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All Glories to Guru and Gauranga. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva.
First of all let me offer my respectful obeisances to my spiritual master Om Vishnupada Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, then my respectful obeisances to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is associated with Shri Advaita Prabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, Gadadhara Prabhu, Shrivasa Prabhu, as well as whose eternal assistants are the six gosvamis, headed by Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Shri Jiva Gosvami, Ragaunatha dasa Gosvami, as well as whose private secretary is Shri Svarupa Damodara dasa and His eternal attendant Govinda.
Then let us talk about the Brahma-sutra or Vedanta-sutra. There are many comments on the Vedanta-sutra. In India especially the system is that anyone who is the head of a religious institution must be well conversed with the Vedanta-sutras, and is expected to write comments on the Vedanta-sutra, without which one is not accepted as an acarya. Acarya means one who knows the purpose of Vedic knowledge. He personally practices them as well as teaches to his disciples the system of Vedic knowledge.
There are many acaryas, especially of the vaishnava-sampradaya, like the four sampradayas: ramanuja-sampradaya, madhvacarya-sampradaya, vishnusvami-sampradaya, and nimbarka-sampradaya. Our sampradaya is called gaudiya-sampradaya, or the Vaishnavas who are in the disciplic succession of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The gaudiya-sampradaya actually belongs to the madhva-sampradaya and the madhva-sampradaya belongs to the brahma-sampradaya.
Besides these four vaishnava-acarya-sampradayas, there are also non-vaishnava-sampradayas, especially the impersonalist school headed by Shankaracarya. Shankaracarya has written a commentary on the Vedanta-sutras, known as Shariraka-bhaashya. generally this Shariraka-bhashya made by Shankaracarya is very popular on account of the present Indians being influenced by materialistic activities. But still the other different bhashyas, or commentaries, made by the Vaishnava acaryas are also available in the gaudiya-sampradaya, specifically headed by Rupa Gosvami.
In the beginning there was no commentary on the Vedanta-sutra because according to Shrimad-Bhagavatam it is said that the real commentary on the Vedanta-sutra is Shrimad-Bhagavatam itself, presented by the author, Shri Vyasadeva Himself. In our english commentary on the Shrimad-Bhagavatam First Canto, First Chapter, we have explained this fact that Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the right type of commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. As such the gaudiya-vaishnava-sampradaya did not take much care to present their commentary on the Vedanta-sutra.
About 200 years ago there was a conclusion in Golpa district in Jaipur, wherein the acaryas or followers of other sampradayas challenged the gaudiya-vaishnava-sampradaya that it has no commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. At that time Shri Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was living in Vrindavana, but he was too old, and when the Gaudiya Vaishnavas approached him to present a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, he asked his disciple, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana to write a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. As Vaishnavas are generally very humble and meek, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana thought himself unfit to write an authorized commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, so he approached Lord Govinda in the temple of Jaipur. He placed himself down before Lord Govinda to take his permission and authority to begin writing a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, and he was assured by Govinda that he could do so. With this inspiration he wrote the Vedanta-sutra commentary known as Govinda-bhashya. This Govinda-bhashya is very authorized and accepted by all the vaishnava-sampradayas, This commentary, which may be known as Bhaktivedanta-bhashya, follows the footprints of Govinda-bhashya.
The necessity of presenting the Bhaktivedanta-bhashya commentary on Vedanta-sutra should also be explained herein. My spiritual master, Om Vishnupada Paramhamsa Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, ordered me to present the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy in English as far as possible, and in this attempt for the english-knowing persons, since 1965 I have been in the western countries with my three books of the First Canto of Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Then I presented my commentary on the Shrimad-Bhagavad-gita known as The Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and similarly I have presented The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya. Also, requested by many of my western disciples, especially my worthy disciples Shriman Hansadutta Das Adhikari and Janardana Das Adhikari, who are in charge of the Montreal Center, and I am trying to present an English commentary on the Vedanta-sutra as follows.
At the present moment all over the world there are major portions of godless persons. Generally people are very attached to the void philosphy presented by Lord Buddha or the impersonal philosophy presented by Shankaracarya. In other words, to be more plain and simple, people are becoming very atheistic. To say that there is no God, as the atheists declare, is rather bold and simple, but to say that there is a supreme cause that is void, or there is God but He has no form, is more dangerous than the simple declaration that there is no God.
