Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ancient, Pure, Unique- The Vedas

--Antiquity, Purity and Uniqueness

The main purpose of every religion in the world is to define the meaning and purpose pf life and explore ways to everlasting happiness and peace. While the Western philosophers stopped their quest to locate such happiness in the external world and the material objects therein, our ancient Indian Rishis went ahead in their search turning their attention inwards towards the ever shining soul of man, the Innate Divinity, and found an answer in the form of the Vedas and the Veda Mantras.

The scientist is the discoverer of the laws of nature and knowledge of these laws enable him to control the forces and workings of nature. The same is the position which Indian thought accords to those Rishis. They discovered the laws that govern the inner world, much as physical scientists discovered the laws of external physical nature. The laws or facts, which they seek to explain, were not created by them. They were there all the time. But they were unknown to man. The Rishis who discovered these Spiritual Truths were men and women with extraordinary intellectual, moral and spiritual discipline. These spiritual Truths discovered at varying stages by several Rishis are called The Vedas

Swami Vivekananda, explaining the greatness of the Vedas, said in his address to the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893:
“By the Vedas no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons at different times. Just as the Law of Gravitation existed before its discovery and would continue to exist even if humanity forgot about it, so it is with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical and spiritual relation between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery and would remain so even if we forgot them. The discoverers of these laws are called Rishis and we honour them as perfect beings. I am glad to tell this audience that some of the very greatest of them were women”.

This Rishihood, this capacity to discover these spiritual truths, is not an Indian monopoly. Indian Thought holds that it is a universal phenomenon. That is why we call our Hinduism as ‘Sanathana Dharma’ or ‘Universal Religion’. Vedanta therefore recognizes non-Indian sages like Jesus Christ, St.Francis of Assisi, and St.Augustine as Rishis. This flows from the Vedantic teaching of non-duality of the Ultimate Reality and the possibility of different approaches to it The Rigveda has given eloquent expression to this concept in the famous saying ‘ Ekam Sat ; Viprah Bahudha Vadanti’ meaning ‘Truth is one ; Sages call it by different names’
The Vedas have come to us as ‘revealed texts’ which means that God’s words have became available to us through saints. This concept of ‘revealed texts’ is not confined to India alone. Many other religions do believe that their sacred texts are but a revelation of God’s words. Jesus Christ said that his preachings were not his own but those of God which he was asked to propagate. Mohammedans say that Prophet Muhammad merely preaches the instructions of Allah which were revealed to him. These revealed texts have been received by sages and seers and they have passed them on to mankind from generation to generation for its betterment.

The recitation of the Vedas in strict conformity with the specified intonation, delivery, diction, tone etc results in the Mantras which generate sound vibrations. According to the Vedic poets, a sound or a certain secret set of vibrations, tunes exactly which are appropriate to the vibrations of the invisible psychological forces and entities. The Mantras provide these secret sets of vibrations. They invoke the deity and give the knowledge by which one can submit in admiration and devotion to deity. That is why the Mantras are also called ‘Sonic deities’. It is this sonic property of the Mantras and its effect on the human psyche that makes the Mantra not translatable to any other language.

The Mantras have come down to us by word of mouth from time immemorial in all their pristine purity.. Since the Vedas were un-written words or rather un-written sounds, there is no question of any books on the Vedas or any printing of the Vedas. It was just by oral transmission that they were passed on from generation to generation. That is why they are called ‘Shruthi’ or ‘what is heard’. Just as in a laboratory, a life giving elixir is preserved with the utmost care, the Veda Mantras which are for universal benefit have been preserved by the ancients without suffering erosion or corrosion even a bit.

The most remarkable fact which gives us an insight into the profundity and power of Indian spiritual culture is the foundation of her literary tradition built upon an oral system that exists for over three thousand years prior to the written Sanskrit works.
Before the advent of Buddhism, writing for literary purposes was virtually unknown in India. Yet, all the valuable wisdom contained in the Vedas, the Upanishads and other epics , as well as other Sanskrit works, was transmitted by a special class of dedicated and devoted scholars through the oral tradition. This great tradition was meticulously followed and maintained by the Guru Parampara [Lineage of Teachers] and their sincere and adept disciples. The chanting of the Vedas has been thus one of the most carefully reproduced sound modulations recited in a strictly traditional manner with a view to maintain its correct meaning.

Highlighting the greatness of the oral tradition, Prof. S.N.Dasgupta, one of the greatest Historians and Philosophers of the 20th Century, writes in his book ‘A History of Indian Philosophy’:
“When the Vedas were composed, there was probably no system of writing prevalent in India. But such was the scrupulous zeal of the Brahmins who got the whole Vedic literature by heart by hearing it from their preceptors, that it has been transmitted most faithfully to us through the course of last three thousand years or so with no interpolation at all”

Prof. Dasgupta’s comments were long ago authenticated by Prof. A.A. MacDonnell, [The Oxford Sanskrit Scholar] in his book ‘A History of Sanskrit Literature-1899’ in these words: “The Vedas are still learnt by heart as they were long before the invasion of Alexander, and could now be restored from the lips of religious teachers if every manuscript or printed copy of them were destroyed”. Even the famous German scholar in Sanskrit Prof. Max Muller [1823-1900] wrote “The Veda Mantras are to us unique and priceless guides in opening before our eyes tombs of thoughts richer than the regal tombs of Egypt. They have their own unique place and stand by themselves in the literature of the world”

It is not the antiquity of the Vedas but the perennial appeal and effervescence in the Indian mind that is important. For, it is really a wonder that this vital tradition has never been disturbed by foreign invasions, internal political upheavals, cultural aggression, changes in language, racial admixture and many more such impediments of social, economic and political life. That vouchsafes for the purity of the Vedas and the Veda Mantras.

B. M.N.Murthy

Article no.564--VEDA MANTRAS
Created :Friday, May 7, 2010 9:01 PM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home