The Ocean 🌊 in a Bottle

Vilasini’s Harmless ..imitation

Vilasini checks my heartbeat, temperature, and blood pressure, pokes my arm with a syringe, and then makes her incision. Fortunately, my six-year-old granddaughter’s plastic scalpel couldn’t cut anything tougher than cream cheese, so my post-op recovery is swift. Vilasini’s imitation doctoring is harmless, but when inept adults imitate well-trained practitioners in professions that require knowledge and skill, people get hurt. Medicine and law enforcement come to mind. We don’t want gunslingers patrolling our streets or quacks probing our insides.

This all seems like common sense, but what we might not know is that the greatest danger lies in the area of spiritual guidance. That’s where we need urgent care from well-trained professionals. And we need it all the time. For medical treatment or legal aid, we take advantage of systems and laws that protect us from the bogus. But what’s to protect us from phony spiritual guides?

The Vedic literature. Books are fundamental in any field. They’re authority for doctors and lawyers, cops and engineers, and these people validate the books. Want to find the best medical reference book? Ask a doctor. Want to find the most comprehensive books on Truth? Look to those who have dedicated themselves to finding it.

Historically, no culture in the world has been as serious about the spiritual quest as India. But the Vedic literature covers so much ground that its sheer volume might intimidate us. And because it’s so vast, even the intrepid who take it on fail to find a central theme.

Which brings me to Śrila Jiva Gosvami, a sixteenth-century Vaisnava who (to borrow a phrase from Śrila Prabhupada) has kindly appeared in this issue of the magazine. His authoritative – I dare use the word – Tattva-sandarbha puts the full range of Vedic literature into focus and shows us exactly where to look to see the whole picture. With persuasive citations from time-honored sources, Jiva Gosvami leads us through the Vedic literature to the ultimate spiritual shelter of the Śrimad-Bhagavatam.

The third verse of the Bhagavatam’s eighteen thousand refers to the Vedic literature as a tree 🌳, specifically a fruit tree. Today, in the academic world and elsewhere, most people would deny the aptness of a tree as a metaphor for the Vedic literature; in their view the Vedic literature is just a motley collection of texts without cohesion. The Bhagavatam disagrees. By comparing the Vedic literature to a fruit tree, the Bhagavatam suggests a unified entity with a purpose: to produce fruit. The Bhagavatam boldly asserts that all the perplexing, apparently disjointed information scattered around thousands of Vedic texts works together to produce the ripe fruit 🍉🍊that is the message of the Śrimad-Bhagavatam, “The Beautiful Story of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

The Bhagavatam has also been compared to an ocean in a bottle. Śrila Vyasadeva explained the essence of the Upanisads, the philosophical parts of the oceanic Vedas, in his concise Vedanta-sutras. Śrimad-Bhagavatam is his own commentary on the Vedanta-sutras and therefore contains all the sublime truths of the Vedic literature.

The Bhagavatam can protect us from imitators who lead people far from the Truth and keep them bound to endless suffering in the material world. Śrila Prabhupada, by presenting the Bhagavatam, has shown himself to be a genuine spiritual doctor guided by a genuine reference book. He can cure our ailing souls.

– By Nagaraja Dasa