Our society, known as the international Society for Krishna Consciousness, has now started the movement for Krishna Consciousness , and it is very gratifiying that the younger generation of the western part of the world, in America, Canada, and Europe, are taking interest in this great movement. We already have branches in almost every important city of the United States and Canada, and we have started centers also in London and Hamburg. We hope that our Krishna Consciousness movement will gradually increase, as predicted by Lord Chaitanya, who said that His missionary activities, the same as the Krishna Consciousness movement, will be preached all over the world, in every village in every country. Taking into consideration the present activities of this movement, it is hoped that the prediction of Lord Chaitanya will soon be fulfilled and the people of the world will be very happy, having Krishna Consciousness.
As referred to above, generally the commentary known as Shariraka-bhashya is taken by the people as the purport of Vedanta, or in other words Vedanta means according to the opinion of the followers of Shankaracarya's purport as explained by him in Shariraka-bhashya. Besides the Shariraka-bhashya of Shankaracarya there are many other atheistic schools preaching Vedanta on the basis of godlessness.
One of the prominent followers of Shankaracarya, namely Sadananda Yogindra, has compiled his book known as Vedanta-sara, in which he writes to prove that the to understand both the upanishads and the Vedanta-sutra, Shankaracarya's Shariraka-bhashya is the only means. This is the claim of monopoly by the mayavada school. Actually Vedanta-sutra has many commentaries and all those commentaries are not on the basic principal of monism or impersonalism.
All the prominent acaryas of the different vaishnava-sampradayas have complied commentaries on Vedanta-sutra, but they do not follow the principles of the Shankarite school. On the other hand the impersonalist monists stress more on non-duality. Generally they declare themselves God and there is no existance of God separately.
The monistic school does not recognize the Vedanta commentaries presented by the Vaishnava acaryas, known as the shuddhadvaita, vishishtadvaita and dvaitadvaita, as well as the inconceivably-one-and-different philosophy of Lord Chaitanya, known as acintyabhedabheda-tattva. According to them the monistic commentary on Vedanta-sutra is final, Lord Krishna has a material body, and the followers of the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness are not transcendentalists.
Vedanta means the last word in the matter of pursuing knowledge. Everyone is pursuing some sort of knowledge. There are universities, institutions, and many educational establisments pursuing knowledge, but Vedanta means the last word in the pursuit of knowledge. This last word in the pursuit of knowledge is explained in the Bhagavad-gita by Lord Krishna. The purpose of Vedic knowledge is to understand Krishna. The exact words in the 15th Chapter of Bhagavad-gita are sarvasya caham hridi sannivishtah. "the Lord is situated in everyone's heart. He gives intelligence and delusion. He is the original source of knowledge. He is the goal of knowledge. He is the compiler of Vedanta-sutra, and He knows what is Vedanta.."
These words are a very significant explanation of Vedanta-sutra by Krishna himself. In another place also He has referred to the Vedanta-sutra by saying, “By the course of Brahma-sutra one can actually understand what is the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita." Bhagavad-gita and Vedanta-sutra are very intimately interrelated. To understand Vedanta-sutra rightly is to understand Bhagavad-gita rightly.
The word sutra means "summarized code". In the Skanda and Vayu Puranas the word sutra is explained as "when a thesis is presented in few words, but with great volumes of meaning and, when understood, is very beautiful." Mentioned herein are the names of different commentaries on Vedanta-sutra by different acaryas.
This Shariraka-bhashya of Shankaracarya is also known as Vedanta-siddhanta. The summary of non-dualism philosophy expounded by Shankaracarya is as follows.
According to this philosophy there is only the Absolute Truth. To this philosophy the living entity is Brahman and the cosmic manifestation is false. The example of reality and falsity is given by them in the comparison of mistaking a serpent and a rope. In the darkness, in illusion, a rope may be accepted as a serpent. When one comes to his senses he understands that the rope was not a serpent. Then the "serpent" becomes false. Similarly, according to Shankara's philosophy this cosmic manifestation actually is not. Maya means “What is not." Ma means "not" and ya means "this". In other words the phenomenal representation of the material world has no reality. Behind this phenomena the noumenon is reality.
