Bg 4.24

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    Aashvi Verma

    Hare Krishna Sir

    Two days back I got into an argument with a person who was trying to show how Prabhupada has mistranslated the Gita. To support her view she showed the verse 24 from chapter 4. She said that the translation that Prabhupada has done differs from almost every other translation of the verse too much and she also said that the mention of ‘spiritual kingdom’ in Prabhupada’s translation reflects abrahamic way of thinking. I could not answer her at that point of time but when I checked later then all the translators had translated the verse differently and then I got confused. I also dont understand the verse itself so can you please explain the verse and also tell how Prabhupada has translated it correctly specially regarding her ‘abrahmic way of thinking’ comment?

    Along with this I have one more question. Through the blogs and articles you have shown the authority of the Vedic knowledge but I am confused about the authority of the four sampradayas. Also within the four sampradayas how is the authority of gaudiya vaishnavism established?

    Ashish Dalela

    I will try to explain this in stages.

    First, what is Brahman? It means an eternal person. The material energy is also Brahman, hence, the Upanishad says sarvam idam khalu brahma (all this—pointing to the material world—is Brahman). Likewise, the Atma is Brahman. Finally, even the Supreme Lord is Brahman, because Brahman means an eternal person. However, the Supreme Lord is generally referred to as Para-Brahman as well. This means “Supreme Eternal Person”. So, Brahman means eternal person, and there are infinite of them. Para-Brahman means supreme person. When the non-supreme Brahman is covered by Maya, then he thinks: “I am not eternal” and everything will be finished at death. Likewise, a person gives great importance to temporary attributes like gender, nationality, race, and so on. All these things are not eternal, so they are called Maya, and when Brahman is covered by Maya, then he forgets his eternal identity and starts identifying with temporary attributes. This identification is called “illusion”.

    Second, there is a six-fold division of a fire sacrifice described in this verse

    1. The act of offering or brahmārpaṇaṁ,
    2. The butter being offered or brahma havih,
    3. The fire in which it is offered or brahmāgnau,
    4. The person who makes the offering or brahmaṇā hutam,
    5. The person to whom the offering is sent or brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ,
    6. The goal of that offering or brahma-karma-samādhinā.

    The goal here is full absorption in the work, or karma-samādhinā. The goal is not to get something in return. It is just to become fully absorbed in the work. Everything else is a way to achieve the goal. There is a general template of six-fold descriptions all over Vedic texts, but they vary from context to context. For example, even if you cook food, the complete process can be divided into six parts:

    1. The ingredients of cooking such as rice and dal
    2. The intended food that is to be cooked such as khichari
    3. The method of cooking such as boiling rice and dal,
    4. The act of cooking such as moving hands and eyes,
    5. The person who cooks the recipe such as yourself,
    6. The reason for his cooking such as to enjoy cooking.

    Each of these six parts underdetermines the other five. Someone else could cook, to earn money, by using a different process, a different recipe, using different ingredients, and by acting differently.

    Third, Krishna describes all these six things to be Brahman. I have described this approach in a few places, such as Philosophizing in Six Perspectives. There are six aspects of each person. There are six questions of causality, called what, why, when, where, how, and who. This six-fold division is required for a complete answer to any causal question. Anything lesser is incomplete. You can read that post for more. Also, if you like, you can read the book “Six Causes” for a more elaborate example of the same issue. But all these six aspects are aspects of each person, which is also called Brahman. So, by calling these six things Brahman, Krishna is presenting a six-fold aspect view of Brahman. It is a subtle but understated rejection of the idea that Brahman is just one thing, that it has no aspects, etc. To understand these six aspects, we have to say that Brahman is an eternal person with six aspects.

    Fourth, let’s come to the translation and purport of verses. To explain this six-fold view of Brahman, we need to write a book. I have several articles on just this topic. In the above article, you will see many instances of this six-fold view. Krishna doesn’t repeat this six-fold presentation. So, this verse is immensely complicated. If we try to explain it properly, then one verse will require a full book.

