Importance of Studying Shastra
Questions & Answers Shastra

Importance of Studying Shastra

The following is a question that addressed Babaji’s podcast interview with Namarasa.

Question: Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad Gītā, “O son of Pṛtha, those who take shelter in me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas, and śūdras—can attain the supreme destination” (Gītā 9.32).

These classes of people are generally not accustomed to study like a brāhmaṇa, so how can study be the only path to bhakti? This is why the supremely magnanimous Lord Caitanya distributed kṛṣṇa-prema through the Holy Names and not study, because Lord Caitanya, out of His mercy, wanted to make bhakti accessible to all, not only to studious brāhmaṇas. 

Answer: In my interview, I said that bhakti, as propagated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, is understood only by studying it from the works of Gosvāmīs. You will agree that Mahāprabhu propagated uttamā-bhakti and asked Śrī Rupa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī to write books. It is well known that the bhakti that He propagated was not known to people of this world. The anarpita-carīṁ cirāt verse is proof of this fact. From this, you can understand that uttamā-bhakti is not easy to understand, even for learned people, because it is not material. We do not have any experience of it. We theoretically understand something new based on our past experience. Alternatively, we can know by direct experience. In the case of uttamā-bhakti, we do not have past experience unless we are continuing it from our past life. We also have no means to experience it directly unless we are fortunate to get the grace of an uttamā-bhakta. Therefore, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī calls this bhaktimahā-durbodha,” extremely difficult to understand (Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuccheda 165). Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī lists sudurlabha, “very difficult to achieve,” as one of the six qualities of bhakti (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.17).

You will agree that to follow any path, you need to understand the path properly. If we do not understand the path or the process properly, we cannot follow it properly. If we do not follow it properly, we do not get the desired result. This is my conviction and experience. 

Your objection is based on the Gītā verse (9.32). On this, I want to say that this verse was spoken when the varṇāśrama system was functional. I do not understand the logic in citing this verse. In modern society, there is no restriction on education. When you say: “These classes of people are generally not accustomed to study like a brāhmaṇa, so how can study be the only path to bhakti?” What do you mean by the word brāhmaṇa? Where are the brāhmaṇas who are absorbed in studying śtra? The majority of my students who study śāstra are women and not brāhmaṇas. So, your objection is outdated and not based on practical experience. 

If your objection is correct, i.e., we do not need to study śāstra to understand bhakti, then I would like to see this in practice. Show me people who have not done a proper study of bhakti-śāstra yet are clear about the process and the goal. Moreover, they are actually achieving the goal. It is certainly not my experience. Instead, I find devotees who have been practicing for decades and have no clear understanding of the basic definition of uttamā-bhakti. People are confused even about simple concepts such as nāma, nāma-abhāsa, and nāma-aparādha. And I am not speaking about just being able to recite some verses but being very clear about the process and goal. 

Furthermore, by citing Bhagavad Gītā, you are contradicting yourself. Why? Because you are citing śāstra to prove that we do not need to study śāstra. This is called vadato vyāghāta—contradiction while speaking, as when someone says, “I do not have a tongue in my mouth!” Moreover, you are citing a verse to support the wrong cause. The intention of the speaker, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is not at all that one should not study śāstra. Rather, He intends to show the greatness of bhakti; this is clear from the context. We should not derive a meaning not intended by the speaker, especially if it goes against His intention. Śri Kṛṣṇa Himself has spoken on the importance of studying śāstra, both by affirmation (anvaya) and negation (vyatireka) (Gītā 16.23–24):

yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya   vartate kāma-kārataḥ
na sa siddhim avāpnoti   na sukhaṁ na parāṁ gatim

tasmāc chāstraṁ pramāṇaṁ te   kāryākārya-vyavasthitau
jñātvā śāstra-vidhānoktaṁ   karma kartum ihārhasi

“Casting aside the ordinances of scriptures, one who acts under the impulse of one’s material desire attains neither perfection, happiness, nor the Supreme Goal.