According to Shankara's philosophy the Absolute Truth is impersonal. As such there is no diversity. In the material world there are different kinds of diversity, just as diversities of the species of life. The dog species are not like the human being species. This speciality, dog species or human species, is present in the material world, but spiritually there is no such differentiation. Even in personal considerations there are diversities. In a personal form one has legs, hands and head. But this differentiation, according to the mayavada philosophy of Shankaracarya, is also false. Shankaracarya does not recognize qualifying the Brahman, just as Vaishnava philosophy qualifies the Supreme Brahman. Take for example: God is merciful. This is a qualification of God or the Absolute Truth. But, Shankara's philosophy being impersonal, they do not accept the Absolute Truth qualified by mercifulness, or beauty, or opulence. They do not accept. According to them if the Absolute Truth is qualified then it becomes limited by the qualification. Their conclusion is that if Brahman, or the Absolute Truth, is unlimited, there should not be any limitation by qualification.
The incarnation of the Absolute Truth, or Godhead, is accepted by them as a manifestation of material designation. In other words, according to Shankara's philosophy when God or the Absolute Truth incarnates He assumes a material body. Therefore He is designated. In that designated form only the Absolute Truth becomes the creator, sustainer, and annihilator of the cosmic manifestation, although in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, in the beginning, Shankaracarya has accepted that Narayana is beyond this cosmic manifestation. Everything that is manifested in the material world is produced from the unmanifested mahat-tattva, but Narayana is still transcendental to the mahat-tattva. In other words, he has accepted that the mahat-tattva is also created by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana. There are so many contradictions in his philosophy. That is a different subject matter. We do not wish to enter into the contradicitions of his philosophy, but as far as possible we are presenting the summary of mayavada philosophy, non-dualism.
According to Shankaracarya, in the highest spiritual conception the Absolute Truth is without any contamination of material existance, and therefore He has no connection with the creation, sustenance, or annihilation (of the material world). He is always devoid of all qualities, without any diversity, without any material condition, and without any responsibility of activities. As such, the cosmic manifestation is also false. Similarly the Personality of Godhead, who accepts His designation from this false material manifestation, the conception of the Personality of Godhead, is also false. The Absolute Truth is only conceived as eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. The appearance as Narayana, or as an incarnation, is not eternal, but is temporary. For some purpose He appears like that. The ultimate end is impersonal.
According to Shankara's philosophy, the differentiation between God and the living entities is an illusion. Actually, that is not the fact. The living entities are not subordinate energy of the Supreme. Simply being covered by the conception of maya, the living entities appear to be different from the Absolute Truth. This differentiation between the living entities and the Supreme is manifested in the material world in ordinary dealings. Spiritually there is no such difference. The activities of the living entity in the spirit of enjoyment in the material world, his infinitesimal quality, or his minuteness, or his inumerableness, are only designations of the false maya.
An example in this connection given by the mayavadi philosophers is that , when reflected by a red flower, crystal glass appears to be red, although this has nothing to do with the redness of the glass. It is completely different from the color. Similarly, the living entity in the contamination of maya becomes active, or becomes an enjoyer, or becomes infinitesimal, or in other words becomes individual. All these things are artificial color reflection only. Actually, a living entity is pure Brahman. This theory of reflection is called pratibimbavada. According to this philosophy, transcendentally there is no difference between the Absolute Truth, the living entities, and material nature.
This non-differentiation between the Absolute Truth, the living entities, and the cosmic manifestation, is exemplified by the mayavadi philosopher by the following example of the entire sky and the pot. The sky in the pot and the entire sky are the same. But the sky within the pot appears to be limited on account of being designated by the pot cover. When the pot is broken, or the illusion of maya is dissipated, there is no such difference that this pot is different from that pot, or this sky is different from that sky. According to Shankaracarya this cosmic manifestation is also maya. When these material elements dissappears, then only existential Brahman will remain. Therefore, Brahman is truth and this cosmic manifestation is false.
Shankaracarya does not accept the theory of transformation, as the Vaishnava acaryas, do. The theory of transformation is explained in this way. Just as milk is transformed into yogurt under certain conditions, but yogurt cannot be transformed again into milk, nor can it be used as milk, in the same way the living entities cannot become the Supreme Absolute Truth. This theory of transformation is not accepted by the mayavadi philosopher.
Actually, this kind of propaganda by Shankaracarya was done under Supreme order to dissipate the dark Buddhist philosophy and to establish the Vedic philosophy, the Absolute truth. According to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shankara's mayavada philosophy is another edition of Buddha's philosophy. Buddha's philosophy of voidness is almost equal to the impersonal philosophy of Shankara. Therefore, according to Shankara's philosophy, impersonal non-variegatedness is the ultimate stage of perfect knowledge.
