What is ‘apaurusheya’ – knowledge free of defects?

Sri Sri Radha Kshira Chora Gopinatha - the origin of science and givers of mercy - ISKCON Toronto
Knowledge coming from Krishna in disciplic succession is free of all defects. In Picture – Sri Sri Radha Kshira Chora Gopinatha – the origin of science and givers of mercy – ISKCON Toronto


Geetha, 10th April 2013

Hare Krishna,

Please accept my humble obeisances,
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada

I want to know the meaning of Apauruseya?  This word is in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 1 , in purport they explained that this knowledge is apauruseya.

So please kindly explain me so that I can understand it well. Anything wrong in my question please excuse me.

Thanking you,
your Servant

Rathin Mandal, 10th April 2013

Hare Krishna,
Please accept my humble obeisances,
All glories to Srila Gurudev and Srimati Gurumataji,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Mataji you are really reading Bhagavat Gita word to word. This is very inspiring. I do not know the exact meaning of this word but this is how I understood it.
Bhagavat Gita is a transcendental scripture. This is not created by any mundane person. Because a ordinary person is under the illusion of Maya, making some or other mistakes and controlled by imperfect senses. Such a person is always suffering under the three folds of miseries. So to write a scriptures like Bhagavat Gita or Srimad Bhagavatam is not possible for such a person.
All these scripture were written by Srila Vyasadev for the people of age of kali. Srila Vyasadev is also incarnation of Sri Krishna. Hence the scriptures written by  Srila Vyasadev has same importance as Sri Krishna. And are non different from Sri Krishna. As Bhagavat Gita is essence of all vedic knowledge, it is the most important scripture for us.
This is my understanding and request to be corrected if I have understood it differently.

your Servant

Jagannatha dasa, 10th April 2013

Hare Krishna prabhus,

Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Gurudeva!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thank you for your question.  Apauruseya means that the Vedic literature was not composed by any material person.  Purusa means person.  pauruseya means by a person and apauruseya means not by a person.

Materially conditioned souls suffer from four defects, viz.  Imperfect senses, the tedency to make mistakes, the tendency to be illusioned and the cheating propensity.  Vedas are completly free from these faults because they are spoken by Krishna and His pure devotees, who are eternally liberated.  Therefore, they are meant for becoming fully Krishna conscious:

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.
Another point to remember is that becasue they were not composed by any particular individual in this material world, they are also beyond time.  The Vedic literatures are eternal.   Just like Krishna said that He spoke this Bhagavad-gita to the sun god Vivasvan millions of years ago, so all the Vedic knowledge is eternally existing.  A rsi is a purified sage who can hear the sound of the Vedic hymns, which are always in the ether, ready to be recieved by one with proper consiousness.  But the Lord is merciful even to those of us who can’t directly hear that transcendental sound by sending His representative, the bona fide spiritual master.  Therefore, because this Krishna consciousness movement is based on the authority of guru sadhu and sastra, not any ordinary person, our authority is apauruseya.

your servant,
Jagannatha dasa

Renuka, 10th April 2013

Hare Krishna mataji,

All glories to Srila Gurudev and Srimati Gurumataji
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Please accept my humble obeisances.
‘Apauruseya’ means The words spoken by  the Lord ,meaning that they are different from words spoken by a person of the mundane world who is infected with four defects
1 A mundaner is sure to commit mistakes
2  A mundaner is invariably illusioned
3 A mundaner has tendency to cheat others
4 A mundaner is limited by imperfect senses
With this four defects one cannot deliver perfect information of all pervading knowledge

In short Vedic knowledge is not a question of research.our research work is imperfect because we are researching things with imperfect senses.
We have to accept perfect knowledge which comes down as stated in Bhagavad gita by Parampara. We have to receive knowledge from proper source in discipline succession .
We must accept Bhagavad gita as it without interpretation ,without deletion and without our own whimsical participation in the matter

This is very well explained in detail in the introduction of Bhagavad gita

Thank you for your wonderful questions mataji

your servant,
Rohini Devi dasi

Harish, 10th April 2013

Hare Krsna !

Your understanding is correct Rathin prabhu.

