Is Smrti Less Than Sruti?

Recently we have received an interesting comment from a person whose internet name is Disturbed Jellyfish (indeed funny nickname!) on one of our new Kick on the Face vlogs which deals with the subject of Krsna vs the demigods. Please watch the video here if you still haven not.

The following debate took place:

Sir, the Vedic scriptures are very clear that Vishnu as well as all the other Devas and the entire universe are part of Brahman, this is the well established truth in the Vedic scripture. Bhakti is a noble and legitimate path to realization but please understand that the highest truth is knowledge of Brahman.
They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan. (Rig Veda Mandala 1 Hymn 164)
The Vâlakhilyas said: O Saint, thou art the teacher, thou art the teacher. What thou hast said, has been properly laid up in our mind. Now answer us a further question: Agni, Vâyu, Âditya, Time which is Breath, Food, Brahmâ, Rudra, Vishnu, thus do some meditate on one, some on another. Say which of these is the best for us. He said to them:
These are but the chief manifestations of the highest, the immortal, the incorporeal Brahman. He who is devoted to one, rejoices here in his world thus he said. Brahman indeed is all this, and a man may meditate on, worship, or discard also those which are its chief manifestations. With these he proceeds to higher and higher worlds, and when all things perish, he becomes one with the Purusha, yes, with the Purusha. (Maitrayani Upanishad chapter 4 verse 5-6)
Verily in the beginning this was Brahman, that Brahman knew its self only, saying, ‘I am Brahman.’ From it all this sprang. Thus, whatever Deva was awakened , he indeed became that Brahman; and the same with Rishis and men. The Rishi Vâmadeva saw and understood it, singing, ‘I was Manu, I was the sun.’ Therefore now also he who thus knows that he is Brahman, becomes all this, and even the Devas cannot prevent it, for he himself is their self.
Now if a man worships another deity, thinking the deity is one and he another, he does not know. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad chapter 1 verse 10)
sir, i went through your post and the citations you have brought up. you have stated that vishnu and all the devas and universe are mere part of Brahman and that this is a well-established truth of the Vedic scriptures. I would like to point out that your statements prove nothing conclusive. You have simply picked up statements that seemingly support your conclusion without touching the quotes presented in the video. This is a typical example of what we call ardha-kukkuti-nyaya — the logic of accepting half of a hen. The farmer once thought: The head of the chichen simply eats, let me cut it and keep the bottom of the chicken only so i can continue having nice eggs. If you indeed want to present a conclusive decision supported by Vedic statements, you must explain the citations that we have presented in the video and how they support the meaning you are trying to impress on us here. Otherwise you are leaving us sir with the impression that somehow the Vedic literatures are contradictory and since anything contradictory is tinged with a mundane mistake, the question arises: why do you deem the Vedas authoritative to the extent of quoting them to support your impersonal standpoint? I hope you can understand me rightly and supply the very much needed explanations of the quotations cited in the video. I also add some more quotations for you to contemplate upon that clearly show that the Brahman and devas are clearly subordinate to the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
jneyam yat tat pravaksyami
yaj jnatvamrtam asnute
anadi mat-param brahma
na sat tan nasad ucyate
I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. This is beginningless, and it is SUBORDINATE to Me. It is called Brahman, the spirit, and it lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.
Bg 13.13
mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva
O conquerer of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.
Bg 7.7
vedaham etam purusam mahantam aditya-varnam tamasah parastat
tam eva vidvan amrta iha bhavati nanyah pantha vidyate ayanaya
yasmat param naparam asti kincid yasmannaniyo na jyayo ‘sti kincit
“I know that Supreme Personality of Godhead who is transcendental to all material conceptions of darkness. Only he who knows Him can transcend the bonds of birth and death. There is no way for liberation other than this knowledge of that Supreme Person.
“There is no truth superior to that Supreme Person because He is the supermost. He is smaller than the smallest, and He is greater than the greatest. He is situated as a silent tree, and He illumines the transcendental sky, and as a tree spreads its roots, He spreads His extensive energies.”
(Svetasvatara Upanisad )
kleso ‘dhikataras tesam
avyakta hi gatir duhkham
dehavadbhir avapyate
For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.
Bg 12.5
ye ‘nye ‘ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ‘nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
[Someone may say that aside from devotees, who always seek shelter at the Lord’s lotus feet, there are those who are not devotees but who have accepted different processes for attaining salvation. What happens to them? In answer to this question, Lord Brahma and the other demigods said:] O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.
Srimad Bhagavatam 10.2.32
brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yas casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva
visate tad-anantaram
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me. One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.”
Bhagavad-gita (18.54-55)
brahmanyo devaki-putrah
“The son of Devaki, Krishna, is the Supreme Personality.” (Narayan Upanishad 4)
“In the beginning of the creation there was only the supreme Personality Narayana. There was no Brahma, no Shiva, no water, no fire, no moon, no stars in the sky, no sun.” (Maha Upanishad 1)
(Narayan is another expansion of Lord Shri Krishna as confirmed in Shrimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.30 where Lord Shri Krishna is addressed as chaturbhuje which means fourhanded (Narayan).
asya mahato bhutasya nisvasitam etad yad rg-vedo yajur-vedah samavedo ‘tharvangirasah.
“The four Vedas-namely the Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda — are all emanations from the breathing of the great Personality of Godhead.”
