The Purpose of the Vedas
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Lecture given in New York City on Nov. 26, 1966
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu categorized all the teachings of the Vedic literature into three progressive stages.
veda-shastra-kahe - 'sambandha', 'abhidheya', 'prayojana'
'krishna' - prapya sambandha, 'bhakti' - praptyera sadhana
"The Vedic literatures give information about the living entity-s eternal relationship with Krishna, which is called sambandha. The living entity-s understanding of this relationship and his acting accordingly is called abhidheya. Returning home, back to Godhead, is the ultimate goal of life and is called prayojana." - Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 20.124
Why have the Vedas, or the Vedic scriptures, been made? It is not that they are made, but they are coming down to us by a traditional process, by hearing. For example, we accept our father by hearing. A child is born, and when the child sees his brothers and sisters calling a gentleman "father," he also begins to say "father." There is no question of studying. How does a child learn to call the father "father"? He hears. Others are calling him father, so he also calls him father. There is no evidence. There is no study. He simply hears.
Similarly, previously the Vedic knowledge was coming by hearing. There was no need of books. But when this age, Kali-yuga, began five thousand years ago, the Vedic scriptures were recorded. First there was only one Veda, known as Atharva Veda. Then Vyasadeva, just to make it clear, divided it into four and entrusted his various disciples to each take charge of one school of Veda. Then he wrote the Mahabharata and the Puranas to make the Vedic knowledge understandable by the common man in different ways, but the principle is the same.
So Lord Chaitanya says the first purpose of Veda is sambandha, or relationship. What is our relationship with God? The Vedanta-sutra (1.1.1) says, janmady asya yatah: Everything is born out of the energy of God, including us. Therefore we call God "Father." This is accepted in every religion. There is no argument. Now, what is the relationship between the father and the son? Is the relationship for the son to only exact from the father? Is there no duty for the son, or can he simply take from the father? No. There is duty. If a son is sensible and grown up, he knows "I have got my duty: to love my father." That is a very simple thing, to love one's father. "My father has done so much for me. I am going to own his estate, and now I am enjoying his earnings. So is it not my duty to show respect to my father?"
Those who are against the principle of God, who are not God-minded, are the lowest creatures. Na mam dushkritino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah: "Anyone who does not recognize God is the lowest of the lowest creatures." (Gita 7.15) These terms have been used: mudha, ass; dushkritina, miscreant; and naradhama, lowest of mankind. Mankind is meant for recognizing God. That is human life. In animal life one cannot recognize that there is God and everything is coming from God. Animals cannot read the Vedas, or scriptures. They cannot take any instruction. These Vedas and other scriptures are for human beings. Therefore, so-called human beings with two hands and two legs are animals if they do not accept the authority of scripture and do not accept the existence of God. Bhagavad-gita very nicely describes them as naradhama, the lowest of mankind. Our civilization is going to the lowest of mankind. And we are trying to advertise that we are advancing.
The Purpose of Education
Yesterday some boy came: "Who is God? I am God." He was speaking like that. You see. And he appears to be an educated student. This kind of education is going on, that they're going to be the lowest of mankind. The purpose of education is to make man the highest of mankind, but modern education is teaching man to become the lowest of mankind. And if some students are taught to become the highest of mankind, their guardians become disturbed.
"Oh, my son is going to be the highest of mankind? Swamiji, you are playing dangerous things."
Oh. Just see. Swamiji's saying, "No, don't smoke. Don't take tea. Don't have illicit connections with women. Be upright. Be a devotee."
"Oh, Swamiji's dangerous."
And if somebody teaches, "My dear boys, take LSD, go to hell, and become mad and go to the lunatic asylum," the thinking is "Oh, that is all right."
What can be done? This is the situation.
We are situated in a society of the lowest of mankind. Always remember this, that we are situated in a civilization that is the lowest of mankind. I am not only speaking of your United States - all over the world. Even in India, where so much culture was made for understanding God, the foolish government is also teaching this. You see. Don't think that I am particularly criticizing some country or community. This is the age for such things. It is called Kali. Kali means full of hypocrisy. We have to be very careful. The illusory energy is very strong.