    This is the reality with all verses. For example, BG 2.13 is considered a very simple verse. But I have been trying to explain every word and nuance for many years now and still people are puzzled by it because Krishna talks about reincarnation happening at every moment in life while everyone thinks that reincarnation happens only at death. The fact is that every verse is an ocean of information. But if we give that ocean, then nobody will read, nobody will understand, and nobody will appreciate.

    Fifth, the Acharyas simplify the presentation. In his translation, Prabhupada doesn’t talk about this six-fold division of Brahman because it is too complicated. But he illustrates the main point, which is that a person is fully absorbed in doing his work, called brahma-karma-samādhinā. Then he provides his realization, namely, that a person who is fully absorbed in working for Krishna is already in Goloka serving Krishna personally and the rest of the world doesn’t exist for him. He also notes that such a person’s activities are not material in nature. They are also spiritual activities. Thus, by full absorption in these spiritual activities, a person is already destined to enter Goloka after this body’s death.

    None of these things that Prabhupada says are false. They are all true. But they may not be in the verse. Often, Prabhupada went beyond the statement of the verses. For instance, Prabhupada translates “yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham” in BG 9.24 as “I carry what they lack and I preserve what they have” while the literal translation would be “I carry the well-being of yoga”. Prabhupada’s translation is not false. It is true. But it is not literally equivalent to the verse. What most people are quibbling about is this literal equivalence, but not trying to ask if it is true or not.

    Sixth, we have to ponder the meaning of “Veda”. What is Veda? It is knowledge. It is truth. Whatever is true, is Veda. Thereby, Veda also expands. The Western conception of Veda is that it is some fixed set of books. They talk about chronology but they never talk about the truth. Likewise, many people think Veda means some fixed set of verses, but not the truth. Veda cannot expand for them. But this is not the conception of Veda for those who know Veda. Veda can expand. Writing a commentary is itself expansion of the Veda, provided everything in that commentary is true. Hence, a self-realized soul gives the truth, and that is Veda. He may or may not emphasize something. That is his prerogative. As long as what he says is true, the statements are accepted as Veda.

    Seventh, there is a general trend among people to find faults in others. I have been facing this fault-finding for many years. If I write a long article, people will say: “So, I have to spend 20 hours to read it?” If I give a short explanation, then people say: “Anybody could have said that”. If I write a book on a topic, then people will say: “You have to give me a short summary”. If we give a short summary, then they will say: “What about this issue and that issue, which is not covered here?”. If I cover all the issues in detail then people will say: “You are trying to show off by making everything very long”.

    The fact is that Shishupala was finding faults even in Krishna. This fault-finding mentality is called chidrānveṣaṇa or “searching for holes”. It is the attempt to find some dirt in some corner in someone’s courtyard while ignoring the huge pile of dirt in the center of their courtyard. So, Krishna listened to 100 such complaints and then He cut off Shishupala’s head. Of course, we don’t do that. But we cut them off from association because they will always find something that is either not a fault, or maybe a minor fault, or maybe a virtue at variance with their value system. This is the fundamental property of the material world, summarized as “enviousness”.

    People cannot accept other people’s greatness, but they think they can accept God, who is the greatest. They cannot. The impersonalists try to remove greatness from God, by removing all His great qualities, and talk about merger into God. This is because they cannot accept anyone greater than themselves. Greatness makes them insecure. They are threatened by greatness. So, they try to minimize the greatness by searching for holes. If they can find holes (real or imagined), then they have placated their sense of insecurity: After all, he is not so great, so no need to worry! The same sense of insecurity pervades almost everyone in this world and is called envy.

    Before Prabhupada, there were at least a hundred versions of the Gita but not one person became a devotee of Krishna. There are impersonal translations even today, but you can ask them questions about the six-aspect description of Brahman, and they will have no answer to it. Most impersonalists will say: Fire is an illusion, an offering is an illusion, the person offering is an illusion, etc. But Krishna calls them Brahman. So, they cannot reconcile their claims with what Krishna says. But because they don’t want to accept a devotional conclusion, hence, they find the fault of literal equivalence.

