guru. And what distinguishes a spiritual master? He really heard from those to whom the Vedic knowledge was bestowed in all its fullness. Otherwise he cannot be a real spiritual master. It must be firmly anchored in Brahman. These are the qualifications that matter. This movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is entirely based on Vedic principles. In the Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa says: 'The real aim of Vedic knowledge is to find Kṛṣṇa.' Also in the Brahma-saṁhitā it is said: 'Kṛṣṇa, Govinda, has innumerable forms, but all these forms are one.' You are not like our forms that are imperfect. His shape is perfect. Our form has a beginning, but His form is beginningless. She is ananta. And His innumerable forms of being have no end. I'm sitting here now and not in my apartment. You too are sitting here and not in your apartment. But Kṛṣṇa can be anywhere at the same time. He can be in Goloka Vṛndāvana and at the same time He is everywhere, all-pervasive. He is the origin, the oldest. But when we look at a picture of Kṛṣṇa we see a youthful figure, fifteen to twenty years old. You will never see him as an old man. You may have seen images of Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā as a charioteer. He was a hundred years old then, after all. He already had great-grandchildren, but he looked like a youth. Kṛṣṇa, God, never gets old. In this lies His omnipotence. If you want to find Kṛṣṇa by studying the Vedic scriptures, you will get confused. It is possible, but it is very difficult. But we can very easily come closer to Him through the devotees. A devotee can bring Him to us: 'Here He is. Unlock to Him! ›This is the power of those who have dedicated their lives to Kṛṣṇa.

Originally there was only one Veda and there was no need to read it. People were so intelligent and remembered that a single hearing from the spiritual master's mouth was enough to evoke real understanding in them. They immediately understood the whole point. But five thousand years ago Vyāsadeva wrote the Vedas for the people of that age, the Kali-Yuga. He knew that people's lifespan would be shortened, that their memory would be very poor, and that their intelligence would no longer be very great either. ‹Let me therefore teach this Vedic knowledge by writing it down.› He divided it into four Vedas: Ṛg, Sāma, Atharva and Yajus. Then he gave these Vedas into the care of his various disciples. He also did not forget the less intelligent people, Strī, Śūdras and Dvija-bandhu. He thought of the women and the Śūdras (workers) and the Dvija-bandhu. Dvija-bandhu are those who were born in noble families but who are not really qualified.A person born into a Brahmin family who does not have the qualifications of Brahmin is called a Dvija-bandhu. For these people he put together the Mahābhārata, which is called the History of India, and the eighteen Purāṇas. These are all Vedic scriptures: the Purāṇas, the Mahābhārata, the four Vedas and the Upaniṣads. The Upaniṣads are part of the Vedas. Then Vyāsadeva summarized all Vedic knowledge for scholars and philosophers in the Vedānta-sūtra, in which all Vedic knowledge culminates. Vyāsadeva personally wrote the Vedānta-sūtra under the direction of his Guru Mahārāj, his spiritual master, Nārada, but he was still not satisfied, even after having compiled many Purāṇas and Upaniṣads. This is a long story described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Nārada, his spiritual master, instructed him: 'Explain the Vedānta.' Vedānta means very last knowledge, and the very last knowledge is Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa says that one must understand Him through the Vedas. Vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham. Ka says, 'I am the author of the Vedānta and I am the knower of the Vedas.' Therefore the ultimate goal is Kṛṣṇa. This is said in all of the Vaiṣṇavas' commentaries on Vedānta philosophy. We Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas have the commentary on Vedānta philosophy by Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa called Govinda-bhaṣya. Likewise, Rāmānujācārya and Madhvācārya also have their comments. Śaṅkarācārya's version is not the only comment. There are many commentaries on the Vedānta, but because the Vaiṣṇavas did not come up with the first Vedānta comment, people mistakenly believe that Śaṅkarācārya's comment is the only one. In addition, Vyāsadeva wrote the most perfect commentary on Vedānta, namely the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also begins with the first words of the Vedānta-sūtra: Janmādyasya yataḥ. And this janmādyasya yataḥ is explained in detail in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The Vedānta-sūtra only suggests what the Brahman is, what the Absolute Truth is: 'The Absolute Truth is that from which everything proceeds.' That gives an overall picture, but in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is explained in detail. If everything starts from the Absolute Truth, then what is the essence of the Absolute Truth? All of this is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The Absolute Truth must be conscious. Svarāṭ. He shines out of himself. Our consciousness and our knowledge grow through the knowledge we receive from others, but He shines out of Himself. The whole essence of Vedic knowledge is the Vedānta-sūtra, and the Vedānta-sūtra is explained by the author in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Finally, we ask those who seek Vedic knowledge to try to understand the explanation of all knowledge given by the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the Bhagavad-gītā.