The greatest opposition was offered by Shri Ramanujacarya to the Shankara philosophy. Ramanuja's philosophy is known as vishishtadvaitavada. This doctrine of vishishtadvaitavada was not newly presented by Shri Ramanujacarya, but before him there were other exponents of this doctrine and they are known as Nathamuni and Yamunacarya.
The basic principle of the vishishtadvaitavada doctrine is that in God's creation there is the division of sentient and non-sentient, just as in studying our own self we find that our body is material, or non-sentient, and our mind intelligence and false ego are the path between my self and my body. My self is sentient. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is sentient, and this material cosmic manifestation is His body. Combined together, the Absolute Truth forms a combination of the sentient and non-sentient features. This is called vishishtadvaitavada.
According to Shri Ramanujacarya there are three truths: namely the sentient, the non-sentient, and the Supreme Lord. They are generally called tattva-traya. The inumerable living entities as a group are called the sentient energy of the Supreme Lord, wheras the cosmic manifestation is called the material energy of the Lord. The Lord Himself is above them. He has all-auspicious transcendental qualities. He is omniscient and omnipotent. He is self-effulgent. He is the Lord of the creation. He is known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva. The material world and the living entities are sentient and insentient bodily parts of the Lord.
Shri Ramanujacarya has elaborately delineated his philosophy in 12 divisions as follows;
1. The Supreme Absolute Truth is one in the combination of gross, subtle, sentient, and insentient groups,
2. He has protested against the doctrine of dualism as well as the doctrine of monism.
3. He has accepted that the Absolute Truth, Brahman, has transcendental qualities and transcendental potencies, and therefore He is not impersonal.
4. He has vehemently protested the doctrine of an impersonal, non-qualitative Absolute Truth.
5. He has deliberately established the doctrine of the living entities being infinitesimal and the in the supreme Lord being infinite, and therefore the infinitesimal living entities are constitutionally meant for serving the infinite Supreme Personality of Godhead.
6. He has established that the living entities, who are infinitesimal, are subject to fall victim under ignorance, but when they are out of that position of ignorance they become again liberated.
7. He has proved that only transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord is the means of liberation from material entanglement.
8. According to his oppinion, devotional service is the supermost prosecss for self-realization.
9. He has stated strongly that even in the state of liberation one cannot be equal with the Supreme Lord.
10. He has put strong arguments against the impersonal doctrine of monism.
11. He has proved that this material world is abominable, and the spiritual world is real life for eternal bliss.
12. He has established that the living entities and the cosmic manifestation are different bodily parts of the Supreme Lord.
Also, Ramanujacarya has explained that the Supreme Personality of Godhead descends in five different features, namely arca, the Deity in the temple, the incarnations, such as the fish-incarnation, tortise-incarnation, boar-incarnation, and Nrisimha-incarnation, which are called vaibhava. Then He has expansions called vyuha, such as the expansions of Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. His impersonal expansion is the effulgence of His body. He is also present in everyone's heart as Antaryami, or the Supersoul. All these different plenary portions of the Supreme Lord are beyond material contamination, eternal, without any lamentation, always superior than the living entities, and full of six opulences.
According to Ramanujacarya, there are five kinds of methods of worship, which are called abhigamana, upadana, ijya, sadhyaya, and yoga. When devotees go to the temple, clean the temple or the path to the temple, and decorate the temple in various ways, such activities are called abhigamana. The collection of ingredients such as flowers and other paraphanalia for worship is called upadana. Worship of the Lord in the temple is called ijya. Chanting different mantras and offering different kinds of prayers is called sadhyaya. Meditation, or remembering the activities of the Lord in full absorption, is called yoga. Practicing all different kinds of worship one can attain the planets in the spiritual world known as Vaikunthaloka. According to Shri Ramanujacarya, attainment of Vaikuntha is the highest perfectional stage.
The greatness of Ramanujacarya is that he himself, and later on his disciplic succession, ever-increasingly protested the impersonalism of Shankaracarya. Still in southern India these two parties come in conflict and generally the party belonging to the ramanujacarya-sampradaya is victorious.
Pancaratra regulative principals were current before the advent of Shankaracarya, but on account of the influence of Buddha's philosophy such pancaratra regulative principals were stopped. Shankaracarya, instead of directly re-establishing the pancaratra method, took shelter of mayavada philosophy to defeat Buddha's philosophy. Shri Ramanujacarya re-established the pancaratra, or worship.
