(ISKCON Los Angeles)
om namo bhagavate vasudevaya
janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat
tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah
tejo-vari-mrdam yatha vinimayo yatra tri-sargo 'mrsa
dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam satyam param dhimahi
"I offer my obeisances unto Lord Sri Krsna, son of Vasudeva, who is the supreme all-pervading Personality of Godhead. I meditate upon Him, the transcendent reality, who is the primeval cause of all causes, from whom all manifested universes arise, in whom they dwell and by whom they are destroyed. I meditate upon that eternally effulgent Lord who is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations and yet is beyond them. It is He only who first imparted Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahma, the first created being. Through Him this world, like a mirage, appears real even to great sages and demigods. Because of Him, the material universes, created by the three modes of nature, appear to be factual, although they are unreal. I meditate therefore upon Him, the Absolute Truth, who is eternally existent in His transcendental abode, and who is forever free of illusion."
This is the first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which was compiled by Veda-vyasa as the perfect commentary on theVedanta-sutra, the summary of all the Vedas. The very ancient knowledge of the Vedas was recorded by Veda-vyasa 5,000 years ago, and after he thus recorded the range of Vedic knowledge, he summarized it all in the compact synopsis called the Vedanta-sutra.The author of a huge voluminous work who wants to make its general information available to those who do not have the time or facility to study the whole work may write a synopsis. Thus after compiling all the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Puranas andMahabharata, Vyasadeva found it necessary to summarize them in the Vedanta-sutra. It then became known to him that even thisVedanta-sutra was not sufficiently explicit to give a clear understanding of the Vedas. Seeing that it would be misunderstood, he thought it necessary to write a commentary on the Vedanta-sutraitself. This is the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra written by Vyasadeva himself.
The Ripe Fruit of Knowledge
We therefore accept the Srimad-Bhagavatam as the cream of all Vedic knowledge. From a cow we take milk, and from the milk we derive whey, buttermilk, etc., but the essence of the milk is the cream. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam is called the cream or essence of the Vedas, and sometimes it is also called the ripened fruit of the Vedic tree of knowledge. A tree has roots, a trunk, branches and leaves, but the quintessence of the tree is the fruit. The development of the tree culminates when a succulent, ripened fruit is produced. Srimad-Bhagavatam is called the ripened fruit of the Vedic tree, for it contains the most sweet and essential knowledge. A tree is produced by the wonderful action of nature, and it produces a nice fruit which is for our benefit. We can take that fruit very happily, and thus the purpose of the tree is fulfilled. Similarly, it is described by Caitanya Mahaprabhu that Srimad-Bhagavatam, being the spotless Purana, is the fruit of Vedic knowledge.
If one simply understands Srimad-Bhagavatam, all of the Vedic knowledge is known to him. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, a great Vaisnava acarya (Krsna conscious spiritual master), once observed that if all the books in the world were burned today and none were left but Srimad-Bhagavatam, there would be no lack of knowledge. Srimad-Bhagavatam consists of twelve cantos containing about 18,000 verses. The very first verse, which is the invocation, explains the purpose of the entire work.
The Identity of the Supreme
In the very beginning Vyasadeva wants to make clear the purpose of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Thus he begins, om namo bhagavate vasudevaya: "I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord." Bhagavate indicates the Supreme, the greatest of all. If one is the greatest athlete, the greatest movie star or the greatest scholar, he can be called the supreme in that respect. Thus "supreme" refers to the greatest, no one can be greater than or equal to the Supreme.
Vyasadeva writes, om namo bhagavate vasudevaya: "I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme, or God." (Bhagavatealso means God.) He particularly uses the word vasudevaya to indicate the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that Krsna is the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. Thus the complete meaning of this statement is, "I offer my respectful obeisances unto Krsna, that particular son of Vasudeva and Devaki who is the Supreme God." In the very first line of this verse, therefore, Vyasadeva gives us direct and pertinent information regarding the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of, Godhead, the son of Vasudeva.
