A summary of the Bhagavad-gita Part 1
BHAGAVAD-GITA means "the song [gita] of God [Bhagavan]." Readers the world over revere the Bhagavad-gita as the most important book of the Vedic literature the vast body of Sanskrit texts including and referring to the Vedas. TheBhagavad-gita is itself but one short chapter of the Maha-bharata, a book so lengthy that Guiness calls it the world's longest. Yet in its short seven hundred verses, Bhagavad-gita distills the wisdom of all the Vedas.
To understand Bhagavad-gita in context, consider these prior incidents from the Mahabharata. Dhrtarastra and Pandu were brothers, princes who were heirs to the throne. Dhrtarastra was born blind, and so the kingdom went to the younger Pandu. Pandu sired five sons (known as the Pandavas), including the incomparable warrior Arjuna. Dhrtarastra had one hundred sons, headed by the ambitious and evil Duryodhana. Pandu died, and Dhrtarastra accepted the throne as a caretaker for the young Pandavas. But Dhrtarastra's affection for his sons clouded his judgement, leading him to acquiesce to Duryodhana's sinister attempts to kill or vanquish the Pandavas. These attempts failed but ultimately led to a vast war involving virtually all the major kingdoms of the earth. The battle between cousins took place on the plain of Kuruksetra, north of present-day Delhi.
Kalakantha Dasa writes, runs a small business, and directs the Mayapur Foundation U.S.A. He and his wife, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, live with their two daughters in Gainesville, Florida.
This summary, along with Kalakantha Dasa's 700-verse poetic rendering of the Gita, will be published this fall by Torchlight Publishing. Phone: 1-888-TORCHLT (1-888-867-2458); www.torchlight.com.
Chapter 1: Arjuna Gives Up
THE BHAGAVAD-GITA picks up the story with Dhrtarastra's inquiring about the battle from his secretary, Sanjaya. Through a special boon from the sage Vyasadeva, Sanjaya could see within himself all details of the battle. His vision includes Arjuna's hour-long conversation with Lord Krsna, Arjuna's charioteer, just before the war was to begin.
How has Lord Krsna, Himself a mighty king, assumed the menial duties of a charioteer? Before the battle, when both sides sought alliances, Krsna offered to send His vast armies to fight for one side while serving personally in a non-combat role on the other. Duryodhana was delighted to have Krsna's armies, and Arjuna was equally pleased to have his dear friend Krsna with him on his chariot.
Sanjaya begins his narration of the battlefield scene by revealing Duryodhana's characteristic diplomacy and pride. After offering nominal praise to his opponents, Duryodhana loudly proclaims the superiority of his forces, the Kurus. The highly respected Bhisma the grand-uncle of both the Kurus and the Pandavas leads Duryodhana's army. But when the two sides raise threatening crashes of drums and conchshell blasts, it is Duryodhana's side that feels intimidated.
Arjuna is full of confidence, with the emblem of the heroic monkey warrior Hanuman on his chariot flag. Arjuna asks Lord Krsna to drive him between the two armies so he can study his opponents. When Arjuna fully realizes that the battle will result in the deaths of so many dear relatives, he suddenly loses his resolve to fight. In shock, he presents Lord Krsna with many good reasons for why he has decided to walk away from the battle.
Chapter 2: Reincarnation, Duty, and Yoga
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. (Bg 2.12)
What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage. (Bg 2.69)
KRSNA QUICKLY REJECTS Arjuna's decision to refrain from battle. Arjuna admits he is confused and asks for instruction. In the remaining verses of this chapter, some of the most well known in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna presents three reasons for Arjuna to change his mind:
1. The eternal soul, distinct from the temporary body, reincarnates through various lifetimes. (verses Bg 2.11-30)
2. As a warrior, Arjuna has a duty to fight. (Bg 2.31-38)
3. Arjuna's reasons for not fighting, although having some basis in Vedic scripture, miss the higher purpose of the Vedas specifically, to transcend material circumstance through yoga. (Bg 2.39-53)
After Arjuna asks for clarification in verse Bg 2.54, Lord Krsna concludes the chapter with a further explanation of yoga and transcendence.