Therefore, only scripture is your authority in ascertaining what should be done and what should be avoided. You should perform action in this world only after knowing the injunctions of the scriptures.”

It is a very clear injunction that one should first study śāstra and then engage in action; otherwise, one cannot attain the desired goal. I did not say anything different in my interview. In fact, I supported my statement with a śāstric reference. Therefore, if you disagree with me, you need to consider if you are disregarding śāstra, which would be a nāmaparādhaśruti-śāstra-nindanam. 

Not only this, but in the very same book that you cite, Śrī Kṛṣṇa advises to approach a teacher to learn the meaning of śāstra (Gītā 4.34):

tad viddhi praṇipātena   paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ   jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

“Understand this knowledge by prostrating, by rendering service, and by in-depth inquiry from teachers. Those wise seers of Truth will instruct you in that knowledge.”

In the second part of your question, you refer to the magnanimity of Mahāprabhu in distributing Kṛṣṇa-prema by chanting the name and not restricting it to studious brāhmaṇas. I do not understand why you think that study is only for brāhmaṇas. Anyone can study the bhakti literature of our Gosvāmīs. Moreover, you need to explain why the magnanimous Mahāprabhu sent His most intimate followers to Vrindavan and asked them to compose bhakti literature. Was it meant to impress the nondevotees? Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī is said to have captured the heart of Mahāprabhu. Why did he write a book like Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu? He could have just written a few pages about nāma-japa and nāma-kirtana; that would have sufficed. However, all great acāryas have written books. Why do you think they wrote them? Were the books only for distribution to others? I think not. Most people in modern times have come to bhakti because of reading a book. Even if they came in contact with a devotee, they were probably convinced only after reading a book on bhakti.

I do not know any example of someone attaining the goal of bhakti without proper knowledge of bhakti. But I know examples of those who studied śāstra and attained the goal of bhakti! It is no surprise that Kṛṣṇa says: śreyo hi jñānam abhyāsād (Gītā 12.12), priyo hi jñānino atyartham ahaṁ sa ca mama priyaḥ (7.17), bahavaḥ jñāna-tapasā pūtā mad-bhāvam āgatāḥ ( 4.10), evaṁ yo vetti tattvatah (4.9), etc 




  • RAJAGOPALAN N January 1, 2023


  • RAJAGOPALAN N January 1, 2023


  • T. Krsna dasa January 1, 2023

    So how does the opponent explain SB 1.4.25 (below)? As women and others are not inclined to study according to this opponent, Sri Vyasa must have wasted his time in composing the Mahabharata, the longest epic of the world, which contains the Gita verse the opponent cites.

    SB 1.4.25:
    strī-śūdra-dvijabandhūnāṁ trayī na śruti-gocarā karma-śreyasi mūḍhānāṁ śreya evaṁ bhaved iha iti bhāratam ākhyānaṁ kṛpayā muninā kṛtam

    And Sri Vyasa must be ignorant of some basic facts since he also writes this in SB 1.4.28:
    bhārata-vyapadeśena hy āmnāyārthaś ca pradarśitaḥ dṛśyate yatra dharmādi strī-śūdrādibhir apy uta.

    And Sri Rupa Goswami must also be ignorant, since it was he who taught that bhakti cannot *even begin* without krsna diksadi siksanam: Learning the scriptures from the guru after taking diksa from the guru.

  • Sricharan January 1, 2023


    I would like to add a reference
    Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta » Ādi-līlā » CHAPTER TWO
    CC Ādi 2.117
    সিদ্ধান্ত বলিয়া চিত্তে না কর অলস ।
    ইহা হইতে কৃষ্ণে লাগে সুদৃঢ় মানস ॥ ১১৭ ॥
    siddhānta baliyā citte nā kara alasa
    ihā ha-ite kṛṣṇe lāge sudṛḍha mānasa
    siddhānta — conclusion; baliyā — considering; citte — in the mind; nā kara — do not be; alasa — lazy; ihā — this; ha-ite — from; kṛṣṇe — in Lord Kṛṣṇa; lāge — becomes fixed; su-dṛḍha — very firm; mānasa — the mind.