After Shri Ramanujacarya is the appearance of Madhvacarya, whose doctrine is shuddha-dvaitavada. He very strongly established the doctrine of duality, that God, or the Absolute Truth, and the living entities are completely different entities, on the evidence of Brahma-sutra or Vedanta-sutra, as well as Bhagavad-gita, the puranas, and the Narada-pancaratra.
He proved duality in every stage namely that the Supreme Lord and the living entity are two different entities. Similarly the cosmic manifestation and the Supreme Lord are also two different entities. One living entity is different form another living entity. In other words, each and every living entity is individual. There is a difference between sentient and non-sentient entities, and there is also a difference between one kind of insentient matter and another kind of insentient matter. Madhvacarya established that two is not one, but two.
One truth is completely independent and the other truth is dependent. Lord Vishnu is the supreme independent Personality of Godhead, qualified with transcendental qualities without any material contamination. Therefore He is fully independent. Except Lord Vishnu, anything else, either cosmic manifestation or living entities, are not independent but are dependent on the Supreme Lord.
The living entities are qualitatively representations of the Supreme Lord. The doctrine that man is made after God is accepted by Madhvacarya. The features of man are an exact reflection of the feature of the Supreme Lord. He also accepts that the Supreme Lord expands in multi-pleanary-portions, as well as separated-portions called jiva-tattva. All the jiva-tattvas, or living entities, are eternally associates of the Supreme Lord to render transcendental loving service to Him. The living entities' knowledge is always inferior or incomplete.
The Supreme Lord and the living entities are always in the position of Supreme and subordinate. The living entities are always subordinate. They have no independent power. As is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, 5th Chapter, 15th Verse, the Lord says that knowledge and remembrance are always given by the Supreme Lord, as antaryami, or Supersoul, to the living entities. Otherwise, the living entities have no independent power to memorize, think, or act.
In contrast to the living entity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, is complete in knowledge and complete in bliss. He is always worshipable by the living entities and He is the original supreme dominator whereas the living entities are the original predominated. He is, therefore, the original creator of the cosmic manifestaton, which is also eternal, although temporarily manifested. Therefore both the living entities and the cosmic manifestation are under the subordination of the Supreme Lord.
The Supreme Lord is always differently situated, as is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, where it is said that everything is resting on the Supreme Lord, but still He is always different from everything. According to Madhvacarya, even at the time of cosmic dissolution the living entities and the material energy remain separate from the Supreme Lord. They are never mixed up as is advocated by the impersonalists.
Madhvacarya was in very great opposition to the doctrine of Shankaracarya. Practically the madhvacarya-sampradaya followers are simply fighting against the doctrine of mayavada philosophy propounded by Shankaracarya. He defeated the doctrine of Shankaracarya and established the doctrine of duality.
Apart from the above mentioned two doctrines of vishishtadvaitavada and shuddha-dvaitavada, there are other doctrines advocated by the vishnusvami-sampradaya and nimbarka-sampradaya. The vishnusvami-sampradaya later on developed into the baladeva-sampradaya. Their doctrine is called shuddhadvaitavada, and the doctrine of nimbarka-sampradaya is called dvaitadvaitavada.
An adjustment of all the doctrines: vishishtadvaitavada, shuddha-dvaitavada, shuddhadvaitavada, and dvaitadvaitavada was very nicely done by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his doctrine acibntya-bhedabheda-tattva. In this doctrine, Lord Chaitanya has discussed very elaborately all kinds of old and new doctrines in the matter of understanding transcendental subject matter, and in order to minimize the different views of different philosophers, He has added a very nice conception which is called acintya.
This word is very applicable to the philosophical doctrines of the conditioned soul. A conditioned soul actually cannot ascertain the nature of the Absolute Truth simply by speculation, but only through the authority of Vedic knowledge. The word acintya applies in all the doctrines.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was not very concerned about these doctrines to understand the Absolute Truth. His main business was to distribute to the general mass of people the principles of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is the natural commentary on Vedanta-sutra.
