[Advaita-l] Vedastuti part 1

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Sep 10 02:16:21 CDT 2008

The bhAgavata is the mainstay of many of the Vaishnava sampradayas.  So it 
may seem strange to bring it up in an Advaita forum.  Indeed in the past 
some paNDits have gone as far as to allege that the "bhAgavata" mentioned 
as one of the 18 mahApurANas of shrI VedavyAsa is the work called 
devIbhAgavata not the (kR^iShNa) bhAgavata. However this is a minority 
view even amongst the staunchest smArtas.  In fact some of the earliest known 
commentaries on the bhAgavata (now lost except in quotations) on the are 
by advaitins such as chitsukhAcharya and swAmi puNyAraNya.  The most
influential commentator, shrIdharAcharya is claimed by gauDIyas as one of 
their own but in fact was an advaitin too.

the last week of the shuklapaksha of bhAdrapada mAsa is dedicated to 
bhAgavata saptaH or seven-day recital of bhAgavatpurANa.  It is a custom I 
observe with great enthusiasm.  Typically kathAkAras concentrate on the 
life of kR^iShNabhagavAn giving scant attention to the many other 
interesting topics in this voluminous work so I would like to take a 
different tack and concentrate on a profound philosophical passage called 
vedastuti.  (skandha 10, adhyAya 87) I have relied for the following 
translation and commentary on my own understanding of the shlokas and the 
commentary of shrIdharAcharya and the gujarati translation of 
girijAshaMkara mayAshaMkara shAstriji.

parIkshiduvAcha |

"King Parikshit said:"

brahman brahmaNyanirdeshye nirguNe guNavR^ittaya.h |
kathaM charaMti shrutaya.h sAkshAtsadasata.h pare || 1 ||

"Oh Brahmana, Brahman is undescribable[1] and nirguNa. So how can the 
Shruti which is composed of guNas take one from falsehood to truth?[2]"

[1] Brahman is beyond all the qualities (guNa) and cannot be completely 
described in those terms.

[2] The words that make up Shruti have meanings which correspond to 
material objects which can be recognized and differentiated by their 
guNas.  If [1] is correct, how can such words which ultimately are false, 
indicate truth?

shrIshukadeva uvAcha |

Shri Shukadeva said:

buddhIndriyamanaH prANAn janAnAmasR^ijat prabhuH |
mAtrArthe cha bhavArthaM cha Atmane.akalpanAya cha || 2 ||

"Intelligence, senses, mind [2], and lifeforce[3] are instilled into living beings
at their creation[4] by the Lord[5]. for the sake of power, action, enjoyment,
and for the liberation of the atman.[6]"

[1] buddhi

[2] mAnas.  buddhi is that part of the brain that is self-awareness and 
comprehension while mAnas is instinct and that which captures and 
organizes sensory input.

[3] praNa

[4] At the beginning of each world-cycle the one Brahman becomes many. 
Thus all created things have the underlying nature of Brahman.

[5] prabhu

[6] i.e. the four puruShArthas of artha, dharma, kAma, and moksha.

saiShA hyupaniShad brAhmI pUrveShAM pUrvajairdhR^itA |
shraddhayA dhArayedyastAM kshemaM gacchedakiMchanaH || 3 ||

"This is the supreme knowledge[1] which was practiced by even the 
ancestors of our ancestors.[2] If one dilligently practices it with faith, 
he will certainly attain eternal happiness.

[1] upaniShad here does not directly refer to the texts called upaniShat 
but to the supreme or "secret" knowledge which is the subject of those 

[2] the commentator suggests that the first set of ancestors are the human 
sages while the second set are the divine sages such as nArada, sanatkumAras etc.

atra te varNayiShyAmi gAthAM nArAyaNAnvitAm |
nAradasya cha saMvAdamR^iSherNArAyaNasya cha || 4 ||

"Now I will tell you of a song[1] said by nArAyaNa which is a conversation[2]
between nArada and the sage nArAyaNa."

[1] song is an inadequate word.  a gAthA is an epic song dealing with an 
historical event.

[2] saMvAda

ekadA nArado lokAn paryaTan bhagavatpriyaH |
sanAtanamR^iShiM dR^iShTuM yayau nArAyaNAshramam || 5 ||

"one day nArada, who is beloved by bhagavAn, while wandering the worlds,
wanted to see the eternal sage nArAyaNa at his ashram.[1]

[1] badarikAshrama in the hImAlayas.  The sages nara and nArAyaNa, avatars 
of viShNu bhagavAn live there.

yo vai bhAratavarShe.asmin kshemAyasvastaye nR^iNAm |
dharmaGYAnashamopetamAkalpAdAsthitastapaH || 6 ||

"There for the benefit of bhAratavarSha[1] He does tapa for an entire 
kalpa[2] with dharma, GYana, and tranquility.[3]"

[1] all of India.

[2] the entire lifespan of creation.

[3] shama. "tranquility" is the first of the six virtues of a mumukshu.

tatropaviShTamR^iShibhiH kalApagrAmavAsibhiH |
parItaM praNato.apR^ichchhadidameva kurUdvaha || 7 ||

"oh scion of the  kurus! There in the village of kalApa, surrounded by 
sages, was seated nArAyaNa, after bowing to Him, [nArada] asked Him this 

[1] i.e. the question in shloka 1.

tasmai hyavochad bhagavAnR^iShINAM shR^iNvatAmidam |
yo brahmavAdaH pUrveShAM janalokaivAsinam || 8 ||

"Then the sage bhagavAn [nArAyaNa] related so all present could hear,  the 
discourse on Brahman by the ancestors who live in janaloka[1]."

[1] the fifth of the seven upper worlds.

To be continued...

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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