Feb 23, 2008

Hindu. Who? Part 2

The Vedas are said to be Shruti, that which was heard. These were Aprusheya texts meaning that they were not written by any human author. These were revelations that were "heard" and passed on orally from one human to another. Therefore, these verses are of natural origins. I had my own doubts (but willing to accept them as good text) on this score until my recent Vision Quest in the Canyonlands of Utah. My personal revelations and listening to Peter Calhone made me revise my ideas about the veracity of the Vedas.

When HH Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati was asked, what the holy scripture of the Hindus was, he replied that there were 14 of them. He names the 4 Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), their 6 Angas (or limbs) and the 4 Upangas (secondary limbs). The list of the Angas sounds like a course in linguistics crossed with Statistics and Mathematics. They are Siksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta, Jyotisha and Kalpa. The Upangas include Mimansa, Nyaya, Purana and Dharmashastra.

Each of the Vedas had the main part to them called the Samhita or "Anthology". These were pure collections of the revelations, neatly organized (by Vyasa, it is said). Each of these Samhita came with their own "Guidebook"- a glossary, dictionary and User's manual rolled into one. This was the Brahmana part of the Veda shaka (or branch). They dealt with the duties and actions to be performed by those who are involved in the myriad activities of life. Next came the Aranyaka. These dismiss the material aspects of the Brahmana as symbols to attain spiritual liberation that demands the dropping of the material plane. This part of the Vedas find great favor with the ascetic religions like Jainism and Buddhism. (This should clarify to "modern historians" that there was no hatred amidst these different religions. There was never an issue of aggrandisement of wealth and creation of religious empires that meant power, as we see in the history of the Catholic church and the Caliphat.)

The summary of all these different parts can be found in the "End of the Veda" or Vedanta. This section comprises of Upanishads. The Upanishads simply establish the role and relationship between humans and the world as we experience it through our senses and process through our other faculties such as mind, memory and intellect. Currently, the Vedantic tradition is finding favor with many as they are truly secular in nature. There are rare mentions of any particular God by name, even then as a reference rather than as adherence.

The above dichotomy within the Vedas were clearly defined as Karmakanda (Section on Action)and Gnyanakanda (Section on Knowledge). As long as humans believe this world to be true and believed they experienced hunger and had to feed their bodies, Karmakanda holds true. When hunger ceases to exist and the body loses its truth, then gnyanakanda becomes valid.

Thus, when the Vedas themselves have these paradoxes within, it amazes me to read in Indian history books that Jainism and Buddhism defined a new way to end the "atrocities" of brahmins, who were busily chopping off the heads of goats, horses and other "dumb" creatures under the guise of various sacrifices. This fallacy and several others continue to go unchallenged by any educated person. The reason is simple. Nobody has bothered to open an actual Vedic book to see what is inside. It is all second and third hand learnings through tertiary means. Even I am guilty of such a charge. Only recently, thanks to the internet, I found texts that were clearly enumerated and made my research far easier.

For centuries, there has been such a noise built up about the Vedic system of living and knowledge, that nobody is clear anymore. Even the avenues to access this knowledge is denied to us as we lose our linguistic skills. Thanks to the Kothari Commission, Samskritam was made compulsory in the school I studied in and learned enough to read a text today and comprehend something. It is sad that the new "International" schools that are cropping up across the country would rather offer French and German rather than Samskritam as a language option.

Sometimes a child stops me in the hallway of a US public school and asks me if I speak Hindu. I tell him that I neither speak Hindu nor Christian. I speak English, Hindi and a few other languages.

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