According to Shrimad-Bhagavatam, all philosophical speculation and religious priniples combined together culminate in the understanding of love of Godhead. Man cannot be satisfied simply by religious sentiments or philosophical speculation but, according to Shrimad-Bhagavatam, when one is elevated to the platform of rendering loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead without any motive and without being hampered by any material condition, that stage of transcendental realization is the highest principle of spiritual understanding, and in that stage only one can be fully satisfied.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was more concerned to deliver to the people this status of life without much bothering about philosophical speculations. Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never labored very much to present a thesis of this doctrine in a seperate book, but later on his diciplic succession, especially, among the six Gosvamis, Shrila Jiva Gosvami has presented six theses, which combinedly are called Shat-sandharbha. Of the six sandharbhas the one known as Tattva-sandharbha is a practical presentation of this doctrine and explains Vedanta-sutra strictly according to the principles of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Later on, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana took this doctgrine and explained Vedanta-sutra strictly according to that principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Introduction by Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana
satyam jnanam anantam
govindam tam acintyam
hetum adosham namasyamah
Lord Govinda is the Supreme Brahman, the absolute transcendental reality. He is transcendental knowledge. He is the original cause of all causes. He is limitless and faultless. Lord Shiva and all the demigods praise Him. The devotees worship His transcendental form. We offer our respectful obeisances unto Him.
vyudasya vastuni yah parikshayate
sa jayati satyavataye
harir anuvritto nata-preshthah
All glories to Shrila Vyasadeva, the son of Satyavati. Vyasadeva is the incarnation of Lord Hari, and He is very dear to the devotees. With the effulgence of His Vedanta-sutra He has dispelled the darkness of ignorance and revealed the truth.
During the Dvapara-yuga the Vedas were destroyed. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, responding to the prayers of Lord Brahma and the other bewildered demigods, appeared as Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, restored the Vedas, divided them into parts, and composed the Vedanta-sutra in four chapters to explain them. This is described in the Skanda Purana.
At that time many fools propounded various misinterpretations of the Vedas. Some said that the highest goal of life was to act piously in order to reap the benefits of good karma. Some said that Lord Vishnu is Himself bound by the laws of karma. Some maintained that the fruits of good karma, such as residence in svarga (the upper material planets) were eternal. Some said the jivas (individual living entities) and prakriti (material energy) acted independently, without being subject to any higher power, or God. Some said the jivas (individual living entities) are actually the Supreme Brahman (God), and that the jivas are simply bewildered about their identity, or that the jivas are a reflection of God, or separated fragments of God. Some said that the jiva becomes free from the cycle of repeated birth and death when He understands his real identity as the perfectly spiritual Supreme Brahman (God).
The Vedanta-sutra refutes all these misconceptions, and establishes Lord Vishnu as supremely independent, the original creator and cause of all causes, omniscient, the ultimate goal of life for all living entities, the supreme religious principle and the supreme transcendental knowledge.
The Vedanta-sutra describes five tattvas (truths): 1. ishvara (The Supreme Personality of Godhead); 2. jiva (the individual living entity, or spirit-soul); 3. prakriti (matter); 4. kala (time); and 5. karma (action).
The ishvara is omniscient, but the jiva has only limited knowledge. Still, both are eternal beings, are aware of the spiritual reality, and have a variety of spiritual qualitites. Both are alive, have personality, and are aware of their own identity.
At this point someone may object: "In one place you have said that the Supreme Godhead is omniscient, and in another place you have said that He is knowledge itself. This is a contradiction, for the knower and the object of knowledge must be different. They cannot be the same.
To this objection I reply: Just as a lamp is not different from the light it emanates and it's light is both the object of knowledge and the method of attaining it, in the same way the Supreme Personality of Godhead is simultaneously the supreme knower and the supreme object of knowledge. There is no contradiction.
Ishvara is supremely independent. He is the master of all potencies. He enters the universe and controls it. He awards both material enjoyment and and ultimate liberation to to the individual spirit souls (jivas)residing in material bodies. Although He is one, He manifests in many forms. They who understand the transcendental science maintain that He is not different from His own transcendental form and qualities. Although He cannot be perceived by the material senses, He can be perceived by bhakti (devotional service). He is changeless. He reveals His own spiritual, blissful form to His devotees.
The many jivas are situated in different conditions of existence. Some are averse to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and turn their faces from Him. Such jivas are bound by material illusion. Other jivas are friendly to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and turn their faces to Him. These jivas become free from the two-fold bondage of material illusion, which hides the Supreme Lord's form and qualities, and in this way they become able to see the Suprerme Personality of Godhead face-to-face.
Prakriti (material nature) consists of the three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Prakriti is known by many names, such as tamah and maya. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead glances at Prakriti, she becomes able to perform her various duties. Prakriti is the mother of many variegated material universes.