Many Thanks


Srila prabhupada speaks to a student during a morning walk in London:

Srila Prabhupada: The message of Krishna consciousness comes from the spiritual world, not here from the material world. That is why it sometimes happens that people misunderstand this message. It is for this reason that we need to explain this message accordingly. Many cannot even understand what the soul is. This applies to our great scientists as well as to our great philosophers. They don't know anything about spirituality and the spiritual world. That is why it is so difficult for them to understand at times.

college student: Lately I've been doing some research on the age of the Vedas employed. Archaeologists believe that the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro show that the Vedas came into being at a much later date than was originally thought. That would mean a certain loss of authority for the Vedas, because then they would no longer be the oldest religious scriptures in the world.

Srila Prabhupada: Veda does not mean “religion”. Veda means “knowledge”. So if you can research the history of knowledge, then you can also research when the Vedas came into being. Can you tell when knowledge began? Are you able to do this?
Student: I hardly think that's possible.

Srila Prabhupada: How can you then research the origins of the Vedas? Veda means knowledge. Therefore, they must first explore the origin of knowledge. Then they can determine the age of the Vedas. The history of the Vedas goes back to the creation of the material world. No one can tell the time of creation. Creation began with the birth of Brahma, and one cannot even measure the length of a day of Brahma.

During Brahma's night the universe is to some extent destroyed, and during his day creation takes place. There are two types of destruction: on the one hand, that which takes place in Brahma's night and, on the other hand, the ultimate destruction, whereby the entire cosmic manifestation is annihilated. And we tiny creatures speculate about the age of the Vedas - that's just ridiculous.

Many microbes emerge in the evening and die as soon as the next day begins. You only live one night. Our life is similarly short. So what can we already know about history? That is why we receive Vedic knowledge from Vedic authorities. One shouldn't be a frog philosopher. Do you know the philosophy of the frogs? Dr. Frosch had never seen the Atlantic Ocean when someone told him: "I have seen an immensely large body of water." Then Dr. Frog: "Hm, is it bigger than this fountain?"

college student: - Yes, he could hardly imagine that.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So these scholars are like frogs that rot in their well. How should it be possible for them to understand something of the Vedic knowledge?

college student: Yes, that makes sense to me. To change the subject - are you of the opinion that, according to the Vedas, the most correct way of life, the purest life, is that which is lived in harmony with nature and not against nature, as is customary in our cities?

Srila Prabhupada: Definitely. Real life means keeping physical activity to a minimum in order to gain time and devote oneself to spiritual knowledge. This is real life. Current civilization based on the physical view of life is no better than animal life. This is not a civilized life.
Athato brahma-jijnasa: Civilized life begins when someone is so developed that he asks about the spiritual soul. However, if these questions are not asked, if people are unable to ask what the spiritual soul is, they are like dogs and cats.
The Vedic way of life teaches to be as free as possible from physical disturbances. That is why Vedic education begins with Brahmacarya, sexual abstinence. However, these villains cannot control their sexual instincts. Their philosophy is that one should give in to one's sexual urges wholeheartedly and, in the event of pregnancy, simply kill the child.

college student: Right.

Srila Prabhupada: This is their wicked philosophy. Little did they suspect that one can forget one's sexuality through appropriate practice. And if one has forgotten about sexuality, the problem of abortion is automatically solved. But they are not capable of that. That is why it is said, adanta-gobhir visatam tamisram: Through unrestricted sensual enjoyment, they gradually sink down to the level of the animals. Whoever performs abortions - kills the child in the womb - will be killed in the womb himself in his next life. As many babies as he has killed, so many times will he have to take on a new body and be killed. That way, he will not see the light of day for hundreds of years. He will stay in the womb and be killed again and again. People don't know the laws of nature. One cannot bypass the laws of nature like the laws of the state. A murderer can use tricks to evade the laws of the state, but he never escapes the laws of nature. Every time you kill you will be killed yourself. That is the law of nature.

college student: Just last week I was talking to a nurse who works in the abortion department of one of London's largest hospitals. It's horrible. Some of the fetuses are so developed that it is very likely that one can speak of life.

Srila Prabhupada: There can be no question of probability. Life begins with sexual contact. The living being is very small. According to the law of nature, it was placed in the father's seed in accordance with his karma and thus got into the mother's uterus. There, the father's seed fuses with the mother's egg to form a body that is shaped like a pea. This pea-like structure then gradually develops. This is all described in the Vedic literature. On the first stage, nine openings are formed for the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, genitals and rectum. Then the senses gradually develop, and by the age of six and a half months the entire body is fully developed, whereupon the consciousness of the living being returns.

Before the human body is formed, the living being is unconscious, as if under anesthesia. Then it dreams and gradually wakes up. At this point he is totally reluctant to leave his mother's body, but nature gives him a push and it comes out. This is how the birth takes place.

This is Vedic knowledge. Everything is described in great detail in Vedic literature. So how can the Vedas be subject to history? The difficulty is simply that we are talking about spiritual things. This is why the rough materialists sometimes have difficulty understanding. They are so difficult to understand that they simply cannot understand.