“Let others worship the Vedas and the Upanishads, and let others worship the Mahabharata if they are afraid of material existence and want to become liberated from that condition. But as far as I am concerned, I wish only to worship Maharaj Nanda, because the supreme absolute Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is crawling in his courtyard as his own child.” (Prayer by a brahmana, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)
There are different avenues available to reach transcendental enlightenment. Not all paths have the same procedures, but nevertheless the ultimate aim is the same. Just as the different grades of an elementary school may teach specific things pertaining to the academic level of the students, the various paths of spiritual life are tailored to meet the specific qualities of the participants. The elementary school’s objective is still to push through all the students, from the first grade all the way up until the last. In the same manner, the study of Vedanta, the absorption of Vedic history, and the steps taken to bring about the Brahman realization are all meant to lead to an eventual goal, a resting place where there is nothing but pleasure.
What is study of Vedanta? Try to picture the ultimate system of knowledge. In school you learn your ABCs, and then you add on to that with mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, and other subjects. As an adult, you will have to earn a living, so the little pieces of information are intended to form the fortified structure that is the intelligent brain. The mature human being relies on this brain to carry it through the rest of life, as in childhood the guidance of the authority figures was there.
Vedanta is the summit of knowledge. It is the highest education because its principles penetrate to the lowest level as far as relevance goes. For instance, learning a specific alphabet can help you form words to use in communication and it can also help you to understand what others are saying in communication. Thus the alphabet itself is a fundamental tool, a foundation for something larger.
Vedanta studies the difference between matter and spirit. As all the things we see around us are a combination of these two factors, Vedanta has applicability to all aspects of life. The unexplainable is even addressed. Life and death, time and space - these mysteries are studied in great detail by the philosopher who approaches one who knows the essence of the individual’s identity, the atma, or soul. Spirit is the core unit of all autonomous life, and whatever is not spirit is known as matter. Matter is also considered maya, or an energy. When the knowledge of the spirit’s presence is absent, that maya is illusion; it erroneously becomes the basis of identity.
Study of Vedanta through consulting the Vedas, the Upanishads, and historical texts like the Mahabharata helps the individual to become Brahman realized. Brahman is the sum collection of all particles of spirit. Each one of us is Brahman, but in delusion we think that we are maya. We think that the material elements surrounding our soul represent our identity, when in fact we are nothing but pure spirit.
Though Vedanta means the ultimate knowledge, it is not the end of understanding. Knowledge should bring a shift in activities. The core property of the soul is blissfulness, and in the individual soul that bliss is awakened through service. There is a higher soul, who is the source of all the individuals in fact. His core property is also blissfulness, but He feels it through accepting service. Thus there is a sender and a receiver. When the sender mistakenly thinks they are the receiver, they live in delusion.
The bhaktas, or devotees, don’t shun Vedanta philosophy. They may well be aware of their identity as Brahman, but to them real pleasure comes from directly offering service to the higher soul, the original receiver. In addition, the bhaktas offer worship to other servants, who send so much love to the same receiver. An example of one such servant is Nanda Maharaja, the king of Gokula.
Nanda is both a historical personality and a person who resides eternally in the spiritual sky of Goloka Vrindavana. The higher soul is known as Krishna in the Vedic tradition because of His all-attractiveness. He accepts service from others through situations that He creates. In order to receive, He must have a physical location. For a physical location He must have a perceivable form. This stands the principles of Vedanta on their head, for we are taught that spirit is formless. The spirit soul inside the body does not have a form; it only looks like it does because of the outer covering, which is maya.
Yet the highest soul does have a form, though He is not limited to only one. This paradox is understood only by the devotees; mere logic and mental speculation will never solve this puzzle. Nanda Maharaja is Krishna’s foster-father, and in Vrindavana Krishna rolls around on the ground, like an innocent child. Nanda offers devotion in the mood of parental affection, so there is some fear involved. There is the fear that Krishna will be in danger, that if intervention from the parents doesn’t arrive the young boy will be harmed.
But we know that God can never be harmed. He is always full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda. The seemingly helpless condition is created by Krishna on purpose to allow the senders to be confident in their position. If they were to view God with a reverential attitude, the tendency towards adopting the receiver attitude would strengthen, thereby leading to an unhappy state. Know that Vedanta philosophy, or any religious study for that matter, is meant to culminate in a state of devotion similar to that seen in the pleasure-land of Vrindavana-dhama. As Nanda is the king of that wonderful place, he is forever worthy of honor.
Vedanta knowledge certainly is great,
Takes intelligence to a higher state.
Upanishads and sankhya also wonderful,
Full of philosophy and truths meaningful.
But only one person does it for me,
He plays in Vrindavana for parents to see.
Just a tiny child, not very tall,
In the courtyard of father He crawls.
Worthy of honor is King Nanda,
Daily he gets to see son Krishna.