It is mentioned in the introduction of Bhagvad Gita as well as in the purport of Sri Isopanishad as below :

Vedic knowledge is infallible because it comes down through the perfect disciplic succession of spiritual masters, beginning with the Lord Himself. Since He spoke the first word of Vedic knowledge, the source of this knowledge is transcendental. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, which indicates that they are not delivered by any mundane person.
A living being who lives in the mundane world has four defects: *(1) he is certain to commit mistakes; (2) he is subject to illusion; (3) he has a propensity to cheat others; and (4) his senses are imperfect. No one with these four imperfections can deliver perfect knowledge.

The Vedas are not produced by such an imperfect creature. Vedic knowledge was originally imparted by the Lord into the heart of Brahma, the first created living being, and Brahma in his turn disseminated this knowledge to his sons and disciples, who have handed it down through history.

Since the Lord is purnam, all-perfect, there is no possibility of His being subjected to the laws of material nature, which He controls.

In introduction of BG, it is mentioned that – “the words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, meaning that they are different from the words spoken by a person of the mundane world who is infected with four defects”*.

Thank you.

your servant

Virendra Trivedi, 10th April 2013

Nice question!!! And answers! Thank you all

I have a question in this regard:

What does it mean when we say that the perfected soul is free from four defects?

Don’t we see Gurus sometimes narrating a pastime of Krishna or Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Bhagavatam class and repeatedly using the wrong names of devotees involved in it… Don’t we find Srila Gurudeva sending “Corrected versions” of daily thoughts?… Doesn’t it prove that they are also having tendency to commit mistakes (which would automatically imply that they are imperfect)? Why? Why not?

your servant,
Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 10th April 2013

Yes, bona fide spiritual masters are not claiming to be perfect. They may have apparent imperfections, and that would be a problem IF they invented their own process for becoming happy and if they were telling us about their own inventions or discoveries… but when they repeat what was said by the perfect source Krishna, then the perfection is there because of that connection to Krishna. Even if an imperfect being tries to recite the perfect knowledge, even if their delivery is imperfect, still the effect is a purification of those who receive that message within their heart.

Crude example is that child says “Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead”, suppose the child cannot say “Krishna” so says “kisstha” and child cannot say “is the Supreme Personality of Godhead”, so child says “is preme person god”… an adult who loves that child or finds the child cute, with patience if they hear this child saying “kisstha preme person god” will get that message nicely. 🙂

But you know, this imperfection of a saintly person can accepted by a person who has a particular quality… do you know what is that quality?
Also, do you know what it is to focus on the imperfections in the pure devotee?

Mahabhagavat Das

Virendra Trivedi, 11th April 2013

Thank you prabhu for your wonderful reply!

So as far as I could grasp, you mean to say that the bonafide spiritual masters are free from four defects in the sense that they do not present or even desire to present anything different from the version of Krsna. Is my understanding correct?

I really want to know the answers of your last two questions also. Beg you to please continue. You simply aroused my interest and stopped half way. Please please enlighten me prabhu.

your servant,
Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 11th April 2013

Yes, correct, they are presenting without addition or subtraction the version of Krishna according to time, place, circumstances, but same principles. Again, question of what is principle and what is detail comes here, but pure devotee knows the application of that principle.
But you know, this imperfection of a saintly person can accepted by a person who has a particular quality… do you know what is that quality?
If I am “sadhu” then I can accept. This means that I am not honest to accept (and work to eliminate) my own imperfections, therefore I take pleasure in pointing out others’ imperfections. But if I am thoroughly honest, then I will know that this minor apparent imperfection in the composition of a pure devotee  are not imperfection at all, but an opportunity for me to render some service to the pure devotee.

This is not to be misunderstood when a Vaishnava humbly offers correction that the Vaishnava is not honest 🙂 I had this experience some weeks ago, His Grace Apurva Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada was supervising my effort to make Kheer for our Kshir Chor Gopinath in Toronto. And he was giving me copious amounts of corrections, very kindly and gently, he was totally honest though, but it was shaking up my false pride. Initially I was situated in all kinds of material modes thinking I know better because I am making kheer for so long etc., but simply trying as he said (he has 40 years experience cooking for Krishna) I realized that by accepting his corrections Gopinath may accept my service, but not if I am proud.
SB 1.5.11

tad-vāg-visargo janatāgha-viplavo

yasmin prati-ślokam abaddhavaty api

nāmāny anantasya yaśo ‘ńkitāni yat

śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanti sādhavaḥ

On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.