Scriptures Are Reminding Us
Lord Chaitanya says that we have to revive our lost relationship with Krishna, or God. That is civilization. The relationship is there already. The supreme cause is Krishna, or God, but some way or other I have forgotten that. Therefore these scriptures - the Vedas, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita - are reminding us. They're meant for reminding us. "Your relationship with Krishna is eternal. Why have you forgotten? Therefore you are suffering."
We have discussed the verse bhayam dvitiyabhiniveshatah syad ishad apetasya viparyayo 'smritih (Bhagavatam 11.2.37). Because we have taken a reverse position for forgetting the Supreme, we are put into anxiety. Viparyayo 'smritih. This very word is used. Viparyaya means topsy-turvy. "Your memory has become topsy-turvy. Therefore you are suffering." But people will not agree to change their way of thinking. "No, we shall adjust. We shall make laws. We shall make agitation. We shall form a party and go on defying God, and we shall be happy in this way." This godless civilization is now generating the Communist party. To such a dangerous position we are coming. But one who takes shelter of Krishna will not be put into danger. Rest assured.
I have to revive my relationship with Krishna. That relationship is there; I have simply forgotten it. I have to revive it, or remember it - "Oh, I am such and such." Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah (Gita 7.19). I have to become a great soul by surrendering unto God. That surrendering process is bhakti, or devotional service. My relationship with the Supreme is eternal, but I have forgotten it. Now, that relationship is that He is the original father of everything and we are all sons. For so long we have been disobedient. Now we have to become obedient. That's all. "Obedience is the first law of discipline." As soon as the people of this so-called advanced world become obedient to God, then there will be discipline and there will be peace. There is no discipline now. They are not agreeable to follow any rules and regulations. Everyone is acting as if he is God. But everyone is a dog, thinking he can do anything, whatever he likes. There is no discipline.
A Disciplined Life
The next verse says,
abhidheya-nama 'bhakti', 'prema' - prayojana
purushartha-shiromani prema maha-dhana
?Devotional service, or sense activity for the satisfaction of the Lord, is called abhidheya because it can develop one?s original love of Godhead, which is the goal of life. This goal is the living entity?s topmost interest and greatest wealth. Thus one attains the platform of transcendental loving service unto the Lord." Bhakti, devotional service, means to undergo a disciplinary system in our life so that automatically we can revive our lost relationship with God and become happy. That is called bhakti. Abhidheya-nama 'bhakti', 'prema'-prayojana. And why? What is the use? Suppose we don't revive our relationship? Then you'll be disturbed.
You are after peace and prosperity. What is the basis of peace? The basis of peace is love. Do you think that without loving anyone you can become peaceful? No. How it is possible? Therefore, if you love God, then you can love everyone. And if you don't love God, then you cannot love anyone.
In India there is the joint family system. The parents engage the girls and boys for marriage. When a girl is married, she comes to the husband's family, and because she is now related to her husband, she at once becomes related to the husband's brother, the husband's mother, the husband's father. She becomes related to everyone at once. The central point is the husband.
The central point must be there. So if you can love God, then you can love everything in relationship with God. You can love every man, you can love your country, you can love your society, you can love your friend. Everyone. That is the point.
But people are thinking in a different way: "Why shall I love God only? Why shall I love God? I shall love my family. I shall love my country. I shall love my..."
Oh, no, you cannot love. It is not possible. Because you are missing the central point. These are facts. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna (Bhagavatam 5.18.12). One who does not love God cannot have any good qualifications. Why? Manorathenasati dhavato bahih. Because he'll simply speculate on the mental plane and fall down under the spell of the material energy. He has no standing. However materially, academically qualified he may be, it is clearly stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that he has no good qualities.
