How can we avoid getting caught in doubts about unimportant issues while studying scriptures?
Transcription: Jyoti Shirasangi Mataji
Question: While studying Shastra, we tend to get up caught in details, which are not very important or relevant for our service. Like how Chitraketu had 10 million wives. How do we avoid getting caught in such details, focusing on the essence of shastra in our studies?
Answer: It is very important to keep our purpose in mind whenever we are doing anything. If we are clear, why we are practicing Krishna consciousness, that is, so that we can develop love for Krishna, and with that particular focus in mind, we orient everything around us accordingly.
Just like, when we go to college, there are so many different subjects to study. We will select which subjects are in our syllabus, and not only that, even for the subjects within our syllabus, there may be a wide range of books. We are unlikely to be studying all those books. We will study those books, which are important for our exams, and it is also good if we can gain deeper understanding of the subject. But, a deeper understanding doesn’t mean we read everything about that subject, unless that is the subject which we want to take our future currier in.
Thisis simply a practical approach, that we go to college for studies, getting education, degree, knowledge, becoming specialist in a subject, and according to the goal, we orient our studies accordingly. In the same way, when we come to scriptures, what is our purpose of studying scriptures? It says, “SHLOKA—“so, anything that doesn’t increase our attraction to Krishna, it is a waste of time. Even our Dharma may become a waste of time, off course this is referring to Varnashrama Dharma, but it is the principle that applies to all activities.
Studying scriptures is never a waste of time, but it may not be the optimum use of time, to focus on the details which are not very important for us. Srila Prabhupad himself shows this attitude in the 10th and 11th chapter of SB. Krishna is departing from Hastinapur and going to Dwarka, and the path along which he went is given. So, Prabhupada explains that, this is how the Lord has travelled, and sometimes the Historians try to retrace the exact path which Krishna took. Prabhupada says, it is almost impossible, because the geology of the earth keeps changing, the nomenclature changes.
As far as we are concerned, we are simply satisfied that, Krishna has now reached Dwarka, and is going to perform his pastime with his devotees over there. This is the mood that we have, and we should be clear, that our focus in studying scriptures is, for the sake of developing our attraction to Krishna.
Then, if certain details trouble us, they are just too glairing out. E.g. Chitraketu maharaja having 10 million wives, how it is possible? If they strike or trouble us too much, then we can surely ask some senior devotees, and get some basic understanding. But, if you want an exhaustive understanding, e.g. if you want to know exactly what is the geography that is described in Mahabharata, Bhagvatam, or Ramayana, and then see how it correlates, then we may have to make that our service.
The 1st is, most devotees may not even care about this, and move forward, some good number of devotees may want some basic clarification, and very few but important devotees may want to make understanding and explaining this to others as their primary service, and the all 3 are well situated.
Those who take up this as service, they may have to read other associated literature, may have to do their own specialization, like Prabhupada had devotee scientist disciples, who read scores of books apart from Prabhupada’s books, so that they could understand, and they have given their understanding in many books. E.g. if we find Cosmology difficult to understand, we can read 5th canto clerificatory book written called “Vedic Cosmography” by Sadhakud prabhu.
But, there also, in 5th canto, the primary thing that Vishvanatha Chakravarti describes is, this form is described by Shukadeva goswami, for the sake of yoga mishra bhaktas that are there in the audience, along with Parikshat maharaja. This form is not meant for devotees. They will meditate on Krishna in Vrindavan. This form is for those who have that material attraction to material things, although subtler material things, beyond immediate gross perception, for them this form is described.
Now moving forward, keeping our focus in mind, what is it I want to do through scriptural studies? Increase my attraction to Krishna, and then accordingly we can orient our studies.
Another very important point is that, we should know that, doubts can lead to greater understanding, and doubts can also obstruct greater understanding. Why? Because sometimes when there is a doubt, if wepursue the doubt systematically and get it resolved, it may lead to greater understanding. But, at the same time, if the doubt simply dienergises and demotivates us in our practice of devotional service, and keeps haunting us, sucking our energy, then it can become an obstacle to deeper understanding, because the central focus of the scripture, we are unable to put our heart in studying that, and therefore we become impeded.
By knowing that, doubt is not always a sign of intelligence, specially just giving in to the doubt. As doubt is 1 function of intelligence, but, if we just entertain every doubt and focus on it, and let it distract us from our devotional service, then we understand that, we are not using our intelligence adequately well enough.
It is 1 level of intelligence that we need to doubt, because a foolish cant doubt, but, it is also the deeper level of intelligence to recognize, which doubts are worth of pursuing right now, which doubts can be differed for a later stage, and which doubts can be neglected because they are not relevant to us. only when we have that intelligence of prioritizing the things that we do, similarly we need to prioritize the doubts which need to be dealt with, because the scriptures are spoken to an audience, who is been brought up in entirely different worldview, and we have been brought up in entirely different worldview. So, naturally there is going to be huge doubts.
irrespective of the worldview there and irrespective of the worldview today, the central truth, “we are not the body we are the soul, and it is in spiritual love for the supreme Lord there is supreme happiness” those truths are centrality and eternal, and it is those truths that we must focus on, in our practice of devotional service in general, and in our study of scriptures also.
By remembering our purpose and prioritizing the utilization of our intellectual energy in dealing with the most important issues , an putting our doubts in an hierarchy, those which need to be dealt, those which need to be deffered, and those which can be indefinitely deffered, we can concentrate and make spiritual advancement.