Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


(continues from the previous Monday)

So, now we know the reference system, all the three basic references, but can you tell me our body of reference? Our three pillars of reference? If you cannot decide a question, what can you consult? Four things. Basically they are three, but in the secret teachings are extended to four.

Guru is the first reference in our family, so to say. If you don’t know how to act or what to decide, ask your master. It is very easy until we have our spiritual master present. But then what to do if my master is not present? Then you have two options. One is to refer to your master in your meditation. Just imagine him to sit in front of you and put your question. And in these sincere moments whatever inspiration comes to us, we can treat it as a direct instruction. If you cannot do that, then go to the second reference – the shastra. Because if we associate with the holy scriptures, then we immediately associate with the saints who present those scriptures and also we associate with the high ideals contained there. And the third reference is the sadhu – the living saints, who represent the ideal to us in a practical way. Guru, shastra, sadhu. If all these three sources tell you something and you can also agree from the deepest core of your heart, then you are very fortunate. The heart is the fourth, the hidden secret pillar. But even if your heart does not fully agree, it’s better to say “yes” to the references.

So there is a theoretical body of reference – the Upanishads, the “Gita” and the “Vedanta Sutra”, and we also have a living tradition where guru, shastra, sadhu and our inner conviction is our reference.

But let’s try to find the exact place of the “Gita” in this vast Indian revelation. On top of the system is the Veda. This is like the divine knowledge. Divine knowledge is beyond human capacities. It is also beyond the cycles of creation. This body of divine knowledge is first revealed in shruti, as we agreed before, and the revelation is contained in the four basic Vedas. They are called samhitas. Samhita means “collection”, collections of hymns. So again you see a very beautiful, very artistic expression of divine truth, formulated in hymns, in prayers and sometimes stories. What else is there? It is not only poetics, but also ritualistic textbooks. The Brahmanas – this is not the bramins’ caste, but the Brahmanas as a literature – they contain this ritualistic information. Because the essence of the Vedic paradigm is sacrifice, and how to accomplish, how to perform the sacrifice properly – this is contained in this ritualistic literature. And this is quite a complicated ritual – many, many different yagyas and homas and offerings.

In order to accomplish such a ritual you have to be rich. But the next body of revelation, the Aranyakas, they are for hermits. They don’t have material assets to use in the sacrifice, because they have renounced the worldly possessions. What they do have? They do have their mind and intellect. So for them meditation is suggested. Aranya is “forest”, so this is for those hermits who live in the forest. So what was accomplished by the society as a ritual, in abstract form is accomplished by the hermits as meditation.

Then the next body is the Upanishads themselves. If you study these scriptures, you will find that there is a Brahmana; at the end of the Brahmana there is an Aranyaka and at the end of the Aranyaka there is an Upanishad. Even sometimes with the same title, like “Brihad Aranyaka”, “Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad”. The Upanishads are, so to say, the last chapter of the revelation, therefore it is called Vedanta – the end of the Veda. And the summary of these philosophical treatises is the “Vedanta Sutra” – Sutra is always the summary of a school.

So this is the shruti side of the Vedic revelation. And then the other line is the smriti, the sacred tradition. And here again is one very great, very vast body of literature – the Puranas. It’s many hundreds of thousands of verses. And it is also called the fifth Veda, fifth Samhita. Actually this is more practical in our age. And from among all the many, many Puranas, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has picked one as most important and this is the “Bhagavata Purana” (“Shrimad Bhagavatam”), which is the ripe fruit of the Vedas.

So this is the one side of the smriti literature and there is another one – these are the epics. The epics are the “Ramayana” and the “Mahabharata”. “Ramayana” is the adi-kavyam, the first poetry. And the “Mahabharata” is practically the greatest book on this planet Earth – seven times longer than the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” together. So it’s quite long. And it is said: “This book discusses everything. In case it does not discuss something, that’s not important.” And one chapter, one small part of the “Mahabharata” is the “Gita”. So we are very fortunate to finally find the place of our beloved “Gita”.

And also we have to mention something important here. Because you see that one line is the revelation and ultimately it is summarized in “Vedanta Sutra”, but as I said Sutras are so complicated to understand that it’s necessary to have explanation, purport. And practically the “Bhagavata Purana” is considered the natural purport to the “Vedanta Sutra”.  You see, the explanation comes on the other line. From the shruti – the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads and finally the “Vedanta Sutra” – and the explanation comes on the smriti line. “Bhagavata Purana” and “Vedanta Sutra” are connected.

Why do we consider this a natural purport? Because we agree on the point that the author is the same. We consider Vedavyasa the author of both the “Vedanta Sutra” and the “Shrimad Bhagavatam”. And before achieving the complete satisfying perfection Vedavyasa gave all previous literature and finally he gave the “Shrimad Bhagavatam”.


(to be continued)

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