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 4.5.11)
All Vedic literature agrees that Krsna is the source of Brahma, Siva and all other demigods. In the Atharva Veda (Gopala-tapani Upanisad 1.24) it is said, yo brahmanam vidadhati purvam yo vai vedams ca gapayati sma krsnah: “It was Krsna who in the beginning instructed Brahma in Vedic knowledge and who disseminated Vedic knowledge in the past.” Then again the Narayana Upanisad (1) says, atha puruso ha vai narayano ‘kamayata prajah srjeyeti: “Then the Supreme Personality Narayana desired to create living entities.” The Upanisad continues, narayanad brahma jayate, narayanad prajapatih prajayate, narayanad indro jayate, narayanad astau vasavo jayante, narayanad ekadasa rudra jayante, narayanad dvadasadityah: “From Narayana, Brahma is born, and from Narayana the patriarchs are also born. From Narayana, Indra is born, from Narayana the eight Vasus are born, from Narayana the eleven Rudras are born, from Narayana the twelve Adityas are born.” This Narayana is an expansion of Krsna.
It is said in the same Vedas, brahmanyo devaki-putrah: “The son of Devaki, Krsna, is the Supreme Personality.” (Narayana Upanisad 4) Then it is said, eko vai narayana asin na brahma na isano napo nagni-samau neme dyav-aprthivi na naksatrani na suryah: “In the beginning of the creation there was only the Supreme Personality Narayana. There was no Brahma, no Siva, no water, no fire, no moon, no stars in the sky, no sun.” (Maha Upanisad 1) In the Maha Upanisad it is also said that Lord Siva was born from the forehead of the Supreme Lord. Thus the Vedas say that it is the Supreme Lord, the creator of Brahma and Siva, who is to be worshiped.
In the Moksa-dharma Krsna also says,
prajapatim ca rudram capy
aham eva srjami vai
tau hi mam na vijanito
mama maya-vimohitau
“The patriarchs, Siva and others are created by Me, though they do not know that they are created by Me because they are deluded by My illusory energy.” In the Varaha Purana it is also said,
narayanah paro devas
tasmaj jatas caturmukhah
tasmad rudro ‘bhavad devah
sa ca sarva-jnatam gatah
“Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and from Him Brahma was born, from whom Siva was born.”
Bg 10.8
purport by His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the greatest exponent of the Vedic culture in the world and in the history of mankind
First let me address the first verse you mentioned (Rig Veda 1.22.20) which praises Lord Vishnu as having the highest abode. You take this praise of Vishnu to mean that he is the supreme, if this were the only verse in fours Vedas that praised a Deva in this way then your assessment would be absolutely true. However let us look to see if there are places where a Deva is praised in a similar way or is praised as being even greater. We can see that there are many places where this is the case.
indrasya karma sukṛtā purūṇi vratāni devā na minanti viśve
dādhāra yaḥ pṛthivīṃ dyāmutemāṃ jajāna sūryamuṣasaṃ sudaṃsāḥ
Many are Indra’s nobly wrought achievements, and none of all the Devas transgress his statutes. He beareth up this earth and heaven, and, doer of marvels, he begot the Sun and Morning. (Rig Veda 3.32.8)
This verse says that Indra is the creator who created the universe, and that no other Deva can go above his status.
ekarāḷ asya bhuvanasya rājasi śacīpata indra viśvābhirūtibhiḥ
sasthāvānā yavayasi tvameka icchacīpata indra viśvābhirūtibhiḥ
kṣemasya ca prayujaśca tvamīśiṣe śacīpata indra viśvābhirūtibhiḥ
Sole Ruler, thou art king of this world of life, O Indra, Lord of Strength, with all thy saving help. Thou only part these two consistent worlds, O Indra, Lord of Strength, with all thy saving help. Thou art the Lord supreme over rest and energy, O Indra, Lord of Strength, with all thy saving help. (Rig Veda 8.37.3-4)
Indra is here called the singular ruler of the universe giving energy to living beings.
pari dhāmāni marmṛśad varuṇasya puro ghaye viśve devā anu vrataṃ nabhantāmanyake same
sa samudro apīcyasturo dyāmiva rohati ni yadāsu yajurdadhe
sa māyā arcinā padāstṛṇān nākamāruhan nabhantāmanyake same
yasya śvetā vicakṣaṇā tisro bhūmīradhikṣitaḥ
triruttarāṇi papraturvaruṇasya dhruvaṃ sadaḥ sa saptānāmirajyati nabhantāmanyake same
He wraps these regions as a robe; he contemplates the tribes of Gods and all the works of mortal men. Before the home of Varuṇa all the Gods follow his decree. He is an Ocean far-removed, yet through the heaven to him ascends the worship which these realms possess. With his bright foot he overthrew their magic, and went up to heaven. Ruler, whose bright far-seeing rays, pervading all three earths, have filled the three superior realms of heaven. Firm is the seat of Varuṇa: over the Seven he rules as King. (Rig Veda 8.41.7-9)
These verses says incredible things about Varuna. That all of the Devas follows his decree, that he rules the seven realms of the universe.
tisro dyāvo nihitā antarasmin tisro bhūmīruparāḥ ṣaḍvidhānāḥ
ghṛtso rājā varuṇaścakra etaṃ divi preṅkhaṃhiraṇyayaṃ śubhe kam
On him three heavens rest and are supported, and the three earths are there in sixfold order.
The wise King Varuṇa hath made in heaven that golden swing to cover it with glory. (Rig Veda 7.87.5)
Here we can see that Varuna is that upon which the realms hang, with the implication being that he is the creator and maintainer of these realms, without whom these realms could not exist.
pra sīmādityo asṛjad vidhartān ṛtaṃ sindhavo varuṇasya yanti
na śrāmyanti na vi mucantyete vayo na paptū raghuyāparijman
He made them flow, the Āditya, the Sustainer: the rivers run by Varuṇa’s commandment.
These feel no weariness, nor cease from flowing: swift have they flown like birds in air around us. (Rig Veda 2.28.4)
This is an important verse it shows how Varuna commands the world.
aditirdyauraditirantarikṣamaditirmātā sa pitā sa putraḥ
viśve devā aditiḥ pañca janā aditirjātamaditirjanitvam
Aditi is the heaven, Aditi is mid-air, Aditi is the mother and the sire and son.