The first aphorism of Vedanta-sutra states, athato brahma-jijnasa: "Now is the time to understand the purpose of life." What is the proper utilization of our advanced intelligence, and what is the purpose of life? These questions constitute brahma-jijnasa, or inquiry about the Supreme Absolute Truth. If one studies very carefully and is able to derive the proper perspective from theVedas, he can understand that the overall purpose and design of Vedic knowledge is threefold.
There are three categories of Vedic understanding. Veda means knowledge, and to assimilate Veda is to assimilate knowledge. The three categories of knowledge are given as abhidheya, sambandhaand prayojana. Sambandha refers to knowledge of our relationship with the Supreme Lord, abhidheya refers to the process of developing that relationship and approaching God, and prayojana is the perfection of the relationship. Thus the goal, purpose and design of the Vedas is to understand our relationship with God, function according to that relationship, and go back home, back to Godhead. That is Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness.
The verse continues, janmady asya yatah. This refers to the Supreme Lord as "He from whom everything emanates."This is scientific information of the Supreme Lord. There are many scriptures in the world which give information that God is great, God is good, etc., but Srimad-Bhagavatam scientifically sets forth detailed information about God in order to clear up all misgivings or unclear points about what God is.
To forward the rendering of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Vyasadeva is meditating in this way. He meditates upon Lord Krsna as the cause of all causes from whom everything springs. This is an analytical definition of God: He is the cause of all causes. God cannot be caused by anything else; rather, everything must be caused by Him. Furthermore, if God causes everything and brings everything into existence, He must also be the maintainer; it is by His energy that creation is maintained. Similarly, He is also the destroyer. Thus the total import of janmady asya yatah is "He from whom everything emanates and by whom everything is created, maintained and destroyed."
With this scientific information, one can meditate upon Krsna as the Supreme Lord from whom everything comes. Thinking in this way, we can consider that everything comes from Him, including birds, flowers, air, water, body, mind, the universe, the sun, the stars and everything else. All is created by Him. Furthermore, all is maintained by Him. One may think himself the maintainer of his family, his body or his dog, but that is relative maintenance. Actually there is a higher maintainer than us. We are relative maintainers. For example, I may go to a job, earn a salary and go to the store to buy some food to maintain myself, but who has created the food? The farmer may say that he has produced the food, since he planted the seed and watered it, yet he is not the absolute producer but only a functionary in that production. By nature's way the seed grows into a grown plant. Science cannot duplicate this process. Thus the food is produced by nature, which is under the direction of the Supreme Lord.
We cannot claim that we can create or maintain anything; rather, we act as functionaries. When someone builds a house, he brings lumber, nails, plaster and labor and thus assembles it. He cannot actually say, therefore, that he is the creator of the house, but rather he is a functionary in that creation. He has not created the wood nor the metal, but he has only arranged these materials in a certain way after nature produces the raw ingredients.
Thus we are neither the creators nor maintainers. We utilize that which is provided for us. For example, we are maintained by the air and the sun, which are supplied without effort on our part. Similarly, although we know that everything that comes into existence in the material world, including our bodies, our minds and even our planet, is eventually destroyed by the influence of time, we are not the controllers of all this. One body is destroyed and another created under the direction of a higher order, a higher force—a creator, maintainer and destroyer. This is not a religious sentiment, but these are scientific facts that we have to accept. Therefore Vyasadeva meditates in this way: "I am thinking, I am worshiping, I am pondering about and meditating upon He from whom everything emanates, by whom everything is maintained, and by whom everything is destroyed."
The Supreme Controller
Furthermore, God is the controller of everything. This is another clue to meditation. Krsna is directly and indirectly controlling everything. In the Bhagavatam it is said that nothing, not even a blade of grass, moves without the will of the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is also explained here that everything is either directly or indirectly under His control. This is quite logical and scientific in accordance with whatever strength or capacity I have, I exercise some control. If I had a colony of ants, I could exercise a great amount of relative control over those ants, and similarly a stronger individual can exercise the same degree of control over me.