I have given you the list of twenty-six qualities of a devotee as mentioned in the Chaitanya-charitamrita. As we become advanced in devotional service, all these good qualities will develop automatically. There is no need of legislation; all those good qualities will develop. Otherwise, what is the meaning of Krishna consciousness? Is it a sentiment or fanaticism? No. It is a science. If you follow the rules and regulations systematically, then all these qualities will develop. You'll see it practically. And as soon as these qualities are there, then you actually become a lover of your country; you become a lover of your fellow man.
It is not expected that everyone will become like that. But if at least ten percent of the population become Krishna consciousness, then peace in the world is guaranteed. Canakya Pandita says, varam eka guni putra na cha murkha-shatair api: "It is better to have one qualified son than to have hundreds of fools." Similarly, we do not require many moons in the sky. Only one moon is sufficient to drive away the darkness.
The Objective of Human Life
The modern civilization is a godless civilization. If some percentage of the civilized human beings become Krishna conscious, that will bring forth peace. Otherwise it is not possible. It is therefore a necessity. Lord Chaitanya says, abhidheya-nama 'bhakti', 'prema' - prayojana. Prayojana means that it is necessary. Purushartha-shiromani prema maha-dhana. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's preaching was based on this principle: prema pumartho mahan. What is the objective of human life? He said, "The objective of human life is to attain love of God." That's all. That makes one perfect, nothing else.
Lord Chaitanya's mission has been described by one of the acharyas, Srinatha Chakravarti. He said that the mission of Lord Chaitanya is aradhyo bhagavan vrajesha-tanaya: "Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is aradhya." Aradhya means that He is worshipable. He's the only worshipable personality. Aradhyo bhagavan vrajesha-tanayas tad-dhama vrindavanam: "And as Lord Krishna is worshipable, similarly His place of pastimes, Vrindavana-dhama, is also worshipable." And what is the best kind of worship for Krishna? Ramya kacid upasana vraja-vadhu-vargena ya kalpita: "The highest kind of worship is as demonstrated by the damsels of Vrindavana, the girlfriends of Krishna." Yes. They had no adulteration; they were simply always thinking of Krishna. When Krishna was out of the village, they were thinking at home, "Oh, Krishna's soles are so soft. How is He wandering in the jungle? There are so many particles of stone. They must be pricking His feet." Krishna is there, they are at home, but they are thinking of Krishna - how He's walking, how His soft feet are suffering. In this way they are always absorbed in Krishna consciousness.
They are not Vedantists. They are not brahmanas. They are not educated. They are cowherd girls. But their love of Krishna is so intense that Lord Chaitanya recommends, "Oh, there is no better worship than what was demonstrated by the damsels of Vrindavana."
What is the source for understanding Krishna? Srinatha Chakravarti says, amalam puranam: Srimad-Bhagavatam. If you study Srimad-Bhagavatam, then you can understand all these things.
So the book is Srimad-Bhagavatam, the ideal worship is that of the damsels of Vrindavana, Krishna is the worshipable object, and the necessity of life is to attain love of God. This is the whole mission of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the sum and substance. Therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is saying here, purushartha-shiromani prema maha-dhana. People have their objective of life. Of course, nowadays people are different. Formerly, the Vedic culture promoted dharma to make people religious. Still every civilized nation has some sort of religion, because without becoming religious there is no possibility of peace and prosperity. So this is one of the aims of human society ? to make people religious.
And why religious? Dharma-artha. Then the economic condition will be better. If all people are religious, then the economic condition will be better. And why is a better economic condition wanted? Kama. Kama means that the necessities of your life will be fulfilled nicely. Dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Then what is the end? If your society is peaceful, then you can culture your life for liberation.
Dharma-artha-kama-moksha: generally these four principles are the aim of human society. But Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, "Yes, these are all right." But prema pumartho mahan: "With all these things, if you have no love of Godhead it is all nonsense. All nonsense. Therefore try to love God, and everything will be all right." This is the mission of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, prema pumartho mahan. Here also Lord Chaitanya says that we should understand our relationship with God. We should act in that way. That means in devotion. Then we shall have the highest perfection of life, love of God, and our mission of human life will be fulfilled.