Aditi is all Devas, Aditi is five-classed men, Aditi is all that hath been born and shall be born. (Rig Veda 1.89.10)
Here it is said that Aditi who is the mother of the Devas, is the supreme. The verse says she is the mother and child, she is all the Devas, and she is everything that has been born.
Before I speak about the significance of the verses cited above I have to speak about some of your choices of citations. You have cited the Narayana Upanishad, the Maha Upanishad, the Gopala-Tapani Upanishad and the Srimad Bhagavatam Purana. You’ve cited these with the intention of using them to demonstrate that Krishna is the supreme.
The Upanishads you mentioned are not the original Vedic Upanishads, they are what are known as “sectarian Upanishads” which were composed thousands of years after the time of the original 10 Vedic Upanishads. This means they are not to be taken as strictly authoritative literature, they are to be taken as for inspiration.
Here is what the great scholar of Vedic thought S. Radhakrishnan has to say on the matter: “The Upanishads are generally accounted to be 108 in number, of which ten are the chief, on which Shankara has commented. These are the oldest and the most authoritative-There is more of a pure speculation present in the early prose Upanishads, while in the later ones there is more of religious worship and devotion in presenting the philosophy of the Upanishads, Deussen arranges the Upanishads in the following order: 1) Ancient prose Upanishads: Brihadaranyaka, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Kausitaki, Kena, 2) Verse Upanishads: Isha, Katha, Mundaka, and Svetasvatara, 3) Later prose: Prasna, and Maitrayani, all these, excepting the Maitrayani are called the classical Upanishads.” (Indian Philosophy by S. Radhakrishnan, Volume 1, Chapter 4, Page 111)
We know that the sectarian Upanishads like the ones you have mentioned were written much more recently than the original Vedic Upanishads because of the Sanskrit. If you read an article written today in English and compared it to the English found in the works of Shakespeare one would understand that the two texts clearly come from different time periods.
If you still believe in the validity of the sectarian Upanishads you cited, then allow me to make citations of my own, of other verses from sectarian Upanishads.
Rudra is one and only one. There is none second to him. He rules all worlds by his power. He pervades fully in all beings. He is the one who, at the time of deluge, absorbs all beings. He is the one who creates all beings and upkeeps them. He alone exists, in all organs where birth takes place. He travels among all beings and is the reason for their existence. The seeker would get immeasurable peace by searching and surrendering to this god, who gives everything to the one who asks and who is praiseworthy. (Atharvasiras Upanishad 5.2-3)
The Sun is the Self of the world, moving as well as un-moving. From Surya indeed are these creatures born, so also the Yajna (Sacrifice), Parjanya (Rains), food and spirit. (Surya Upanishad 5)
As we can see these sectarian Upanishads can say that Vishnu is the supreme, but others can just as easily say Shiva is the supreme or Surya is the supreme.
From these verses which are very clear in their statements, we can see that Indra has created the universe and is the highest Deva. However we see that Varuna is also called the highest Devas who rules over the universe, and that Aditi contains within her all things including the Devas, which clearly means that she is the supreme Devi. It follows that the other Devas could be called the supreme. You are correct that Vishnu is the supreme, but he is not the only supreme.
We cannot say that Vishnu is the only supreme because of what we read in (Rig Veda 1.22.20) because there are clearly places where other beings are called the supreme. To only read the verses claiming Vishnu as the supreme and not the others would be a case of ardha-kukkuti-nyaya.
From here there are two places we can go: 1) We can say that the Vedas are contradictory and therefore wrong. 2) We can consider the idea that all the Devas are the supreme. The Vedas support the latter option. This is where my first citation comes in.
indraṃ mitraṃ varuṇamaghnimāhuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo gharutmān
ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadantyaghniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ
They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan. (Rig Veda 1.164.46)
There is one Brahman who manifests himself as the many Devas. All beings that exist are forms of the one supreme.
Now I will move to the purpose of my second citation:
The Vâlakhilyas said: O Saint, thou art the teacher, thou art the teacher. What thou hast said, has been properly laid up in our mind. Now answer us a further question: Agni, Vâyu, Âditya, Time which is Breath, Food, Brahmâ, Rudra, Vishnu, thus do some meditate on one, some on another. Say which of these is the best for us. He said to them: These are but the chief manifestations of the highest, the immortal, the incorporeal Brahman. He who is devoted to one, rejoices here in his world thus he said. Brahman indeed is all this, and a man may meditate on, worship, or discard also those which are its chief manifestations. With these he proceeds to higher and higher worlds, and when all things perish, he becomes one with the Purusha, yes, with the Purusha. (Maitrayani Upanishad 4.5-6)
This is a definitive and very clear statement that 1) Vishnu is one of the manifestations of Brahman, and 2) the highest Brahman is incorporeal or without form.
Before I can comment on the interpretations of the result we have just concluded let me comment on your citations from the Bhagavad Gita. From 13.3 I believe this is a mistranslation.
jneyam yat tat pravaksyami
yaj jnatvamrtam asnute
anadi mat-param brahma
na sat tan nasad ucyate
Swami Prabhupada takes the phrase “(devanagari used in the original post)” which is “anādimatparaṁ brahma” and he splits it’s into “anādi-matparaṁ brahma” which Swami Prabhupada translates to “Brahman which is subordinate to me.” A more accurate translation would be: “anādimat-paraṁ brahma” or “Brahman which has no beginning.” However even if we do allow the “anādi-matparaṁ brahma,” the phrase “matparaṁ” simply means (mat-me param-supreme) which would translate “anādi-matparaṁ brahma” to “I am the supreme eternal Brahma” nowhere is there implied that Brahman is a lesser form of Krishna. Also worth noting is that in 11.55 Swami Prabhupada translates “mat-paramaḥ“ as “considering me the Supreme” and in 12.20 translates it as “intent on me as the supreme goal.”
