After Lord Vishnu created the raw materials for the universe, the Vedic literature tells us, the first created being to appear was Brahma. He didn’t know who he was, where he was, or what he was supposed to do.
Sound familiar? We all start life like that. Unfortunately, it seems most people today choose to stay that way.
Brahma, though, was what we might call a seeker. He wasn’t content to sit in ignorance atop his unusual perch, the whorl of a lotus of cosmic proportions. So he decided to investigate. He climbed down and down and down the lotus stem, but after exploring for thousands of years, he could not find its source.
On returning to his lotus seat, Brahma twice heard two syllables resounding through the sky: ta-pa (penance). He was being told that to discover the truth about his existence he must perform austere meditation. He obeyed the instruction and eventually received the audience of Lord Vishnu, the source of the instruction and the lotus. Lord Vishnu directed Brahma in his task of building up the universe from the parts He’d supplied, and He disclosed His eternal abode of unlimited knowledge and happiness.
An important lesson here is that Brahma recognized that the sound ta-pa was the voice of authority from beyond this world. We live in an age of great mistrust of authority, and when that mistrust makes us reject the very idea of unimpeachable spiritual guidance, we risk wasting our valuable human life.
Brahma began his search for truth by trying to figure everything out by his own guesswork. Unsuccessful, he decided to take another approach: research. But his expedition down the lotus stem didn’t work either. Eventually he knew he’d never reach the end of his experiment. And his time was running out. He’d spent his whole life in a fruitless search.
When you’re lost, the best approach to finding your way is often to find a little humility within yourself and ask someone for guidance.
For nearly fifty years now, Hare Krishna devotees have been distributing the books of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada all over the world. Why? Because those books – mostly translations, with commentary, of Vedic texts – are equivalent to the transcendental sound Brahma heard. Brahma accepted that sound as coming from God, took its guidance, and realized God, himself, and his purpose.
The Vedic literature, especially the four original Vedas, are known as shabda-brahma, or spiritual sound – eternal sound that contains within it all knowledge. The Vedas are not created works; they coexist with God eternally. Great seers of bygone eras retrieved them through devotional meditation and transposed them for use by us everyday humans.
People today tend either to know nothing about the Vedas or to belittle them. And without an expert guide, even people attracted to Vedic literature give up in confusion.
Srila Prabhupada’s books can clear the confusion and awaken awe for the Vedas. The books from the Vedic library that Srila Prabhupada chose to present are filled with transformative spiritual power. We’re all eternal spiritual beings, but we’re asleep in our material bodies, our present short life of no more eternal significance than the dream we had last night. The Vedas are the alarm to wake us up to reality. If we ignore that transcendental sound calling to us from our eternal home, we’re like the dreamer who thinks his ringing alarm clock to be a sound within his dream. He just snoozes on, sunk in deep illusion while life passes by.
– Nagaraja Dasa