Instruction essential for realising Vedas

(The following article was posted in the “Meditations” column of the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English language daily newspapers, on 1 June 2002.) A LINE from Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti-Rasarnrita Sindhu begins with anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavritarn, meaning that in order for devotion to succeed, it must be without jnana (the monistic quest for knowledge) and karma (the spirit of enjoyment). One of Gita’s primary teachings is that the Vedas deal predominantly with material pursuits via the three modes of nature (trai-gunya-vishaya veda, etc.,) and that one has to rise above this level of existence. Thus one can look at these writings of Rupa, and even the Gita itself, as instruction manuals for realising the truth of the Vedas. After all, when it comes to new cars, computers, and electronic equipment for entertainment or kitchen, we usually read the accompanying guidebooks rather than instinctively flicking dials and switches. We read handbooks because there’s often a “trick” to inserting or removing a key: perhaps there’s a switch we didn’t notice or a device we didn’t activate properly. Similarly, there are instructions to help us understand the Vedas, which are like ageless philosophical “appliances” to help us live peacefully in a world of rage. Manuals avert trial and error through pictures and simple directions. It is said in the Bible (Mathew 11:25), “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes.” Others say broad-mindedness is the answer, and that the quest for reality is like picking berries: you miss a lot if you approach it from only one angle. Agility is required to ascertain the truth. So how does one “extract” truth from a daunting array of fact, philosophy, and abstract, sometimes-contradictory, statements in the Vedas? And if the ‘manual-reading approach’ is the answer, what if the manual itself is hard to understand? Then what? The Bhagavad Gita can appear complex and mysterious, especially when Krishna says things like, “All beings are in me, but I am not in them” and “One who sees action in inaction and inaction in action, truly sees.” Well, in one part of the Gita (15.15), God asserts that “by all the Vedas, I am to be known” and that “I am the knower of the Vedas.” God Himself, as author of the Gita, provides us with a master key to that mysterious body of knowledge known collectively as the Vedas. Through study and meditation focused on knowing God, even the confusing elements of the Vedas become knowable, useful and applicable to present situations. In this way, the inconceivable contradiction-breaking energy of God can work in our daily lives.