    Then, they have no realization of complete absorption and how that transports a person into the spiritual world in this life. They have no idea of how a similar process of transport is used at the time of death when the consciousness is permanently moved to the spiritual world and leaves the body. Without all these realizations, they criticize. But their criticism is just like spitting at the moon. The spit rises, then falls back on their own face, because it cannot actually reach the moon.

    Aashvi Verma

    I still can not understand completely but I got some idea. Thank you for explanaing. And I asked one more question above if you overlooked it by mistake.

    But there is a general trend among people to find faults in others. I have been facing this fault-finding for many years now. If I write a long article, people will say: “So, I have to spend 20 hours to read it?”. If I give a short explanation, then people say: “Anybody could have said that”. If I write a book on a topic, then people will say: “You have to give me a short summary”. But if we give a short summary, then they will say: “What about this issue and that issue, which is not covered here?”. If I cover all the issues in detail then people will say: “You are trying to show off by making everything very long”.

    Dont you think that this happens because your explanations seem very novel? I am not accusing you but I have also been facing this problem since some time. I started following Krishna consciousness around 3 years ago and I had my own reasoning for it. But after sometime I started feeling that my reasoning probably is wrong and around a few months ago I got to know about you through a podcast. After reading your articles I could understand that my reasoning was wrong but I am still unable to understanding your reasoning at many points. And many of your explanations seem very novel to me which is why I am unable to relate them with what Prabhupada has written in his books. I want to understand the philosophy but I am not intelligent enough and therefore I keep struggling with my faith. This disturbs me a lot at times and has become a kind of hinderance for me to become steady on this path. Can you please tell me what I should do so that I can get out of my condition?

    Ashish Dalela

    Novelty is the result of the three modes of material nature. Each mode is opposed to the other modes. The lazy person finds the hardworking person very strange. He asks: Why is he working so hard? Why can’t he relax like me? The lazy and hardworking people also hate each other. Similarly, an ambitious person finds a detached person very strange. He asks: Why doesn’t he care about the outcomes like me? Why can’t he struggle like I’m struggling? The detached and ambitious persons also dislike each other. They call each other fools. So, what seems novel, strange, or repulsive is the effect of guna. Vedic philosophy is transcendent to the modes of material nature, which means it will be by definition novel, strange, and repulsive to everyone conditioned by the three material modalities.

    Since it seems strange to most people, therefore, I wrote the post How Well Do You Know Vedic Philosophy? In it, I collected 42 questions organized into seven categories for everyone to test their understanding. If you don’t like my explanation, then you can provide your explanation. All these questions are not complicated. They are very simple questions that most people should be able to answer. But I know that most people cannot answer these simple questions. So, you can judge the person’s claims against the ability to answer non-difficult questions while giving non-novel explanations. Let them explain everything in a non-novel manner. Then we can accept their version as the truth over my version which is novel.

    To answer the question about the four Sampradayas, there is no absolute sense of authority. There is one text called Vedanta Sutra, which has been explained in different ways. The better explanation is that which integrates more of the Veda without a contradiction. The worse explanation is that which cannot integrate more Veda without a contradiction. The traditional system in India was that if some explanation is better than the previous one, then people would abandon their Sampradaya and accept the better Sampradaya. But it doesn’t happen nowadays.

    There are many examples of replacement, but I will give two examples here. When Shankaracharya debated with Mandan Misra and defeated him (and his wife), Mandan (and his wife) abandoned their Mimamsa Sampradaya and accepted Shankaracharya’s Advaita Sampradaya. Similarly, Lord Chaitanya defeated the Advaitins in Varanasi, and they abandoned their Sampradaya and accepted Sri Chaitanya’s Sampradaya. This was the established system earlier. If an expert in one Sampradaya is defeated by an expert in another Sampradaya then the defeated Sampradaya would abandon their system. This doesn’t happen at present.