From here we must understand that this Brahman which makes up the entire universe is the same as the self within us, that they are Advaita, or not-two.
This is where my third citation comes into play:
Verily in the beginning this was Brahman, that Brahman knew its self only, saying, ‘I am Brahman.’ From it all this sprang. Thus, whatever Deva was awakened , he indeed became that Brahman; and the same with Rishis and men. The Rishi Vâmadeva saw and understood it, singing, ‘I was Manu, I was the sun.’ Therefore now also he who thus knows that he is Brahman, becomes all this, and even the Devas cannot prevent it, for he himself is their self. Now if a man worships another deity, thinking the deity is one and he another, he does not know. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.10)
Here we can see evidence that the self and Brahman are one. “The Rishi Vâmadeva saw and understood it, singing, ‘I was Manu, I was the sun.’” How can this Rishi be one with Manu and with the sun? It is because these three are all Brahman. It is not the case that the Rishi is “part of a larger being that includes Manu and the sun,” he tells us quite clearly “I was Manu, I was the sun.”
“Therefore now also he who thus knows that he is Brahman, becomes all this, and even the Devas cannot prevent it, for he himself is their self.” This shows that the self is the same as the Devas, who as we established are manifestations of Brahman.
“Now if a man worships another deity, thinking the deity is one and he another, he does not know.” This is a crucial statement. It spells out quite literally that the we are the Devas we worship and if we think we are different from that which we worship, then we do not know. If you consider yourself and Krishna as being two instead of being not two (Advaita) the Upanishads are telling you that you do not understand the truth.
That which is brilliant, smaller than small, that on which the worlds are founded and their inhabitants, that is the indestructible Brahman, that is the breath, speech, mind; that is the true, that is the immortal. That is to be hit. Hit it, O friend! Having taken the Upanishad as the bow, as the great weapon, let him place on it the arrow, sharpened by devotion! Then having drawn it with a thought directed to that which is, hit the mark, O friend, that which is the Indestructible! Om is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is called its aim. It is to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and then, as the arrow (becomes one with the target), he will become one with Brahman. (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.2-4)
Here it is shown that the goal of spiritual life is to reach Brahman, and it says quite frankly we must attain oneness with Brahman.
For he (Brahman) it is who sees, hears, smells, tastes, perceives, conceives, acts, he whose essence is knowledge, the person, and he dwells in the highest, indestructible Self, He who knows that indestructible being, obtains the highest and indestructible, he without a shadow, without a body, without color, bright, yes, O friend, he who knows it, becomes all-knowing, becomes all. (Prasna Upanishad 4.9-10)
Is says here again that one who knows the truth about Brahman “becomes all-knowing” and “becomes all” implying union with Brahman.
When they have reached him, the sages become satisfied through knowledge, they are conscious of their Self, their passions have passed away, and they are tranquil. The wise, having reached Him who is omnipresent everywhere, devoted to the Self, enter into him wholly. (Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.5)
With spiritual practice we become one with Brahman, the phrase “devoted to the self” is an important phrase here because it serves as a reminder that the self is not different from Brahman, who we must worship, and how should we not worship Brahman? Remember from (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.10) that if we worship Brahman as different from us then it means we do not understand.
This is my humble presentation of my knowledge, but the point I want to get across the most that it is not wise to simply dismiss all other philosophies besides Vaishnavism and call them nastikas. There is Shaiva Siddhanta, Kashmir Shaivism, Shaktism, Raja Yoga, Samkhya, Advaita Vedanta, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and the thousands of other schools of thought, are you really telling me you have heard all the arguments from these schools and rejected them? Here in India we are very respectful to the beliefs of others. I have only ever seen Christians denounce other belief system so vehemently. I must ask you have you actually read the texts of acharyas of other school? It is not right to simply read from one school of thought and then immediately denounce all others without learning what they have to say. So I encourage you to look at the Vedas with some humility and an open mind and seek from other teachers besides only the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Om Namo Narayanaya.
Dear Sir. Thank you for your comment. Although I cannot accept your conclusions in any way, I have to applaud you for your great interest in the Vedic scriptures and your ability to discuss these matters in a respectful and logical manner by quoting various slokas. Let this discussion be an oportunity to learn from each other rather than an ego-triggered ongoing argument without any purpose.
With your permission, I would like to humbly draw a summary of your arguments you have presented above for more clarity and I shall then respond each and one of them point by point. You have stated:
1) The Rg Veda and other “sectarian” Upanisads give many statements where different devas or demigods are proclaimed to be the supreme. Therefore the quote (Rig Veda 1.22.20) cannot be accepted as the final conclusion on the matter.
2)The verses I have quoted cannot be accepted as the final conclusion since according to a great scholar of Vedic thought Dr. Radhakrishnan these scriptures are not the original Vedas and thus lack the same level of authoritativeness as the original srutis have.
3) Bhaktivedanta Swami has mistranslated this particular sloka of the Bhagavad-gita. (13.13)
4)The final conclusion of the Vedic knowledge is that all devas are simply manifestation of one formless Brahman.
5) One cannot attain proper conclusion by sticking to one acharya or one sampradaya only without reading the texts of acharyas of other schools and hearing all their possible arguments.
I shall now discuss all these.
1) We have quotes praising different devas as supreme and we have quotes praising Vishnu as supreme. The dictionary meaning of “supreme” means that he has no equal and no superior. Therefore there can only be one supreme. It goes against all logic to say “there are many supremes”. If there are many supremes, there is no meaning to supreme. In order for the supreme to exist there must be those who are inferior or subordinate to the supreme. So the premise that all devas are supreme cannot be accepted. We must therefore decide conclusively who is that supreme -whether it is Vishnu, Indra, Siva, Varuna or it is the impersonal formless Brahman.