Kala (time) is the origin of past, present, future, simultaneity, slowness, quickness, and many other similar states. Kala is divided into many different units from the extremely brief kshana to the extermely long parardha. Turning like a wheel, time is the cause of repeated creation and annihilation of the universes. Time is unconscious. It is not a person.
These four tattvas (ishvara, jiva, prakriti, and kala) are eternal. This is confirmed by the following scriptural quotations:
nityo nityanam cetanash cetananam
"Of all the eternals one (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) is the supreme eternal. Of all conscious entities one (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) is the supreme consicous entity."
——Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.13
gaur anady anantavati
"Prakriti is like a cow who was never born and never dies."
—Culika Upanishad mantra 5
sad eva saumyedam agra asit
"My dear saintly student, please understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternal. He is existed before the manifestation of this universe."
—Chandogya Upanishad 6.2.1
The jivas, prakriti, and kala are subordinate to ishvara, and subject to His control. This is confirmed by the following statement of Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6.16):
sa vishva-krid vishva-vid atma-yonir
jnah kala-karo guni sarva-vid yah
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead (ishvara) is the creator of the material universes. He is the creator of everything that exists within the universes. He is the father of all living entities. He is the creator of time. He is full of all transcendental virtues. He is omniscient. He is the master of pradhana (the unmanifested material nature). He is the master of the gunas (three modes of material nature). He is the master of the individual spirit souls residing material bodies (kshetrajna). He imprisons the condiditoned souls in the material world, and He also becomes their liberator from bondage."
Karma (the result of fruitive action) is not a conscious, living person. It is an inert material force. Although no one can trace out its beginning, it has a definite end at some point in time. It is known by the name adrishta (the unseen hand of fate) and many other names also.
These four (jiva, prakriti, kala, and karma) are all potencies of ishvara, the supreme master of all potencies. Because everything that exists is the potency of the Supreme, the Vedic literatures declare: "Only Brahman exists, and nothing is separate from Him." This fact is nicely explained in the four chapters of this book, the Vedanta-sutra.
In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is the perfect commentary on Vedanta-sutra, the Supreme ishvara and His potencies are described in the following words:
samyak pranihite 'male
apashyat purusham purnam
mayam ca tad-apashrayam
"Thus he fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it by linking it in devotional service [bhakti-yoga] without any tinge of materialism, and thus he saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead along with His external energy, which was under full control.*
yaya sammohito jiva
paro 'pi manute 'nartham
"Due to this external energy, the living entitiy, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.*
"The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth."*
dravyam karma ca kalash ca
svabhavo jiva eva ca
na santi yad-upekshaya
"One should definitely know that all material ingredients, activities, time and modes, and the living entities who are meant to enjoy them all, exist by His mercy only, and as soon as He does not care for them, everything becomes nonexistent."*
That Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the commentary on Vedanta-sutra is confirmed by the following statement of Garuda Purana—
artho 'yam brahma-sutranam
"Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the commentary on Vedanta-sutra."*
In this Vedanta-sutra the first chapter explains that Brahman is the real subject matter discussed in all Vedic literatures. The second chapter explains that all Vedic literatures present the same conclusion. They do not actually contradict each other. The third chapter describes how to attain Brahman. The fourth chapter explains the result of attaining Brahman.
A person whose heart is pure, pious, and free from material desires, who is eager is associate with saintly devotees, who has faith in the Lord and the scriptures, and who is peaceful and decorated with saintly qualitities, is qualified to study the scriptures and strive after Brahman.
The relationship between Brahman and the scriptures is that the scriptures describe Brahman and Brahman is the object described in the scriptures. The Vedanta-sutra and other Vedic scriptures describe Brahman as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, who is the master of unlimited inconceivable potencies, and who possesses unlimited pure, transcendental attributes. The result of properly understanding the Vedanta-sutra and other Vedic scriptures is that the spiritual aspirant becomes free from all material imperfections, and able to see the Supreme Brahman, Personality of Godhead, face to face.
The Vedanta-sutra is written in adhikaranas, Vedic syllogisms, which consist of five parts: 1. vishaya (thesis, or statement); 2. samshaya (the arisal of doubt in the tenability of the statement); 3. purvapaksha (presentation of a view opposing the original statement) 4. siddhanta (determination of the actual truth, the final conclusion, by quotation from Vedic scriptures), and sangati (confirmation of the final conclusion by quotation from Vedic scriptures).