Chanting of The Holy Name is the Essence of Vedas

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.87.14 - Chanting of The Holy Name is the Essence of Vedas (download mp3)
by Adi Keshav Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 10.87.14
sri-srutaya ucuh
jaya jaya jahy ajam ajita dosa-grbhita-gunam
 tvam asi yad atmana samavaruddha-samasta-bhagah
aga-jagad-okasam akhila-sakty-avabodhaka te
 kvacid ajayatmana ca carato ’nucaren nigamah

The srutis said: Victory, victory to You, O unconquerable one! By Your very nature You are perfectly full in all opulences; therefore please defeat the eternal power of illusion, who assumes control over the modes of nature to create difficulties for conditioned souls. O You who awaken all the energies of the moving and nonmoving embodied beings, sometimes the Vedas can recognize You as You sport with Your material and spiritual potencies.

According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, the twenty-eight verses of the prayers of the personified Vedas (texts 14-41) represent the opinions of each of the twenty-eight major srutis. These chief Upanisads and other srutis concern themselves with various approaches to the Absolute Truth, and among them those srutis are supreme which emphasize pure, unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Upanisads direct our attention to the Personality of Godhead by first negating what is distinct from Him and then defining some of His important characteristics.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti interprets the first words of this prayer, jaya jaya, to mean “please reveal Your superexcellence.” The word jaya is repeated out of either reverence or joy.

“How should I reveal My excellence?” the Lord might ask.

The srutis answer by requesting Him to mercifully destroy the ignorance of all living beings and attract them to His lotus feet.

The Lord says, “But Maya, who imposes ignorance on the jivas, is full of good qualities [grbhita-gunam]. Why should I oppose her?”

“Yes,” the Vedas answer, “but she has taken on the three modes of nature to bewilder the conditioned souls and make them falsely identify with their material bodies. Her modes of goodness, passion and ignorance, moreover, are tainted [dosa-grbhita] because You are not manifest in their presence.”

The srutis go on to address the Lord as ajita, implying that “only You cannot be conquered by Maya, whereas others, like Brahma, are defeated by their own faults.”

The Lord responds, “But what proof do you have that she cannot conquer Me?”

“The proof lies in the fact that in Your original state You have already realized the perfection of all opulences.”

At this point the Lord might object that merely destroying the ignorance of the jivas will not suffice to bring them to His lotus feet, since the jiva soul, even after his ignorance is dispelled, cannot attain the Lord without engaging in devotional service. As the Lord states in His own words, bhaktyaham ekaya grahyah: “I am attainable only through devotional service.” (Bhag. 11.14.21)

To this objection the srutis reply, “My Lord, O You who awaken all energies, after creating the intelligence and senses of the living entities, You inspire them to work hard and enjoy the fruits of their labor. In addition, by Your mercy You awaken their ability to pursue the progressive paths of knowledge, mystic yoga and devotional service, allowing them to advance toward You in Your aspects of Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan, respectively. And when jñana, yoga and bhakti mature, You empower the living beings to directly realize You in each of Your three aspects.”

If the Lord were to ask for authoritative evidence to support this statement by the personified Vedas, they humbly reply, “We ourselves are the evidence. On some occasions — such as now, the time of creation — You consort with Your external, Maya potency, whereas You are always present with Your internal energy. It is at times such as the present, when Your activity is outwardly manifest, that we, the Vedas, can recognize You in Your play.”

Thus endowed with authority by their personal association with the Supreme Lord, the srutis promulgate the processes of karma, jñana, yoga and bhakti as various means for the conditioned souls to employ their intelligence, senses, mind and vitality in search of the Absolute Truth.

In many places the Vedas glorify the transcendental, personal qualities of the Supreme. The following verse appears in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.11), the Gopala-tapani Upanisad (Uttara 97), and the Brahma Upanisad (4.1):

eko devah sarva-bhutesu gudhah
 sarva-vyapi sarva-bhutantaratma
karmadhyaksah sarva-bhutadhivasah
 saksi cetah kevalo nirgunas ca

“The one Supreme Lord lives hidden inside all created things. He pervades all matter and sits within the hearts of all living beings. As the indwelling Supersoul, He supervises their material activities. Thus, while having no material qualities Himself, He is the unique witness and giver of consciousness.”

The Supreme’s personal qualities are further described in the following quotations from the Upanisads: Yah sarva-jñah sa sarva-vid yasya jñana-mayam tapah. “He who is all-knowing, from whom the potency of all knowledge comes — He is the wisest of all” (Mundaka Upanisad 1.1.9); sarvasya vasi sarvasyesanah: “He is the Lord and controller of everyone” (Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 4.4.22); and yah prthivyam tisthan prthivya antaro yam prthivi na veda: “He who resides within the earth and pervades it, whom the earth does not know.” (Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 3.7.3)

The Lord’s role in creation is mentioned in many statements of the sruti. The Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (1.2.4) states, so ’kamayata bahu syam: “He desired, ‘I will become many.’” The phrase so ’kamayata (“He desired”) here implies that the Lord’s personality is eternal, for even prior to the creation the Absolute Truth experienced desire, and desire is an attribute unique to persons. The Aitareya Upanisad (3.11) similarly states, sa aiksata tat-tejo ’srjata: “He saw, and His power sent forth the creation.” Here the word tat-tejah refers to the Lord’s partial expansion Maha-Visnu, who glances upon Maya and thus manifests the material creation. Or tat-tejah may refer to the Lord’s impersonal Brahman feature, His potency of all-pervasive, eternal existence. As described in Sri Brahma-samhita (5.40):

yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti-
 kotisv asesa-vasudhadi-vibhuti-bhinnam
tad brahma niskalam anantam asesa-bhutam
 govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is endowed with great power. The glowing effulgence of His transcendental form is the impersonal Brahman, which is absolute, complete and unlimited and which displays the varieties of countless planets, with their different opulences, in millions and millions of universes.”

In summing up this verse, Srila Sridhara Svami prays:

jaya jayajita jahy aga-jangama-
 vrtim ajam upanita-mrsa-gunam
na hi bhavantam rte prabhavanty ami
 nigama-gita-gunarnavata tava

“All glories, all glories to You, O unconquerable one! Please defeat the influence of Your eternal Maya, who covers all moving and nonmoving creatures and who rules over the modes of illusion. Without Your influence, all these Vedic mantras would be powerless to sing of You as the ocean of transcendental qualities.”