In terms of the references you have quoted, it is not surprising to find such glorifications of devas in the the four Vedas as the four Vedas encourage satisfaction of material desires through their worship(karma-kanda). For instance, one who desires sex should worship the heavenly king Indra, and one who desires good progeny should worship the great progenitors called the Prajapatis. One who desires good fortune should worship Durgadevi, and one who desires power should worship Agni, the god of fire. One who aspires for money should worship the Vasus, and one who desires a strong body should worship the earth. This however can hardly be compared to the worship of Vishnu, which is materially unmotivated and transcendental. Lord Krsna addresses this point in the Bhagavad-gita:
Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.
(Bg. 2.42)
The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.
(Bg 2.45)
Then in the 6th chapter Krsna says:
yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
[Bg. 6.47]
The Sanskrit word bhajate has its root in the verb bhaj which is used when there is need of service. The English word “worship” cannot be used in the same sense as bhaja. Worship means to adore, or to show respect and honor to the worthy one. But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or in other words Vishnu. Worship means there is some motive. I worship some friend or some big man. I have some motive, that this big man is a very big businessman and if I can please him then he may give me some business, I’ll derive some profit. So the worship of demigods is like that. The people worship different demigods for some particular purpose. That is condemned in the Bhagavad-gita.
Kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah prapadyante ‘nya devatah [Bg. 7.20].
Those who have lost their sense, bewildered by lust, they go to worship demigods with a motive. So when we speak of worship, there is motive. But when we speak of service, there is no motive. Service is love. Just like mother renders service to the child. There is no motive. It is love only. Everyone can neglect that child, that mother cannot. Because there is love. And that is recommended in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Sa bai punsam paro dharmo yato bhakti radhokshaje
Ahaituki apratihata yaya atma samprasidati.
The most perfect occupation for all human kind is what is conductive to the attainment of devotional service of transcendence Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and undeterred so that the same shall completely satisfy the self.
SB 1.2.6
Furthermore, sacrificial hymns offered to the demigods generally conclude with the words om tat sat.Bhagavad-gita gives confirmation:
om-tat-sad iti nirdeso
brahmanas tri-vidhah smrtah
brahmanas tena vedas ca
yajnas ca vihitah pura
From the beginning of creation, the three syllables om tat sat have been used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth [Brahman]. They were uttered by brahmanas while chanting the Vedic hymns and during sacrifices, for the satisfaction of the Supreme.
[Bg. 17.23]
The three words om tat sat indicate the Absolute Truth, the Supreme, Bhagavan (Visnu). These words are uttered to assure the perfection of the sacrifice. Some scholars are surprised to find that the Puranas describe Lord Visnu (or, Lord Krsna) as the highest aspect of the Absolute Truth when supposedly the Vedas do not stress the point. And consequently many scholars conclude that Visnu grew in popularity over the centuries. But actually the Vedas do stress the words om tat sat, om tad visnoh. Whenever someone worshiped a demigod (Indra or Varuna or whomever) he made obeisances to Visnu for success. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna asserts that the benefits of the demigods are in actuality “bestowed by Me alone.” [Bg. 7.22] Because the four Vedas deal mainly with material elevation, and because Visnu is the Lord of liberation from material illusion, most sacrifices are to the demigods and not to Visnu. Yet by reciting om and om tad visnoh, even the followers of the karma-kanda acknowledge Visnu as the ultimate benefactor.
The Vedic siddhanta established in Bhagavad-gita corresponds to that of the four Vedas, although in the Vedas it is not so thoroughly developed. Nonetheless, there are many references in the four Vedas to the supremacy of the Supreme Bhagavan. Atharva Veda makes this statement: “The Supreme Person desired to create living entities, and thus Narayana created all living beings. From Narayana, Brahma was born. Narayana created all the Prajapatis [the patriarchs]. Narayana created Indra.”Also, yo brahmanam vidadhati purvam yo vai vedams ca gapayati sma krsnah: “It was Krsna who in the beginning instructed Brahma in the Vedic knowledge and who disseminated Vedic knowledge in the past.”The Vedas specify, brahmanyo devaki-putrah: “The son of Devaki, Krsna, is the Supreme Personality.” We also find, “In the beginning of the creation there was only the Supreme Personality Narayana. There was no Brahma, no Siva, no fire, no moon, no stars in the sky, no sun. There was only Krsna, who creates all and enjoys all.”
Although the karma-kanda portions of the Vedas give direction for material aggrandizement, the Vedas are actually meant for elevation to transcendental life. When the karma-kanda activities of sense gratification are finished, the chance for spiritual realization is offered in the form of the Upanisads.
Furthermore, Visnu is the chief of the primal demigods, including Brahma and Siva, and Indra is the chief of the administrative demigods. Therefore it is possible to call Indra supreme amongst the administrative demigods. However such glorification is only circumstantial. Please consider the following quotation:
Vishnu is glorified because of who and what He intrinsically is. Indra, on the other hand, is only glorious circumstantially.
Rig Veda 10.113.2
We can thus understand that the many statements about various other demigods being highest are written in the same fashion. Besides the om tad visnoh paramam padam sada verse from the Rg Veda, there are a couple of other slokas that confirm Vishnu’s supremacy over the demigods. For example:
Vishnu is the most ancient of all, yet also the most recent. Nothing and no one creates Vishnu, yet Vishnu creates everyone and everything.
Rig Veda 1.156.2
Narayana is the Lord of the universe. This master is the ruler of himself. He is the eternally auspicious one and he is constant and unchanging. This Narayana is the highest thing to be known. He is the inner-psyche of all. He is the supreme object and the highest goal of attainment.Narayana is the supreme Brahman. Narayana is the supreme Reality. Narayana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the supreme Self. Narayana is the most excellent meditate and meditation.