The concept of yoga, introduced in this chapter, reappears throughout the rest of the Bhagavad-gita. Yoga is much more than the hatha-yoga exercises familiar in the West. Yoga, the root of the word yoke, means "to link" with God. In this chapter Lord Krsna presents the basics of yoga: control of the mind, control of the senses, and pursuit of happiness higher than what can be found through the mind and senses. In later chapters Krsna details various yoga paths.
We are also introduced in this chapter (verse Bg 2.45) to the three modes of nature. These divisions or qualities of matter goodness, passion, and ignorance constitute one of Lord Krsna's most vivid teachings. As a painter mixes blue, red, and yellow to create the endless spectrum of colors, so nature combines goodness, passion, and ignorance to influence and create distinct qualities in everyone and everything. Later chapters describe the effects of the modes on aspects of life including food, work, education and worship. Through yoga one clears away the influences of the modes.
In both Chapters One and Two we find references to "heaven," which refers not to the spiritual kingdom of God but to higher material planets, occupied by powerful devas, or demigods. Since the devas enjoy long life and extensive pleasures, the Vedasoffer interested humans various means to attain their heavenly worlds. Here in Chapter Two, for the first of many times in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna rejects such motivated and polytheistic worship as inferior and mundane.
Chapter 3: Karma-Yoga The Yoga of Action
Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage. (Bg 3.9)
The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature. (Bg 3.27)
KARMA REFERS TO moral action and reaction. According to the law of karma, whatever actions one performs bring reactions. Good karma manifests as, for example, wealth, power, and prestige, while bad karma may appear as debt, disease, and vulnerability. Since the soul is eternal, as explained in Chapter Two, it carries karmic reactions from one life to the next. Karma entangles the soul in material activities and ignorance of its true identity.
Arjuna begins this chapter by asking how he could possibly fight for his own selfish purposes yet link with God and free himself from karma. Lord Krsna directs Arjuna to fight, but without attachment. If Arjuna simply sits down and renounces the fight, he will still be subject to his karma. But if he does his duty, not for his own sake but for God's pleasure, he will be practicing karma-yoga.
Work in karma-yoga is free from any sinful reaction, even if such work means fighting in the upcoming war. To further explain karma-yoga, Lord Krsna points out that God has created both man and the devas. Man relates to the devas through duty and sacrifice. Although unencumbered by any duty, to set a good example Lord Krsna Himself performs prescribed duties. To encourage Arjuna to do his duty, Krsna cites the example of the ancient king Janaka, an emblem of duty and sacrifice.
Neglect of duty, Lord Krsna warns, leads to chaos. Those who understand the soul and karma generally work to educate others. Krsna directs the enlightened to teach where possible but not to disturb those who have no interest. At the same time, Krsna emphasizes that everyone's duty is unique. Regardless of what one's duty may be, one must perform it without attachment.
At the chapter's end, Arjuna asks what drives one to sinful, karma-producing actions, even against one's will. In reply, Lord Krsna elaborates on the yogic principles of sense control introduced in Chapter Two.
In this chapter, as in other places in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna refers to God in the third person. This in no way compromises Lord Krsna's many conclusive statements about His own divinity. For instance, if the prime minister discusses the powers of the prime minister, he is talking about himself, but indirectly. Similarly, Lord Krsna speaks general theology to Arjuna. When Arjuna is ready for full enlightenment, he will know that the Supreme is Lord Krsna, as we shall see in later chapters.
Chapter 4: Finding a Guru
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. (Bg 4.34)
HAVING URGED Arjuna to conquer lust, the foe of learning, Lord Krsna now reveals how to acquire spiritual knowledge: one must receive it through disciplic succession, a chain of gurus and disciples. Lord Krsna inaugurated the disciplic succession at the inception of the universe. Although time has broken the chain, Lord Krsna pledges to revive it with fresh, though unchanged, instructions.
Here for the first time in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna clearly distinguishes Himself from ordinary souls by saying that while He remembers past appearances, Arjuna has forgotten them. And unlike ordinary souls, karma does not impose birth and death on Lord Krsna; He appears for His own reasons.
Lord Krsna then says that materialists disregard Him and worship demigods. He says that He reciprocates with everyone according to their surrender, and that to accommodate all types of people, He creates four social divisions. Our qualities and actions reveal to which division we each belong. Lord Krsna says that knowing these truths about Him will lead Arjuna to knowledge, as it has for past saints.
Lord Krsna next differentiates between actions for sense gratification, which produce karma, and transcendental actions, which don't. Transcendentalists act to please God, not for sense gratification, and the Lord accepts such offerings of work. The transcendentalist thus enjoys a fully spiritualized life on earth and then returns to the kingdom of God.
In verses 25 through 33 Lord Krsna describes the ways various yogis approach the Absolute Truth. In verse 34 He advises Arjuna to find an expert guru who understands these paths and has himself realized their conclusion. Completing the chapter, Lord Krsna describes the beauty and power of transcendental knowledge and exhorts Arjuna to fight on and slay his ignorance.
Chapter 5: Acting in Consciousness of Lord Krsna
"A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries." (Bg 5.29)
KRSNA'S STATEMENTS have again confused Arjuna. At the end of Chapter 4 Lord Krsna advocates knowledge and renunciation, then again urges Arjuna to fight. Arjuna requests clear direction: Should he renounce everything, or should he fight on behalf of God?
Krsna replies that both methods are acceptable, but acting for Him is better. He explains karma-yoga in even more detail. By contrasting the self-serving work of a materialist and the work of a devotee, Lord Krsna demonstrates how sacrificing one's work for God leads to sense control and freedom from karma.
Action in consciousness of Lord Krsna leads to enlightenment and happiness within the "city of nine gates" the physical body, with its nine openings. Situated in realization, the master of the city sees the modes of nature at work within himself and others around him.
An enlightened soul sees all others equally, regardless of their position. Such a person avoids all kinds of problems by subduing the senses, and thus relishes a higher happiness coming from within. This realization, the perfection of mysticism, leads to compassion for others still controlled by their senses.
In summary, Lord Krsna declares Himself to be the supreme proprietor, the supreme beneficiary of all work, and the supreme friend of every living being. He promises peace for anyone who knows Him in this way.
Chapter 6: Meditation and Mystic Yoga
"And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion." (Bg 6.47)
THROUGHOUT THE Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna presents a variety of options to address Arjuna's perplexity. In this chapter Lord Krsna elaborates on the processes of meditation and mystic yoga He introduced briefly at the end of Chapter 5. The successful yogi enjoys a profound equilibrium of mind and utter detachment from any external circumstance. To achieve this end, the mystic yogi must live in the forest, be celibate, reduce eating and sleeping to the bare minimum, and meditate constantly. In such meditation the yogi repeatedly drags the wandering mind back to the task at hand.
After hearing this description, Arjuna objects that the mind is too difficult to control. Even after Lord Krsna reassures him, Arjuna still doubts his ability to succeed. Krsna then explains that a yogi benefits by simply trying. Lord Krsna concludes His account of this difficult yoga system by declaring that one who worships Him faithfully is, in fact, the best of all yogis.
Chapter 7: Absolute Knowledge
"O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bg 7.7)
HAVING IDENTIFIED the best yogi as one who serves and thinks of Him, Lord Krsna now explains how to attain such constant remembrance. During this explanation, Lord Krsna contrasts matter and spirit, evil and piety, and folly and wisdom. Matter, Lord Krsna's inferior energy, consists of eight basic elements: earth, water, air, fire, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego. Ether refers to space. False ego describes more than pride; it is the spiritual soul's misidentification with the material body. Matter influences the conditioned soul as the three modes of nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance). Spirit, Lord Krsna's superior energy, consists of living beings, struggling hard with the elements and modes of material nature.
Having introduced Himself as the origin of both matter and spirit, Lord Krsna describes metaphorically how one can see Him in matter. He then explains how one can directly perceive Him through voluntary, loving submission.
Lord Krsna next describes four kinds of pious people who surrender to Him and four kinds of evil persons who do not. Among those who surrender, He expresses special appreciation for those who do so out of wisdom. Intelligent persons, fortified with past pious deeds, take shelter of Lord Krsna and transcend birth and death. On the other hand, Lord Krsna says, fools worship devas for material gain a popular custom among those who nominally follow the Vedas. Fools also consider that Lord Krsna has come from Brahman, a formless, impersonal energy. Such persons never know Lord Krsna, because for them He remains covered.
Chapter 8: Attaining the Supreme
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits this body, O son of Kuntthat state he will attain without fail." (Bg 8.6)
THIS CHAPTER OPENS with several questions and answers that comprise most of the basic subjects of the Bhagavad-gita.
(1) What is Brahman?
Lord Krsna defines Brahman as the deathless soul. In the philosophy of Vaisnavism, or devotion to Lord Krsna, the individual soul is pure spirit, in quality one with Krsna. In quantity, however, the individual is vastly inferior to Krsna. A drop of ocean water may possess the qualities of water present throughout the entire the ocean, but a drop cannot sustain a boat. In the same way, individual souls are both one with and different from Lord Krsna, the Parabrahman, or Supreme Brahman.
(2) What is the material world?
Lord Krsna defines material creation as the ever-changing physical nature. By contrast, the spiritual nature, or Brahman, never changes.
(3) What is the self?
Lord Krsna refers to the self as the eternal nature of the soul. By nature, the soul serves; either he serves the physical creation and remains entangled, or he serves the spiritual creation and goes there. The entity who executes this free will is the self.
(4) What is karma?
Karma is the interaction of the changeless soul with the ever-mutating physical creation. The soul creates that interaction by choosing to serve matter, resulting in various physical bodies encapsulating the spiritual soul.
(5) Who are the devas?
Devas, highly elevated living beings, assist in the management of the physical creation. Under Lord Krsna's direction, they manipulate the weather, the planets, and everything else, including the mechanics of karma. They are components of Lord Krsna's vast universal form, as He reveals to Arjuna in Chapter Eleven.
Lord Krsna describes the life of Brahma, a chief deva and the first created being in the universe. At the dawn of Brahma's vast daytime, the hosts of individual souls enter material bodies according to their karma. In his nighttime, the souls return to an unmanifest condition. Eventually even Brahma dies. Lord Krsna then declares His own abode to be above such painful cycles of birth and death, creation and devastation.
(6) Who is the Lord of sacrifice?
The Lord or beneficiary of sacrifice is Lord Krsna, who dwells in the heart of every embodied being as the Supersoul.
(7) How can a devotee know Lord Krsna at the time of death?
Among all of Arjuna's questions, Krsna speaks most about this, the destination of the soul. The state of mind one has at death, Krsna says, determines what kind of body one will attain in the next lifetime. Krsna then tells Arjuna how to think of Him and thus go to Him at death. Krsna goes on to discuss the mechanical methods of yoga, which help improve the soul's destination. But Krsna assures Arjuna that a devotee who thinks of Him doesn't have to worry about such mechanical considerations. In conclusion, Lord Krsna declares that simply by being a bhakta, or devotee, one obtains the results of every kind of meritorious action.
Chapter 9: God's Personality
AS THE BHAGAVAD-GITA progresses, Lord Krsna reveals His mind more intimately to Arjuna. In this chapter, after a formal description of His relationship with the material creation, Lord Krsna discloses His loving relationship with His devotees. Further explaining His divinity, Krsna states that He creates and pervades everything yet remains a distinct and detached individual. Because conditioned souls stay engrossed in material energy, they cannot understand Krsna, even if they see Him. As a result, their plans fail. On the other hand, by knowing Krsna, the liberated souls become enlightened.
Lord Krsna then lists several ways to see Him, as He did in Chapter Seven. He again brings up the theme of misdirected worship. Pursuing extreme material happiness, some Vedic followers worship devas. Although after much effort such worshipers may attain heavenly bliss, they soon return to ordinary birth and death.
Lord Krsna closes the chapter with details of how a tiny individual soul enters a loving exchange with Him. Being a person, Lord Krsna enjoys a simple, affectionate offering of water, fruit, or flowers. He declares Himself impartial to everyone, yet He admits reciprocating in friendship with His devotee by relieving all the devotee's karma at death.
What Exactly is Vedic?
by Satyaraja dasa
Tradition supports a broader definition of the word than is generally used in the academic world.
WALK INTO ANY Hare Krsna temple and you're bound to hear the words Veda and Vedic repeatedly. Devotees refer to "Vedic art," "Vedic scriptures," "Vedic culture," "Vedic dress" Vedic this and Vedic that. They use words related to Veda as often as materialists use the words sex and money.
Just what does Vedic mean? And where does "the Veda" come from?
The word Veda can be traced to the Sanskrit root vid, which means "to know" or "knowledge." It is related to the words "wit" and "wis-dom" from the German; "idea" (originally widea) from the Greek; and "video" from the Latin. (One who knows, sees the truth; hence: video.)
So Veda refers to any abiding knowledge. In that sense, all sacred texts are Vedic. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The word Veda means 'book of knowledge.' There are many books of knowledge, which vary according to the country, population, environment, etc. In India, the books of knowledge are referred to as the Vedas. In the West, they are called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Muslims accept the Koran. What is the purpose for all of these books of knowledge? They are to train us to understand our position as pure soul." (Beyond Birth and Death, p. 7)
These are among the broadest definitions of Veda. In a more narrow sense and the one with which most scholars are familiar Veda refers to the four samhitas (holy books) compiled in India by Vyasadeva, an incarnation of Krsna, some five thousand years ago. These books have an oral tradition that dates much further back. In fact, the texts themselves say that the knowledge contained in them emanated directly from the body of the Lord. As Bhagavad-gita (3.15) puts it, "The Vedas are directly manifested from the infallible Supreme Personality of Godhead."
The four Samhitas started out as one lengthy work, but then Vyasadeva divided them into the Rg Veda (the Veda of sacred sounds), the Sama Veda (the Veda of melodies), the Yajur Veda (the Veda of rituals), and the Atharva Veda (the Veda of incantations). These four books have their own corollary works, called Brahmanas (treatises dealing with the technicalities of sacrifices) and Aranyakas (forest treatises for renunciants who go off into the wilderness to fulfill vows).
Also generally included in the Vedic canon are the 108 Upanisads, elaborate philosophical explanations of the four Vedas. The Upanisads, say the ancient texts themselves, were revealed to self-realized sages and are thus called sruti, or "that which is heard." This puts them in the same category as the four Vedas and their corollaries.
Yet throughout the Vedic literature are indications affirmed by great sages that other works, while not Vedic in the narrowest sense, can also be included within the vast gamut of traditional Vedic knowledge. The Chandogya Upanisad (7.1.4), for example, describes the Puranas and Itihasas, which I'll define later, as "the fifth Veda." And the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (2.4.10) informs us, "The ‰g Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda, and histories such as the Mahabharataand the Puranas are all breathed out by the Absolute Truth. Just as one's breath comes easily, these arise from the Supreme Brahman without any effort on His part."
The great thirteenth-century Vaisnava teacher Madhvacarya affirms that much of the traditional literature of India can be considered part of the Veda. In his Vedanta-sutra (2.1.6) commentary, he writes: "The Rg Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda,the Atharva Veda, the Mahabharata, the Pancaratra, and the original Ramayana are all considered Vedic literature…. The Vaisnava supplements the Puranas are also Vedic literature."
The writings coming after the Upanisads and the four Vedas are known as smrti ("that which is remembered," as opposed to the Vedic sruti). They include the Itihasas (epics) and the Puranas (histories). The Itihasas are the Mahabharata (110,000 verses) and the Ramayana (50,000+). There are eighteen main Puranas (including the Srimad-Bhagavatam), many Upapuranas (lesser Puranas), and numerous regional Puranas, some more authoritative than others.
