Is your software genuine? If not, kindly contact us, and we will help you sort out your problem.” Can something similar be done with Vedic literature? For example, if someone wants to know whether Jesus Christ is mentioned in the Vedas, he will face a bewildering array of information. Some scholars will insist that he is not mentioned in any of the mainstream scriptures, while others may quote some lesser-known text and state that he is indeed mentioned. In today’s day and age when so many books are translated, published and printed under the heading “Vedic literature,” how does one confirm the veracity of information available today?
Let’s begin with the issue of interpolation. An interpolation occurs when any or all of the following three scenarios may take place:
1. A particular text is removed
2. A particular text is added
3. A particular text’s composition is altered
Judging by the above standards, large number of Vedic passages has suffered at the hands of invaders, especially the British. It is perfectly understandable, at least now, that the British Raj wanted the local population to lose their faith in their own scriptures and to accept the political conquest of their country as primarily due to cultural superiority. Thus there was a concerted effort on the part of the British to discredit Vedic culture, and they did succeed for some time. At the other end of the spectrum we have Indology scholars and others who study Asian history but do not even accept that Srila Vyasadeva is the single compiler of the entire Vedic canon. The entire gamut of Vedic literature, at a very conservative estimate, contains one lakh lakh verses (10,000,000,000). It is certainly impossible for one individual today to say that he can understand all of them in their entirety. So what does one do?
Srila Jiva Gosvami, who was a acclaimed scholar of the fifteenth century, says that unless a Vedic text is accompanied by a commentary given by chain of disciplic succession technically known as guru-shishya-parampara (literally, a chain of teachers and students, one coming after the other) one should not accept it. This parampara is of paramount importance to students of Vedic literature. In fact, the Bhagavad-gita was spoken because the parampara was broken and Krishna decided to repair the damage Himself. Krishna explains , “This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.2)
Imagine you are watching a sports event and suddenly due to transmission failure your television screen goes “blink.” As far as you are concerned the event is lost, but in reality the event is continuing but the relaying part is lost. Similarly the Vedas are described as apauruseya, not composed by any ordinary mortal having the four defects of imperfect senses, tendency to be illusioned, tendency to commit mistakes and the propensity to cheat others.
Judging by this standard we have authentic parampara explanations for the most important Vedic texts like the Srimad Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and a few Upanisads available today, and one should read these texts. Otherwise, just as pirated software may promises you authentic information but you end up with a huge virus attack on you hard disk, similarly reading non-parampara Vedic literature will destroy our tender faith and end our quest for the ultimate goal of human life.