(The Narayana Suktam of the Yajurveda )
Another proof that the four Vedas are primarily focused on satisfaction of material desires and have very little to do with transcendence is confirmed in the Bhagavata Puranam. In the First Canto, Srila Vyasadeva is chastised by his spiritual master Narada Muni for encouraging people in the bodily conception of life by not ephasising the personal aspect of God in the Vedic literatures and he instructs him to explain the essence of all Vedas in the Amala Puranam (spotless puranam), namely the Srimad Bhagavatam. It is said there:
Addressing Vyasdeva, the son of Parashara, Narada enquired whether yourself is satisfied by identifying the body or the mind as the object of self realisation?
SB 1.5.2
And later on:
You have fully deliberated upon impersonal Brahman also and the knowledge derived also. Inspite of all these why should you be dispondent thinking that your self is undone oh my sir.
SB 1.5.4
Please note Vyasadeva deliberated upon impersonal Brahman but was still unsatisfied with his exposition of the Vedas considering it incomplete. Then:
Sri Narada said that you have practically not broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the personality of Godhead. Anything that does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord, is considered worthless philosophy.
SB 1.5.8
This is where Narada Muni instructs Srila Vyasadeva to write a natural commentary on the Vedanta sutra called Srimad Bhagavatam. If the author himself writes a commentary on his own literature, it is naturally superior to any other commentary.
As you the great sage have very broadly described the four principles beginning with religious performances, so you have not described glories of the Supreme Personality Vasudeva.
SB 1.5.9
Here we see the flaw of relying only on the four Vedas that are full of sacrificial performances. Without the clear description of the glories of the Supreme Lord, one becomes bewildered by these scriptures. For this reason, out of compassion for the general mass of people the Vaisnava acharyas generally do not comment upon them. Narada Muni explains:
The people in general are naturally inclined to enjoy and you have encouraged them in that way in the name of religiosity which is verily condemned and mostly unreasonable. Because they are guided under your instruction, they will accept such activities in the name of religion and will hardly care for their prohibition.
SB 1.5.15
I highly recommend that you study the commentary of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on the Srimad Bhagavatam to gain an extra understanding on the meaning of the four Vedas.
In the Second Chapter of the First Canto it is mentioned:
Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call the nondual substance as Absolute Who is known as Brahman, Parmatma or Bhagwan.
SB 1.2.11
Brahman, Parmatma and Bhagwan are qualitatively one and the same. The same substance is realised as impersonal Brahman by the student of Upanishads, as localised Parmatma by the yogis and as Bhagwan by the devotees. In other words Bhagwan or the Personality of Godhead is the last word of the Absolute Truth. Parmatma is a partial representation of the Personality of Godhead and impersonal Brahman is the glowing effulgence of the Personality of Godhead as the sunrays are to the Sun-God. Less intelligent students of either of the above schools sometimes argue in favour of his own respective realisation but those who are perfect seers of the Absolute Truth know that the above three features of the One Absolute Truth are a different perspective view of the seer from different angles of vision.
These three divine aspects can be explained by the example of the sun, which also has three different aspects, namely the sunshine, the sun’s surface and the sun planet itself. One who studies the sunshine only is the preliminary student. One who understands the sun’s surface is further advanced. And one who can enter into the sun planet is the highest. Ordinary students who are satisfied by simply understanding the sunshine — its universal pervasiveness and the glaring effulgence of its impersonal nature — may be compared to those who can realize only the Brahman feature of the Absolute Truth. The student who has advanced still further can know the sun disc, which is compared to knowledge of the Paramatma feature of the Absolute Truth. And the student who can enter into the heart of the sun planet is compared to those who realize the personal features of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Therefore, the bhaktas, or the transcendentalists who have realized the Bhagavan feature of the Absolute Truth, are the topmost transcendentalists, although all students who are engaged in the study of the Absolute Truth are engaged in the same subject matter. The sunshine, the sun disc and the inner affairs of the sun planet cannot be separated from one another, and yet the students of the three different phases are not in the same category.
2)First of all, it might be the opinion of Dr. Radhakrishnan that smrtis and parts of the Upanisad were written in later periods and therefore are not as authorized as the original srutis, but there is no evidence to this claim in the Vedas.
Second of all, even for argument’s sake if we accept such a premise, namely, that since the other literatures were written in later time periods, they are not as authorized, we would have to conclude according to the same logic that the statements of Dr. Radhakrishnan which have been written even later are even less authoritative. Therefore the statements such as “the later vedic literatures are not as authorized” are also not authorized and there is nothing else to be said in this regard.
Third of all, if the smrti is less authorized because it has been given in later periods how come the srutis themselves mention the smrti in the following verse? Please note:
nama va rg-vedo yajur-vedah sama-veda atharvanas caturtha itihasa-puranah pancamo vedanam vedah
“Indeed, Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva are the names of the four Vedas. The Itihasas and Puranas are the fifth Veda.” (Kauthumiya Chandogya Upanisad 7.1.4)
O stringent Maitreya, the Rig, the Yajur, the Sama, Atharva, the Atharvangirasa, and the Itihasas, the Puranas as well as the arts, the Upanishads, verses, aphorisms , elucidations, explanations and all the artistic knowledge of Itihasas and Puranas- all manifested from the breathing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 2.4.10)
So here we see that sruti themselves are claiming the smrtis such as Itihasas and Puranas to be part of the original Vedas. So since we do accept the athority of the srutis, we must accept the authority of the smrtis. It is unavoidable.
Fourth of all, if the whole argument is that the other Upanisads are not authorized because Sripada Sankaracarya did not comment upon them, that argument apparently rests on a very weak grounds. From the Puranas we get to know that Sripada Sankaracarya is none other than Lord Shiva Himself who comes to this world as Sankara with the purpose of bringing the people of this world back to the Vedic tradition after Lord Buddha had established the doctrine of ahimsa and atheistic voidism. Sankaracharya did so on the order of his master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is confirmed in the Padma Purana, in the words of Lord Siva himself:
mayavadam asac chastram pracchannam bauddham ucyate
mayaiva kalpitam devi kalau brahmana-rupina
brahmanas caparam rupam nirgunam vaksyate maya
sarva-svam jagato ‘py asya mohanartham kalau yuge
vedante tu maha-sastre mayavadam avaidikam
mayaiva vaksyate devi jagatam nasa-karanat
“The Mayavada philosophy is impious [asac chastra]. It is covered Buddhism. My dear Parvati, in Kali-yuga I assume the form of a brahmana and teach this imagined Mayavada philosophy. In order to cheat the atheists, I describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be without form and without qualities. Similarly, in explaining Vedanta I describe the same Mayavada philosophy in order to mislead the entire population toward atheism by denying the personal form of the Lord.”
In the Siva Purana the Supreme Personality of Godhead told Lord Siva:
dvaparadau yuge bhutva kalaya manusadisu
svagamaih kalpitais tvam ca janan mad-vimukhan kuru
“In Kali-yuga, mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings for the Vedas to bewilder them.”
It is difficult to ignore such statements of the sastra whether you consider them original or later writings. His teachings must be therefore seen from that angle of vision as a temporary measure for that particular time, place and circumstance and we should not see it in any other way.
And at last, but not least although externally preaching the impersonal understanding of the Absolute Truth, there are instances in Sankaracharya’s teachings that prove that he was actually a covered personalist. For example, in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, he states:
narayanah paro ‘vyaktad andam avyakta-sambhavam.
Narayana is beyond this material manifestation and is the cause of the material world.
(Sripad Sankaracharyas’s commentary on the Bhagavad-gita)
Because Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is beyond the material world, one cannot speculate upon Him by any material method. This is again confirmed in the Chandogya Upanisad (5.2.3). It is said there that when the Supreme Personality of Godhead desires to become many, He turns over to the material nature. As also confirmed in Aitareya Upanisad (1.1), sa aiksata: “The Lord glanced at material nature.” The cosmic manifestation did not exist before His glance; therefore His glance is not materially contaminated. His seeing power existed before the material creation; therefore His body is not material. His thinking, feeling and acting are all transcendental. In other words, it should be concluded that the mind by which the Lord thinks, feels and wills is transcendental, and the eyes by which He glances over material nature are also transcendental. Since His transcendental body and all His senses existed before the material creation, the Lord also has a transcendental mind and transcendental thinking, feeling and willing. This is the conclusion of all Vedic literature.Sankaracharya also advised his followers:
bhaja govindam bhaja govindam bhaja govindam mudha-mate
“You fools, you are talking about philosophical speculation, grammatical meaning, and eschewing. These are all nonsense. You cannot save yourself by doing this. When there will be death, Govinda can save you. Govinda can save you from falling down. So you foolish persons, you just worship Govinda.”
3)We cannot at all accept your statement that Bhaktivedanta Swami’s commentary is a mistranslation. Bhaktivedanta Swami is recognized by distinguished scholars. Here I am providing you reviews of his translation of the Bhagavad-gita from prominent Sanskrit scholars and professors from prestigious universities around the world. Their praises are hard to ignore.
“The original version of this work is by Swami Bhaktivedanta. Essentially, it consists of a commented translation of the Bhagavad-gita, edited in English, a language which the Swami has completely mastered, as he has Sanskrit and Bengali.
As successor to the Caitanya line, the author has right to an august title, according to the Indian usage: His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The great interest in reading his edition of the Gita lies in the authenticity of the interpretation according to the Caitanya tradition.”
Olivier Lacombe
Professor, Sanskrit and Indology,
Sorbonne University, Paris
Director, Institute of Indian Civilization, Paris
“This edition is doubly beneficial because in addition to the translation of the Sanskrit text, there is A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s masterful verse-by-verse commentary. As in his Bhagavad-gita, published in French in 1975 with preface by Prof. Olivier Lacombe, Swami Bhaktivedanta painstakingly presents the word-for-word critical translation of each mantra (Sanskrit stanza) before exposing its intrinsic meaning. “
Professor Jean Varenne
Dept. of Sanskrit and Indian Studies
Universite de Provence
Aix-en-Provence, France
“Swami Bhaktivedanta has offered a great service with his English translation and commentary on the great Upanishadic scripture, the Bhagavad-gita. This presentation with its many beautiful color pictures, is truly an inspired work.”
Dr. Judith Tyberg
Founder-Director, East-West Cultural Center
Los Angeles.
Professor of Sanskrit (Field Faculty),
Goddard College
“Bhagavad-gita As It Is is an excellent translation of this important religious work. Swami Prabhupada renders the words of the master creator of the Gita as only a person intimately familiar with the culture and language of ancient India as well as the full religious purport of its message can. Being myself a translator of the Gita, I know he has been faithful to the tremendous task of bringing this work fully into the present.”
Dr. Ann Stanford
Translator of The Bhagavad-gita:
A New Verse Translation, The Seabury Press
“I am most impressed with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s scholarly and authoritative edition of Bhagavad-gita. It provides a clear script of the Devanagari stanzas, beautifully presented with Roman transliteration, precise word-for-word equivalents and lucid English translation followed by an outstanding and comprehensive exegesis, with extensive subject index. It serves as a source for further self-instruction for one who has learned Sanskrit linguistically. It is a most valuable work for the scholar as well as the layman and of great utility as a reference work as well as a text book. I promptly recommend this edition to my students. It is a beautifully done book.”
