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Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
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Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Vaiśeṣika Sūtras of Kaṇāda with Praśastapāda Bhāṣya - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Sanskrit for Beginners by Gururaja
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Understanding the True Intention of Shastra
Questions & Answers

Understanding the True Intention of Shastra

Maha_Vishnu Drddha Gorrick

Question: I am reading your book Tattva Sandarbha, and have been reminded of a question that I could not find a proper answer for.

The story of Parīkṣit Mahārāja is explained in both Mahābhārata and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, but the story is described differently in these two texts. The version in Bhāgavatam is well known—he went to the Ganges and ultimately heard Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. In Mahābhārata, the story is quite different. He built a house and tried to avoid the curse, taking help from brāhmaṇas, etc.

I have heard that the reason for the difference in these texts is that they are from different kalpas, different days of Brahmā. Is this correct? If this is the case, then I wonder if it is known whether the SB story or the Mahābhārata story is from our kalpa, or happened approximately 5000 years ago, or if none of these stories happened in our kalpa. But then I further wonder how one can know for certain that some pastime took place at a certain location, presently existing.

Answer: Since you are reading Tattva Sandarbha, I suggest you read Anuccheda 17, and my commentary on it, wherein I explain the alternative meaning of the word “kalpa“.

The common meaning of the word is a day of Brahmā, but if we take that meaning we will run into the problems you have mentioned.

For common people who do not think deeply, such a meaning is satisfactory. But for those who go deeper, the alternative meaning is given. The main purpose of śāstra is not to tell us stories or historical facts—it wants to educate us on principles of life, and for that, it makes history the base.

According to modern pedagogy, the best way to educate is through storytelling. Śāstra uses this pedagogy method, so historical facts are not the prime criterion. That explains the differences in stories. Different scriptures are written for different classes of people, or they are written to teach different levels of knowledge. The stories are told, keeping that in mind.

A good teacher will tell the same story differently to different audiences, based on the level of the audience. It is like different press reporters reporting the same incident differently, depending upon what they want to stress. In essence, from your point of view, it is difficult to verify which story happened in which kalpa because that is not at all the intent of the author. When we want to understand anything written or spoken, the most important thing is the intent of the author or the speaker, tātparya-vṛtti. Otherwise, there is bound to be a misunderstanding.

Question: With regard to kalpa meaning a particular day of Brahmā, do you consider that to be a valid explanation for the differences found in texts?

Answer: Different explanations are valid for different audiences. If you teach science to a primary school kid, you may teach that light travels in a straight line, but at the graduate level, you teach that light is a wave and does not travel in a straight line. Both explanations are correct. In the same way, if kalpa is understood as a day of Brahmā, or as scripture, both are correct.

Question: Jīva Gosvāmī establishes that the Vedas are eternal, and thus, I assume that it makes no difference when they were spoken, written, or compiled. Therefore, the explanation that they are written or compiled for different classes of people seems more applicable.

Answer: Yes. It is a question of manifestation and unmanifestation, and how much of it manifests to someone. Another way of understanding is like this: Newton is credited to have discovered the laws of motion, gravity etc. (The Nyāya-sūtras of Gautama have reference to gravity).  That does not mean that these things came into existence when he discovered them. They existed for the entire span of the creation, but he made them known. Before that, the knowledge was unmanifest. Similarly, the Vedas are eternal but they become revealed at a certain time to some sage. Now much of it has become lost to humanity.

Question: Another question I have is regarding Anuccheda 18 of Tattva Sandarbha. In your commentary, you explain that there is a Liṇga Purāṇa, and therein the sages of Naimiṣāraṇya ask Sūta Gosvami to narrate the glories of Liṇga, Lord Śiva. In my understanding, the stories in the Purāṇas are true events—at least this is what I was taught, and what I have faith in. We know from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam that Sūta Gosvami was asked by the sages about different topics, so when did the conversation described in Liṇga Purāṇa take place? Is Śrīmad Bhāgavatam not complete and only those relevant portions were recorded there? Or were there, in the course of time, different conversations where at one time Sūta was asked about Lord Śiva, and at other times about Kṛṣṇa?

Answer: Before Sūta Gosvāmī spoke Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, his father Romaharṣaṇa, who is also Sūta Gosvāmī, spoke the other Puraṇās to the sages of Naimiṣāranya. Sūta Gosvāmī is their family name. Romaharṣaṇa was killed by Lord Balarāma, while on  pilgrimage to Naimiśāraṇya. Then He installed his son Ugraśravā Sūta Gosvāmī in the place of the latter’s father.

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Question: It is mentioned in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (12.4.4), that at the end of a day of Brahma, there is naimittikaḥ pralayaḥ, and both the universe and Brahma enter into Mahā-Viṣṇu. From Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 20.321-324, Adi 5.68-70), and Brahma-saṁhitā (5.48), we understand that Brahma lives for one hundred years, and this is the duration of exhalation of Mahā-Viṣṇu. When Mahā-Viṣṇu inhales, the universe enters into Mahā-Viṣṇu.

This appears to be contradictory since SB says the universe enters into Mahā-Viṣṇu at the end of Brahma’s day, and CC says it enters at the end of Brahma’s life. How is this understood?

Answer: Both are correct. At the end of the day of Brahma, the lower lokas are dissolved, but not the upper ones (Mahar, Jana, Tapas, and Satya). Brahma enters into Mahā Viṣṇu, and comes out at the end of his night, and again creates the lower lokas. However, at the end of his life, all the lokas are dissolved.

Question: Do all of the universes manifest at the same time when the Lord exhales, and all become annihilated at the same time when the Lord inhales?

Answer: I do not have a reference for this, but I understand that the universes are not simultaneously created or destroyed. Different universes are at different stages of evolution or devolution. My logic for this is that Kṛṣṇa’s līlā is nitya, so some universes must always be manifest, for His bhauma-līlā to be nitya. If all universes were dissolved, then His bhauma-līlā could not be nitya. Creation, sustenance, and dissolution are also His līlā. So, they must go on simultaneously all the time.

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