From the purport…

It is a qualification of the great thinkers to pick up the best even from the worst. It is said that the intelligent man should pick up nectar from a stock of poison, should accept gold even from a filthy place, should accept a good and qualified wife even from an obscure family and should accept a good lesson even from a man or from a teacher who comes from the untouchables. These are some of the ethical instructions for everyone in every place without exception. But a saint is far above the level of an ordinary man. He is always absorbed in glorifying the Supreme Lord because by broadcasting the holy name and fame of the Supreme Lord, the polluted atmosphere of the world will change, and as a result of propagating the transcendental literatures like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, people will become sane in their transactions.

Also, do you know what it is to focus on the imperfections in the pure devotee?
When I see imperfection in a pure devotee, that means my vision is ordinary. It means I am  not advanced in spiritual understanding…
NOI verse 6

dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair

na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta janasya paśyet

gańgāmbhasāḿ na khalu budbuda-phena-pańkair

brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ

Being situated in his original Kṛṣṇa conscious position, a pure devotee does not identify with the body. Such a devotee should not be seen from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, one should overlook a devotee’s having a body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body. According to ordinary vision, such imperfections may seem prominent in the body of a pure devotee, but despite such seeming defects, the body of a pure devotee cannot be polluted. It is exactly like the waters of the Ganges, which sometimes during the rainy season are full of bubbles, foam and mud. The Ganges waters do not become polluted. Those who are advanced in spiritual understanding will bathe in the Ganges without considering the condition of the water.

I hope this helps.

Mahabhagavat Das

Sanil, 11th April 2013

Hare Krishna Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances
All glories to Srila Gurudeva

If we try to understand the first defect ((1) he is certain to commit mistakes;) quoted by Harish Prabhu, we can see that a mundane person is certain to commit mistake, because of lack of knowledge or due to many other reasons. We cannot consider errors or omissions made by pure Vaishnavas like Srila Gurudeva while reproducing a Vedic content (as Mahabhagavat das Prabhu rightly indicated) as a mistake due to lack of knowledge, or due to illusion, or due to propensity to cheat others or due to having imperfect senses. But, the mundane person cannot be trusted, since, he is not in pure knowledge, has all the four defects present and not properly situated.

your servant,
Sanil kumar

Harish, 11th April 2013

Hare Krsna devotees !
Please accept my humble obeisances
All glories to Srila Gurudeva
All glories to Srila Prabhupada

This reminds me of one very nice devotee/counsellor of my parents here, he takes Bhagvatam class in a very unique way. He knowingly either cites different names or different nos. or something like that just to make sure that everyone is keenly listening. If somebody points him out, he is very happy and say very good it means you are not sleeping but if someone does not point out, then either he himself ask ‘Is everyone awake?’ or after the class he will pull everyone that today all of you seems to have a nice sleep during the class. So the devotee who knows him try to attend his class very attentively but the new ones they think that his memory is short.

It also reminds of the story “Punah mushiko bhava” which Srila Gurudeva uses quite often.  By the mercy of sage who took pity on mouse it becomes a lion but the moment it becomes a lion it wants to pounce upon the same sage forgetting his unconditional mercy and then sage again has to convert it back to the mouse. In the same manner, it is the spiritual master himself who make us worthy from an insignificant position by imparting us with the Vedic wisdom/transcendental knowledge (divya gyan hridya prakasitho)

mukam karoti vachalam
pangum langhayate girim
yat-kripa tam aham vande
shri-gurum dina-taranam

“I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, the deliverer of the fallen souls. His mercy turns the dumb into eloquent speakers and enables the lame to cross mountains.”

But after attaining some knowledge we start thinking ourselves advanced devotee and starts finding faults with the same spiritual master or other Vaishnavas. But we don’t have to worry, the spiritual master is far far more merciful than the sage, he does not say “punah mushiko bhava”, he very humbly accepts the correction also. He always remains ever merciful towards all – envious/non-envious/ignorant; ‘panditah samah darsinah”. But sorry to say, Krsna does not work that way. He forgives everything but not the Vaishnava apradha. The progress in devotional service happens gradually, sometimes in many years, sometimes many births but the downfall is immediate within days/minutes/seconds, one even does not come to know what happened, seems everything normal but one is out for ever.