Dr. Samuel D. Atkins
Professor of Sanskrit and Vedic Philology
Princeton University
“Swami Bhaktivedanta’s edition of the Bhagavadgita — with Sanskrit text, Roman transliteration, English glosses and translation, and a scholarly exegesis — is an invaluable reference work. We are indebted to the editor for his erudition, insights, and industry; to the publisher, for making the work available in an attractive and readable, yet inexpensive format.”
James C. King
Professor of Sanskrit
The George Washington University
“THE BHAGAWAD-GITA AS IT IS by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is a work of spiritual genius. Its philosophical excellence is inseparable from its theme. It is a deeply felt, powerfully conceived and a beautifully explained work. I don’t know whether to praise more the translation of the Bhagawad-Gita, its daring method of explanation, or the endless fertility of its ideas. Even in translation the beauties of Gita are overwhelming. I have never seen any other work on Gita with such an important and authoritative voice and style. It is a work of undoubted integrity. I have strongly recommended this book to all students interested in Sanskrit and Indian Culture. It will occupy a significant place in the intellectual and ethical life of modern man for a long time to come.”
Shaligram Shukla
Assistant Professor of
Linguistics and Sanskrit.
“Today when the entire humanity hangs from the cross of iron under the clouds of nuclear war, the message of Bhagwatgita is the only hope which can save the humanity. It also gives hope to millions who are disillusioned and disappointed because of the sufferings of the human life imposed upon them by the materialistic society.
When the statesmen, great industrialists and some religious teachers are engaged in the rat race for power, God has sent His Holiness A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to lead the humanity the path of the Bhagwatgita. From the number of his followers and disciples spread throughout the world, it is abundantly proved that he has been quite successful in spreading the eternal gospel of Gita and message of Hindu civilization and culture throughout the world. His service to the humanity by way of his interpretation of Bhagwatgita perhaps will remain unsurpassable for many centuries to come.”
Jagdish S. Sharma
It is difficult for me to ignore statements of such distinguished scholars. Do you think these great sanskrit professors are mistaken in their judgement of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s translation?
Furthermore, since you seem to respect Dr. Radhakrishnan as an authority on Vedic knowledge and its authenticity, perhaps you should note how he himself translated this particular word in discussion in his commentary on this sloka. He gives two possible translations:
“anadimat param: beginningless supreme. S.
anadi matparam: beginningless, ruled by Me. R”
(Dr.Radhakrishnan Bhagavadgita 13.12)
Please note especially the second meaning: “ruled by Me”I do not see much difference between Bhaktivedanta’s “it is subordinate to Me” and Dr.Radhakrishnan alternative translation as “ït is ruled by Me”. Is Dr.Radhakrishnan also mistranslating?
But even without using this reference from Dr.Radhakrishnan’s commentary, we should understand that the differences in various translation account for a fact that sanskrit language is incredibly complex and difficult to understand. One word may mean up to 10 different meanings and we here fully realy on the realization of the master who can translate so to speak “spirit” of the scripture. Spiritual knowledge is not exactly a mechanical type of affair. Therefore the Svetavatara Upanisad states that we must understand the Vedas from the mouth of the guru and not independently.
yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deva tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
prakasante mahatmanah
[SU 6.23]
[Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed.]
The translation of different slokas will differ in details depending on which sampradaya the specific acharya belongs to. Since you are so much fond of liberalism and openedness in terms of approaching the Vedic traditions free from sectarian consideration that claims one approach to be superior to others, I think you may kindly accept Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami’s translation at least as authorized as others even it might not match your particular understanding of the Bhagavad-gita. After all, it is his translation of the Bhagavad-gita that inspired millions of Western people to take up seriously the process of bhakti-yoga, which is so much ephasized in the pages of the Bhagavad-gita.
4) The conclusion that ultimately everything is formless Brahman is faulty simply based on common sense. Such conclusion brings unavoidably serious logical inconstinencies to the table. For example:
a)If Brahman is eternal how can it be divided into parts at one point and how can it merge together at other point in time? If Brahman can be divided, it looses its eternity which goes against the very definition of Brahman being beginningless.
b)If we are all formless Brahman, by one’s moksa all the living entities should be liberated simultaneously and since this is not the case, this cannot be accepted.
c)How can Brahman be covered by maya? Is maya superior to Brahman? Again we come to duality instead of non-duality.
d)If Brahman is ultimately formless, where does form come from?
So leaving aside the dilemma about whose translation of the Vedic litaratures is bona fide, we can see that merely by common sense logic, such conclusion is incomplete.
5) How is it possible to attain to the absolute universal truth of all that is by sticking to one source of authority? The answer is given by Lord Krsna Himself to illustrate the futility of the karma kanda fruitive sacrificial performances offered in the Vedas. He says:
All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.
Bg 2.46
If we find the perfect authority who has perfect knowledge of the Absolute truth then what is the use of going anywhere further or studying anything further? The Absolute Truth cannot be quantified. In other words, it is a material idea to think that the more information one has the more he can understand about the Absolute Truth. That idea itself is dragging the transcendence unto the limited platform of relativity. The Absolute truth contains everything what is within our experience and everything that is without our experience. Sri Isopanisad says:
om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya
purnam evavasisyate
The Absolute truth is perfect and complete, and because it is completely perfect, all emanations from it, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because it is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from it, it remains the complete balance.
(Isa upanisad invocation)
Provided one reaches the Absolute truth, he understands everything, since all the different departments of knowledge are contained in the Absolute Truth. It is a foolish demand to study anything besides the Absolute Truth as the only thing that exists beyond the absolute truth is maya (“that which is not”)
And in the Upanisads it is stated:
yasmin vijnate sarvam evam vijnatam bhavati
“If you simply understand Krsna, then you know everything.”
Mundaka Upanisad 1.3

Purujit Dasa is a monk teaching and practising bhakti-yoga according to the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of the international Hare Krishna movement. He also serves as the head priest of the B.L.I.S.S.

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