    Nowadays, there are neither experts, nor debates, nor are there winners or losers, nor is there any abandonment of a Sampradaya despite a defeat, due to absence of sincerity. Every Sampradaya is going on independently and calls themselves authority. Hence, in the vision of most people, there is “authority” in the Sampradaya. But this authority was not established simply by disciplic succession. It had to be established by a debate, hairsplitting on minor points, and whoever can integrate more Vedic text statements into a single philosophical system was accepted as the correct authority rejecting all other “authorities”.

    In my book “Conceiving the Conceivable”, I have described the historical evolution of Vedanta philosophy, how each philosophy created new problems, which were solved by the subsequent philosophy, but that solution also created a new problem, which was solved by the later interpretation. So, in this way, six different interpretations of Vedanta were created. Each has a problem, solved by the next one, and so on. There is a problem with Achintya Bhedabheda as well, namely, that it is “inconceivable”. Hence, I have done a commentary to explain how that inconceivable becomes conceivable. I have also shown how this system integrates all Vedic texts, and even all previous interpretations. The previous Sampradaya see each other as different and sometimes contradictory to their view. But I have integrated them. I’m now doing the Six Systems of Philosophy project to establish their unity.

    These things were done in the past, but they have been lost in the last few centuries and every Sampradaya is slowly becoming a “faith-based system”. But there is no faith-based system in the Vedic tradition. Faith-based ideologies are unique to Abrahamic religions. When people are dumb then they have to rely on faith. When people are intelligent, then they rely on debate. Therefore, authority is established by debate and not by faith. But since nobody wants to do that at present, hence, each Sampradaya is going on independently. The problem is also that people are not intelligent. They don’t study deeply, they don’t ask good questions, and either they reject blindly or accept blindly. So, each Sampradaya goes on because there is no demand for an ecompassing understanding as people are not intelligent.

    This is why science also has importance, namely, that only the view which can solve the problems of modern science has to be upheld as a superior view, and others are inferior views. For example, Advaita cannot solve any problem of modern science so it is scientifically the most useless. Successive interpretations are better in dealing with more problems, but not totally satisfactorily. Hence, a faith-based Sampradaya system can also be evaluated by the tests of modern science.

    One recent example is “How Airplanes Fly?” If you think you know something, then explain to us how airplanes fly. Likewise, solve the problem of number theory incompleteness, the problem of quantum measurement, the algorithmic halting problem, etc. Give us a new explanation of evolution. Tell us more about the cosmic structure. Explain to us how light bends. Explain to us how moving objects are red-shifted or blue-shifted. How do UFOs fly? What are dark energy and dark matter? Why are they 20 times more than visible matter? There are hundreds of questions like this. Those who claim to know Veda must be able to answer these things because Veda means knowledge. If you have knowledge then solve my scientific problems. If you don’t have knowledge then keep quiet and listen.

    Of course, intelligence is required to process all these questions and answers. We cannot say that I have the intellect to ask a question but I don’t have the intellect to understand the answer. The criticism I alluded to above pertains to this class of people who have a lot of questions but they cannot process the answer. Anybody can ask a question: How did the universe originate? What is life? The question is simple but the answer is not simple. So, anyone can ask a question, but they cannot handle the answer. When they cannot handle it, then they accuse the person giving the answer rather than accepting their limitations. They think that if the question is simple, then the answer must be simple. That is their assumption but it is not a fact. Simple questions have difficult answers because the answer to one question should not contradict the answers to other questions. We have to collectively answer all questions without a contradiction. That is consistent and complete.

    You can see a rocket flying in space and you can say: Oh it is just like an arrow. That doesn’t mean it is an arrow. It looks like that to those who don’t know. They cannot make an arrow fly like that. But if we give them the inner details, they might say: Why so complicated, when an arrow explanation also suffices? A rocket is not simply a faster arrow. An airplane is not simply a faster bicycle. But most people don’t get it. They think that going into detail of airplane or rocket is meant to confuse them.