Yet we have not found anyone who can claim that he is the supreme controller. There have been many politicians, soldiers, statesmen and famous personalities who have come and gone with the passing of history. They have performed their pastimes and exercised some temporary control, and now they are all gone. At present, President Nixon is controlling very powerfully in the United States, but in fifty years he will be gone, and there will be little memory of him. That is the nature of relative control. That is not supreme control, for God is eternally the supreme controller. He always has been the controller, always is the controller, and always will be the controller, both directly and indirectly.
Truly enlightened souls (and Vyasadeva, the compiler of all theVedas, is among the most enlightened) consider the Vedas the supreme authority in detailed information of God. There must always be some authority. A standard must always be set. For example, how do we know how long a foot is? There is a government bureau of standard weights and measures that keeps a golden rod of a certain length designated as one foot. I f we want to manufacture a ruler, it has to come within a certain tolerance of this rod in order to qualify as legally representing a foot. That is the standard. If someone wants to make a ruler, he must agree to accept that standard. We cannot say that we do not accept it, for if we say that a foot is a different length than the standard rod, who is to decide? There will be complete chaos. Thus in order to come to any conclusion or common ground, we must find an accepted standard. Of course, the example of the rod is relative and material, but there is no such material relativity in spiritual consideration. All different schools of transcendental science accept the Vedas as the supreme standard. If I want to prove something, I must be able to back it up with Vedic injunctions.
According to the Vedic standard of transcendental knowledge, one cannot simply make wonderful statements. One must be able to quote from the Vedas, and in order to fully support any philosophical statement, one must be able to review, correlate and integrate all the Vedic aphorisms. They are all in harmony, but sometimes people will take a small portion, divorce it from the rest, and, not understanding its overall pertinence, make a statement out of proper context. We therefore sometimes see disagreements or conflicts between different camps of Vedic knowledge, but this is due to shortsightedness. We must therefore take the correct understanding from Vyasadeva, the original author himself.
Vyasadeva informs us that God is the supreme controller. Although we are not very much in control, there is someone in control. It is a nonsensical theory that there is no supreme controller. In the morning the sun comes up, but I can neither demand that the sun come up earlier nor force it to go down earlier because the sun is independent of my control. Someone, however, is controlling it. One should not conclude that because he or his fellow men cannot control it, no one can. That is called frog philosophy, for a frog who cannot see beyond the length and breadth of his own pond concludes that the pond is everything. That we simply cannot imagine how anyone can control the sun does not mean that the sun is not controlled.
Everything in this material universe has a particular design and order; there is no question of randomness. Scientists should know this. When an experiment is performed in a science class, there is a certain reaction when chemicals are combined. If a professor inquires from a student why this reaction occurs and the student says that it is random and there is no meaning or controlled reason, that is nonsensical. It is not at all a scientific answer. There is a reason, and one must factually understand it.
There is a reason why everything is going on as if designed under conscious control. That we cannot perceive it directly or through deduction does not mean that it does not exist. For example, in Los Angeles, where this article is being written, all the civic activities are now going on-trash is being picked up, the police are on duty, etc.-but I cannot fully understand how. Although I am not participating in these activities, however, they are going on anyway. I cannot say that nothing is happening or being controlled except where I am involved and aware of it. That would be foolish. Similarly, everything is going on under some control, whether we know it or not. That is a scientific fact, and it is God who is doing this controlling. He is the Supreme, He is the cause of all causes, He is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of everything, and He controls everything. This information is given by the Vedic literature.