    A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one’s mind becomes attached to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

    There are many students who, in spite of reading the Bhagavad-gītā, misunderstand Kṛṣṇa because of imperfect knowledge and conclude Him to be an ordinary historical personality. This one must not do. One should be particularly careful to understand the truth about Kṛṣṇa. If because of laziness one does not come to know Kṛṣṇa conclusively, one will be misguided about the cult of devotion, like those who declare themselves advanced devotees and imitate the transcendental symptoms sometimes observed in liberated souls. Although the use of thoughts and arguments is a most suitable process for inducing an uninitiated person to become a devotee, neophytes in devotional service must always alertly understand Kṛṣṇa through the vision of the revealed scriptures, the bona fide devotees and the spiritual master. Unless one hears about Śrī Kṛṣṇa from such authorities, one cannot make advancement in devotion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The revealed scriptures mention nine means of attaining devotional service, of which the first and foremost is hearing from authority. The seed of devotion cannot sprout unless watered by the process of hearing and chanting. One should submissively receive the transcendental messages from spiritually advanced sources and chant the very same messages for one’s own benefit as well as the benefit of one’s audience.

    When Brahmā described the situation of pure devotees freed from the culture of empiric philosophy and fruitive actions, he recommended the process of hearing from persons who are on the path of devotion. Following in the footsteps of such liberated souls, who are able to vibrate real transcendental sound, can lead one to the highest stage of devotion, and thus one can become a mahā-bhāgavata. From the teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu to Sanātana Gosvāmī (Madhya 22.65) we learn:

    śāstra-yuktye sunipuṇa, dṛḍha-śraddhā yāṅra
    ‘uttama-adhikārī’ sei tāraye saṁsāra
    “A person who is expert in understanding the conclusion of the revealed scriptures and who fully surrenders to the cause of the Lord is actually able to deliver others from the clutches of material existence.” Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in his Upadeśāmṛta (3), advises that to make rapid advancement in the cult of devotional service one should be very active and should persevere in executing the duties specified in the revealed scriptures and confirmed by the spiritual master. Accepting the path of liberated souls and the association of pure devotees enriches such activities.

    Imitation devotees, who wish to advertise themselves as elevated Vaiṣṇavas and who therefore imitate the previous ācāryas but do not follow them in principle, are condemned in the words of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.3.24) as stone-hearted. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has commented on their stone-hearted condition as follows: bahir aśru-pulakayoḥ sator api yad dhṛdayaṁ na vikriyeta tad aśma-sāram iti kaniṣṭhādhikāriṇām eva aśru-pulakādi-mattve ’pi aśma-sāra-hṛdayatayā nindaiṣā. “Those who shed tears by practice but whose hearts have not changed are to be known as stone-hearted devotees of the lowest grade. Their imitation crying, induced by artificial practice, is always condemned.” The desired change of heart referred to above is visible in the reluctance to do anything not congenial to the devotional way. To create such a change of heart, conclusive discussion about Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His potencies is absolutely necessary. False devotees may think that simply shedding tears will lead one to the transcendental plane, even if one has not had a factual change in heart, but such a practice is useless if there is no transcendental realization. False devotees, lacking the conclusion of transcendental knowledge, think that artificially shedding tears will deliver them. Similarly, other false devotees think that studying books of the previous ācāryas is unadvisable, like studying dry empiric philosophies. But Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, following the previous ācāryas, has inculcated the conclusions of the scriptures in the six theses called the Ṣaṭ-sandarbhas. False devotees who have very little knowledge of such conclusions fail to achieve pure devotion for want of zeal in accepting the favorable directions for devotional service given by self-realized devotees. Such false devotees are like impersonalists, who also consider devotional service no better than ordinary fruitive actions.

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