The Vedic System

The Shastra (vedic scriptures) were manifested from this merciful consideration of Sri Bhagavan (GOD). Issuing forth by His mercy, the sun of the Shastra arose in the sky of the hearts of the ancient Aryans, and illuminated all the injunctions and rules to be followed by the populace.

In the beginning was the Veda-Shastra. One part of the Veda-Shastra teaches pious activities directed toward the attainment of material fruits (Karma); one part teaches knowledge directed toward liberation (Jnana), and another part teaches devotion with love and affection for Bhagavan (Bhakti). The Jivas (living enteritis) who are infatuated with Maya (illusion) are found in many different conditions. Some are completely stupefied, some have a little knowledge, and some are knowledgeable in many subjects. The Shastra provides different types of instructions that are consistent with the different mentalities of the Jivas. This differentiation is known as Adhikara, eligibility.

There are countless individual Jivas, and they have innumerable varieties of Adhikara, which have been divided into three broad categories according to their primary characteristics:

KarmaAdhikara, eligibility for pious action leading to material gain,
JnanaAdhikara, eligibility for knowledge leading to liberation, and
PremaAdhikara, eligibility for unalloyed loving service to Bhagavan (GOD).

The Veda-Shastra specifies these three types of eligibility and establishes proper codes of behavior for those in each of the three groups. The Dharma (way of righteousness) that the Vedas have thus prescribed is known as Vaidha-Dharma.

The tendency by which a person is compelled to adopt this Vaidha-Dharma is known as Vaidhi-Pravitti, the proclivity to follow the religious codes of Shastra. Those who are altogether lacking in the tendency to follow the rules of Shastra (vedic scriptures) are thoroughly Avaidha, opposed to the injunctions of Shastra. They are engaged in sinful activities, and their lives are given over to Avaidha-Karma, actions that defy the regulations of Shastra. Such people are excluded from the jurisdiction of the Vedas and are known as Mlecchas, people belonging to an uncivilized, non-Aryan race.

From Jaiva Dharma by Bhaktivinoda Thakura (* 1838; † 1914)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur was a prominent thinker of Bengali Renaissance and a leading philosopher, savant and spiritual reformer of Gaudiya Vaishnavism who effected its resurgence in India in late 19th and early 20th century and was hailed by contemporary scholars as the most influential Gaudiya Vaishnava leader of his time.

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