Consciousness Beyond Time and Space
Continuing, Vyasadeva says that the Supreme is abhijnah, fully cognizant. It is said that God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and these words are very significant. "Omni" indicates that He has no limit. His energy extends everywhere to infinity. I infinity extends not only within 180 degrees or a certain distance but everywhere. I have some potency, and I may be able to push you over with my potency, but certainly I cannot push over a large building. Therefore my potency is limited. But the word "omnipotent" refers to one who has no limit to his potency. Similarly, "omnipresent" indicates that He is present everywhere between the atoms, in the fire, in the sky and everywhere else.
Again, there is a very clear contrast on this point between the Supreme and ourselves. We are not omnipresent. Our presence is limited by time and space. If I am present in one room, I cannot be present in another room at the same time. This is a clear example of how we are not omnipresent. Our consciousness is not everywhere; it is limited. But God is abhijnah, cognizant everywhere. I can pinch my body, and I can feel it, but you cannot feel that pinch. But God, Krsna, is everywhere and can feel everything. It is in this way that Vyasadeva is meditating. Whether we accept or reject his meditations is another matter, but Vyasadeva is thinking, "I meditate upon Him who is present everywhere."
Furthermore, the Lord is sva-rat, or fully independent. However independent one thinks he is, we can actually prove-to him that everyone is dependent. We are dependent on the light of the sun, upon our paychecks, and upon the conditions of material nature. If lightning came and struck us, we would be finished. Where is the question of independence? We are fully dependent upon material conditions. But Vasudeva, Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is independent. He doesn't need anything for His maintenance and sustenance. He exists to maintain everything else. This is the import of sva-rat, which is the next aspect in which to contemplate the Supreme Lord.
Enlightening the First Being
Next Vyasadeva says, "tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye": "Iworship the Supreme Lord Vasudeva, Krsna, who imparted knowledge to the first created living being, Brahma." We receive knowledge from our parents, teachers, brothers and sisters; in many ways we take knowledge from others because when we come into this life we are not in knowledge but in ignorance. Similarly, Brahma, the first created living being, received knowledge from the Lord. We are created by our mothers and fathers, who in turn are created by their mothers and fathers, and if we could trace out our ancestry to its very beginning, we would come to the individual named Brahma, who is the first created living being. He was born first, and from him all other population has sprouted. Therefore, how did Brahma acquire knowledge? God enlightened him through consciousness. If my teacher is conscious and I am conscious, he can teach me, and there can be a transmission of knowledge. Therefore tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye indicates that the Supreme Lord imparted knowledge to Brahma through consciousness. Both God, the Supreme, and Brahma, the first created being, are conscious. Thus the Supreme Lord gave knowledge to Brahma directly by enlightening him from within his heart.
God is situated within the heart of every living being. This is another aspect of the Supreme upon which one can meditate. He imparts knowledge unto us also because although it has become widely dispersed and different parties have claimed proprietorship, all knowledge within the universe originally comes from Brahma and has been handed down through time. And Brahma received his knowledge from Krsna. Thus the full significance of the words tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye is that knowledge comes to everyone by the agency of the Supreme Lord. This is another way in which Vyasadeva is meditating. It is his desire to present knowledge of the Supreme, and in order to synthesize his enlightenment and gain inspiration, he is meditating in this way on the Lord, thus fixing his mind.
The state in which one fixes his consciousness by viewing the Supreme from many different angles is called samadhi, or trance. In that state of samadhi one is fully God-conscious. This verse ofSrimad-Bhagavatam serves many purposes, for it not only informs us of Vyasadeva's meditation but gives us an opportunity to concentrate in the same way. If we want to become God conscious, we can follow the example of Vyasadeva in meditating upon the Supreme.
Vyasadeva next considers, muhyanti yat surayah. According to the Vedic literature, the universe is governed by powerful living beings who are called devas, or demigods. For example, in the United States government there is a president, vice-president, secretary of state and many cabinet members, all of whom serve functions in the workings of the state. Since we never see these officials, the government may seem impersonal, but still these individuals influence our lives. Thus although the government seems like an impersonal force, actually the government consists of individual persons. The government includes entire structures and organizations, but individual persons take care of each branch. If we want to discuss taxes we go to one branch, if we want to talk about agriculture we go to another branch, etc. In this way everything has been organized according to categories. Similarly, according to Vedic information the universe is also organized in this way under the supervision of individual personalities.