    Aashvi Verma

    If there is the problem of being inconceivable with Achintya Bhedabheda as well then why have the Acharayas in our tradition said that it is the most complete and the most perfect philosophy? And as much as I understand you are making this transition from inconceivable to conceivable with the help of nyaya, sankhya and other philosophies but these philosophies were also present earlier so why did Mahaprabhu present the philosophy of Achintya Bhedabheda if there is a problem with it?

    Ashish Dalela

    Inconceivable was a good answer in the past. It is a very bad answer today.

    For example, someone can ask: How was Krishna with 16,108 wives at once? And we can say: Oh, it is inconceivable. In the past, everyone would have been very pleased with the answer. They would have said: “The Lord is inconceivable. He can do anything.” Today, people will say: “This is all mythology. How can one man be in 16,108 places at once? No such thing ever happened. It is all fiction.”

    Prabhupada gave the instructions on scientific presentation because he realized that we have now entered the age of skepticism. The Western world is especially full of skeptics. They trust nothing, they question everything, and if you cannot explain it to them, then they call everything mythology. The situation in India is not better. Your conviction in Prabhupada is shaken the moment you see a different translation of one verse. Then, if we say that everything is inconceivable, then your conviction will be negative. So, do you want a conceivable or inconceivable answer?

    When there is innate trust, then conceivability is not needed. But if there is no trust, then conceivability is mandatory. A child holds the hand of the parent with trust. There is no analysis of facts and figures to check if the parent should be trusted. But such analysis is done if there is any doubt, such as between partnering companies. A partner is not going to accept whatever you say. He will want to see your accounts, assets, liabilities, court cases, balance sheets, key customers, employees, and investors, your short-term tactics and long-term strategy, etc. A lawyer will be hired to analyze everything minutely. This is because the stakes are high.

    But when the stakes are low, we don’t analyze anything. Likewise, we don’t analyze when we have deep trust. Most people today don’t have trust. But their spirituality is not high stakes because nothing of value is being sacrificed. It is a hobby, a cherry on the cake, or a leisure pastime. Such people are not the audience of a deeper analysis. The deeper analysis is only for high-stakes participants. They will go full-in, and they need to be completely convinced before they go full-in.

    Something is done because it is required for that time, place, situation, and person. Otherwise, even commentaries are not required. Just read the original text in Sanskrit, and it should suffice. But it does not suffice for most people. So, there is a commentary. But the new problem is that there are many commentaries, which creates new doubts. When there is a doubt, it has to be resolved. We did not create the doubt. It was created by someone else. But we have to resolve the doubt.

    Similarly, modern science has created hundreds of doubts about the origin of life, the process of evolution, the laws of motion, the nature of the cosmos, and the role that soul and God have in a law-governed world. We did not create modern science. It was created by someone else, which led to the doubts. But we have to resolve the doubts. I cannot say that everything is inconceivable. People will distrust an inconceivable explanation over a conceivable explanation any day. Even if the scientific explanation is very bad, it is still conceivable. A conceivable explanation will always be trusted over an inconceivable explanation. Therefore, we have to give a conceivable explanation. This is the need of the hour. I have not created the need. The need was created by someone else. I’m only fulfilling the need.

    We cannot progress with a doubt. It will always hinder our progress and eventually stop it. Therefore, all high-stakes players resolve their doubts proactively. The low-stakes players do not. Therefore, all this analysis is for high-stakes players who will go all-in, give their full life, 24×7, life after life. That is the meaning of brahma-karma-samādhinā. Full absoption in working for Krishna. Those people may be very few. But one of these is more valuable than millions of low-stakes bystanders.

    Aashvi Verma

    Can you tell more about the instructions that Prabhupada gave on scientific presentation? I am asking because I am hearing about this for the first time.

    Ashish Dalela
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