Personally I see this once in a while slip of the tongue of the speaker/pravakta as a reminder to me to concentrate in the class as I have often observed that many times my mind goes out somewhere during the class and suddenly it comes back and I wonder that the speaker seems to have strayed away from the topic. Last week my parents told me that one of Srila Prabhupada disciples took their class and he introduced himself but although (of course) the class was appreciated but some of the devotees found a common error in the same. But when they discussed it later on among themselves, everyone had heard/understood it differently like somebody heard that Prabhu ji saying that he got initiated from Srila Prabhupada 31 years back but they were wondering how can it be possible when he disappeared more than 31 years back whereas others heard that he took initiation in 1931 but that too was not possible looking at his age but some heard that at age of 31 he got initiated. So same class but different perspectives only because of not hearing attentively.

The pravakta/speaker is observing everything whats going on in the minds of people, where they are concentrating, there are even mobile calls in between, some are talking, some are chanting on beads, some people going here and there, kids playing etc etc but still they try their best to help the devotees not to get distracted and in trying to make us avoid distractions in some cases there may be slip of tongue but it happens only because of us.

Srila Gurudeva says while answering one question in one of the lectures that we had in the recent CD that setbacks are sometimes good for us as it keeps the person humble and dependent on Krsna else one may feel proud thinking oneself very advanced and even go to the extent of thinking himself as a saktyaavesya avatara.

Coming back to the topic, as Sanil Kumar prabhu wrote that a spiritual master senses cannot be termed as imperfect senses bound to commit mistakes or in illusion or having the propensity to cheat others. A spiritual master senses are fully spiritualized working 24×7 for Krsna’s pleasure and so he is always working under the influence of internal potency. Sometimes we feel in a lecture upto the extent that we could have answered that question in a better way but we fail to understand that Krsna Himself is acting through the medium of the spiritual master and so He better knows how to answer/help the seeker/questioner in getting better realization.

If we hear Srila Prabhupada lectures, we will find in many lectures he used to ask devotees from where this noise is coming or sometimes tell people to stop making noise during the lecture, he once even was getting distracted from the sound of cutting of the vegetables in the kitchen (as told by Srila Gurudeva in one lecture) but then in some incidents he used to say ok leave it. Even sometimes Srila Gurudeva does so and then say ok let it be as it is. So does it mean that they cannot concentrate whereas even a little child can fully concentrates on television or playing with friends that nobody can distract him easily. No way. It is because

“tusyanti ca ramanti ca – the devotees derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”

The spiritual master is enjoying unlimited transcendental pleasure while listening/sharing the realizations he has got from his spiritual master or is getting while taking discourse on Bhagvad Gita or Srimad Bhagvatam as the words or names or pastimes of Krsna are non-different from Krsna. When the spiritual master is chanting or taking class from Srimad Bhagvatam he is personally interacting with Krsna and getting so much unlimited pleasure that he wants to share the same pleasure with the devotees also and he is objecting to distractions/sounds only because we can concentrate. And sometimes in ecstasy, repeat of same/different – words/names/sentence/verse or same/different – words/names/sentence/verse may happen but one thing is for sure they neither talk anything other than Krsna nor goes away from the subject.

Everyone every moment is struggling hard like general mass of people are struggling with the onslaughts of nature vs searching for happiness or better times ignorant of their precarious temporary position whereas we neophyte/aspiring devotees are struggling between the gravitational pull of material energy vs spiritual energy. The spiritual master is playing a dual role simultaneously serving the Gopis and acting on behalf of Krsna as a deliverer of poor souls.

Please forgive offenses committed while replying.

your servant,

Geetha, 11th April 2013

Hare Krishna,
Please accept my humble obeisances,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you Prabhuji’s and Mataji for all your points I understood clearly not only the meaning of apaurusheya and many more things. Thank you once again.

Thanking you,
your servant,

Please subscribe to daily inspirational emails from His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari (Writings and lectures archived at sda-archives.com), written fresh every day from his travels around the world sharing the highest spiritual knowledge with everyone. Sign up now at www.backtohome.com.

Author: Mahabhagavat Das SDA

I am a formally initiated disciple of His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari. My spiritual master was initiated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1971. He is the author of the famous Ultimate Self Realization Course. Check it out at www.joincourse.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: