Every system has to be made alive by living examples of its truths. In every generation in India there have been such exemplars of Vedanta, and each of them could be looked upon as a prophet, although \ myself would not go so far. In determining who the prophets of Vedanta are, I would say first of all that the rsis who discovered the essential principles of Vedanta would naturally be called the first prophets of Vedanta. In discovering those truths they embodied them. Brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati2 He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. Next, those who later discovered the same principles in their own lives, and felt the urge to spread them amongst others could be called prophets, or teacher-prophets. You see, this urge to spread the teachings of Vedanta requires a little reinterpretation of the original teachings. Thus Sri Krishna of the Bhagavad-GIta can be called a prophet of Vedanta; Shankara is another, and I would also include Buddha. Then there is a third group: those who might not reinterpret Vedanta in any sense but who have, as it were, put greater strength into an earlier interpretation and teaching, so that in their own age they were a tremendous force for the reactivation of these spiritual principles. There are these three groups.
In this lecture I will speak only of the first and second groups, and I have already spoken about the first group in some detail. I think its members were legion, and although we know only a very few of their names, we do know some. It is an odd thing that the Hindus, who are supposed to have no historical sense, are very keen about spiritual genealogy, and so in the
Upanishads you sometimes find long lists of names. Such and such a rsi learned this truth from so-and-so, who learnt from so-and-so. Back and back it goes, and when you come to the beginning, you find the Creator. The first teacher was the Creator, God Himself. There is a very interesting theory that God could not create this universe unless at the same time He created the Vedas. You must admit that if you want to do something, a plan for it must be in your mind. In other words, there is simultaneously a mental scheme and a concrete creation. The whole universe, with all its laws, all its interrelations, is contained in the mind of the Creator, and then this concrete universe flows out of His mind. So it is said that the Vedas were created at the same time that the creation of the universe took place. Therefore in the first stages of the creation there were some persons to whom the Creator gave these Vedas, and then, generation by generation, they came down to the days of the Upanishadic rsis. Well, these genealogists prove at least that the knowledge of Brahman, the Vedanta, was treasured by them: they took great care to protect it, and they revered their original teachers.
It was recognized that there could be two or three different opinions on a certain topic. But afterwards all these views were synthesized, and there came into existence a book called Brahma Sutras or Sanraka Sutras or Vedanta Darsana. These three names are given to it Brahma Sutras aphorisms regarding Brahman; Sanraka Sutras aphorisms regarding the embodied. Who is embodied? The Atman is embodied. I am embodied; that is to say, I have a body; I am the Spirit and I have a body. God also has a body; this concrete universe is His body. So they say that these aphorisms pertain both to the Self and to Brahman or God. And Vedanta Darsana literally means the philosophy of Vedanta. This book of aphorisms was divided into sixteen parts: each four of which made up one chapter. Its author is also called Veda Vyasa, as was the man who systematized the Vedas.