Also included within the Vedic literature are the Sutras (books of concise philosophical statements), the Vedangas (auxiliary sciences connected with Vedic study), and the Upavedas (sciences not directly related to Vedic study). The Sutras include theSrauta-sutra, the Grha-sutra, the Kalpa-sutra, the Dharma-sutra, the Sulva-sutra, and most important, the Vedanta-sutra. The six Vedangas are Siksa (phonetics), Chandas (meter), Vyakarana (grammar),
Nirukta (etymology),Jyotisa (astronomy), and Kalpa (ritual). Among the Upavedas are Ayur-veda (holistic medicine), Gandharva-veda (music and dance), Dhanur-veda (warfare), and Sthapatya-veda (architecture).
Tradition holds that any literature in pursuance of the Vedic version is just as important as the Vedas themselves. These include such books as Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya, Hari-vamsa, Brahma-yamala, and hundreds of others. Finally we can add the many writings of self-realized acaryas (teachers in disciplic succession), such as Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and the many books of the six Gosvamis, Lord Caitanya's chief disciples.
The King of Books
Because these other writings bring out the essence of the original Veda, they are, in a sense, more important than the original Veda. Take Srimad-Bhagavatam, for example. According to tradition, this profound revelation was originally given by God to Brahma, the first created being, at the dawn of creation. Brahma conveyed the essence of the knowledge to Narada, and Narada passed it on to Vyasa, who, as previously mentioned, took the eternal wisdom of the Veda and divided it into four distinct sections.
What I did not mention, however, is that after this, Vyasa summarized the Vedic knowledge into a huge volume of terse codes known as Vedanta-sutra. But after doing so, He became despondent. He felt that in compiling the Vedic literature, he had neglected to truly focus on the Absolute Truth. His suspicion was confirmed by his spiritual master, Narada, who told him that he had indeed overlooked the central point of reality and would be satisfied only if he were to directly describe the name, fame, form, and pastimes of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Heeding the advice of his guru, Vyasa compiled Srimad-Bhagavatam, whose verses describe it as "the king of books," "the spotless Purana," and "the mature fruit of the Vedic tree of knowledge." It is also considered the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra.
For most followers of the Vedic tradition, the "later" or "non-Vedic" texts are more "Vedic" than the Vedas themselves. Jiva Gosvami, whom the followers of Lord Caitanya consider the foremost of all Vedic philosophers, emphasizes this point in hisTattva-sandarbha (17.4), where he quotes the Skanda Purana (Prabhasakhanda 2.93): "O brahmanas, one who is fully conversant with the four Vedas, the six Vedangas, and the Upanisads, but who has not also studied the Itihasas or the Puranas, is not actually learned in Vedic knowledge." Why? Because, according to Jiva, the Puranas and Itihasas are superior to the Vedas: "The superiority of the Puranas and Itihasas is described in the following passage from the Narada Purana, where Lord Siva is quoted as saying, 'O beautiful Parvati, I consider the Puranas and Itihasas superior to the Vedas, for whatever truths are present in the Vedas are also explained in these ancient works. Of this there is no doubt.'" (16.11) Clearly, the Vaisnava tradition considers all supplementary Vedic literature indispensable when studying the Vedas.
The Vedic literature is the most comprehensive scriptural tradition known to man. It contains information on everything from medicine and farming to the time sequences on upper and lower planets; from techniques of yoga and meditation to household hints and recipes for tasty vegetarian dishes; from detailed explanations of governmental organization to masterful directions on building and decorating a temple or a residence. The verses in each of the thousands of Vedic texts conform to strict rules of poetry and meter. The Vedas contain drama, history, and complex philosophy, as well as simple lessons of etiquette. Military protocol, the use of musical instruments, biographies of great saints and sages of the past these are but a few of the subjects one finds in the Vedas.
It is no wonder, then, that Hare Krsna devotees use the terms Veda and Vedic as if the words were going out of style. By drawing on the vast Vedic heritage, today associated mainly with India, devotees conjure up a culture so advanced, so sophisticated, that it is still respected by scholars, politicians, religionists, swamis, yogis, and anyone privy to its elaborate teachings. We still find people in India today supporting their points in a debate religious or political by citing Vedic evidence. ISKCON devotees cite Vedic evidence in that way too, and in many other ways as well. And why not? They are drawing on a tradition that for thousands of years has formed the foundation for billions of materially and spiritually progressive lives.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.