To give another example, I recently visited a big company in Japan where there are ten thousand workers. It was almost inconceivable how there could be so many workers in one company, and I could not see the length and breadth of that company's plant. How much greater, then, are the operations of the entire universe? The sun is coming up and going down, the rain is coming and going, etc., all according to a designed order systematically governed by laws. It is a huge, organized affair with personalities in key posts to see that everything goes on properly.
We receive our mail every day because there are hundreds of men employed to deliver it. Similarly, the sun comes up every day because there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who are responsible for this. We may not be able to imagine their potency because we think that it is significant to be able to lift a three hundred pound barbell, what to speak of the sun. But although it is beyond our imagination, someone is doing it. This we learn from Vedic information. The Vedas warn us not to think that something cannot exist merely because we cannot conceive of it. That is gross ignorance.
The demigods are almost like God, for they have a great deal of control and power. This, of course, is relative.
For example, when compared to the ants, we can be considered demigods. Similarly, just as we can squash an ant in one step, there are other living beings who are so great and powerful that they could squash us or even this entire. planet in one step. This we learn from Vedic information. These demigods (surayah) are in charge of all the operations of the universe.
The Absolute Truth
Vyasadeva says that he is meditating upon that individual regarding whom even the surayah or demigods are illusioned(muhyanti yat surayah). We may be ignorant of the Supreme Lord, but Vyasadeva says that even the surayah, the demigods who are far greater than us, are also illusioned about the Supreme. Thus no matter how great one is in the material world, he cannot know God by his material qualifications because God is completely autocratic and can never be intimidated. There is no one who can come even close to equality with God.
If the prime minister of an important foreign country wants to visit the United States, immediately the president must allow him to do so because the president and the prime minister are on equal terms. But if an ordinary, insignificant citizen wanted to see the president, he would be refused. Even if he threatened to cause trouble, the president would not even consider listening because he cannot be intimidated. However, although an ordinary politician may have an equal, there is no one who can equal God, not even the great demigods who are mightier than we. The demigods are also illusioned by His tri-sargah or His threefold material energy, which consists of goodness, passion and ignorance. They have become illusioned by the amrsa, or the "almost reality." One may see a mirage of water in the desert, but that is an "almost reality." Actually there is water, and there is a desert, but the water does not exist in the desert. Similarly, the so-called happiness and distress that we experience in material life are not factual but "almost real." They are illusions conducted by the agency of tri-sargah, the threefold aspects of the illusory energy of the Lord.
Vasudeva is He by whom even the greatest intellects, controllers and demigods are illusioned. Sometimes we see magicians who can perform sleight-of hand tricks and bewilder us. We think that a card is in one place, but the magician produces it from another. In this way he creates an illusion by his dexterity. The Supreme Lord upon whom Vyasadeva is meditating is the supreme magician. His dexterity is so grand that He can trick anyone. That is a further item for meditation. God, however, is nirasta, or never illusioned, because He is the controller of illusion itself. This is another aspect of the Supreme Lord. He is never under the influence of maya (illusion) but is the controller of maya. Maya serves Him just as magic serves a magician. Therefore it is stated, sada nirasta-kuhakam: "God is eternally free from illusion."
Vyasadeva concludes by saying, satyam param dhimahi. Satyam means truth, param means the Supreme or the Absolute, and dhimahi means "I do meditate upon." Therefore Vyasadeva says, om namo bhagavate vasudevaya: "I offer my respectful obeisances unto Vasudeva, Krsna, who is the son of Vasudeva and Devaki." Satyam param dhimahi: "He is the Supreme Absolute Truth. Upon Him I meditate."