Advaita and Rg veda
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Apr 2 10:18:33 CST 2002
On Tue, 2 Apr 2002, hbdave wrote:
> I find that Shri Jaldharji has already answered this part, from his view
> I feel he means the chanting of Vedas, its proper pronounciation, etc.
Yes that's what I meant. It is necessary step before any higher study.
> My attitude is slightly different.
> I have seen very nicely constructed Veda Mandirs (temples) where the volumes
> of Vedas are kept and worshipped. Nobody has opened a single book from there
> for years! We have made murti of even books of knowledge!
Yes, this is silly. The true Veda Mandirs are those saintly men
who have dedicated their whole lives, even at the cost of material
comfort, to the study and practice of our shastras.
> Of course, tradition should be respected and followed, but also we
> should keep
> our minds open. Even Gaudapada says that Vedas should be accepted with
> proper logical analysis and not blindly.
Again I agree. Let me point out we are discussing this via the Internet,
a novelty, a departure from the practices of the past. It is not
innovation that I am arguing against, it is against the thoughtless
adoption of the new for newnesses sake.
> I feel the problems we are finding with "Hinduism" is due to neglecting to
> find what is in the Vedas, especially in the Samhita portions.
You are right again. But what is to be done about it? Reviewing the
history of the past two centuries of "modern" Hinduism, we see many
attempts at "Vedic revival." While the intentions may have been good,
objectively we must consider these attempts as abject failures. Despite
tremendously increased opportunities, todays middle-class Indian doesn't
know more about Dharmic life than his ancestors, he knows considerably
less. How could this happen?
If say you were to approach a random person on the streets of New York and
ask them about Aristotle or Nietzche, you would most likely get a blank
stare. Does that mean there is no such thing as Western civilization? No
because Western civilization is something that permeates the life of
Western people in subtle as well as explicit ways. Maybe that random
persons taxes go to fund a university which hires a professor who writes a
book on Nietzche. Or he watches a TV drama whose plot structure is based
on ideas from Aristotles' Poetics. The kind of people who have actually
read and discussed Aristotle and Nietzche are only the tip of the iceberg
supported by an invisible multitude below.
Back to the Indian context, modern Hinduism failed because of its'
top-down approach. It tried to impose "big ideas" on people lacking
context. This is like trying to plant a banyan tree in desert soil. I'm
not against the "big ideas"--far from it--but I don't think they are going
to have any long-term effect on people who are unaware of the foundations
of these ideas.
> As far as learning in person from a Sadguru who has himself learned from
> his Sadguru, I doubt how many you will be able to find who can teach
> Samhita portions - not the verbal teaching of Mantras but explain their
Again let us ask why this is so? I think we need to view this in economic
terms. To learn the Vedas well is hard work and the shastris spend years
to master it. But what is the return on this investment? The average
member of the public doesn't know the difference between a scholar and
someone who can mumble his way through a printed book. even worse he
might actually prefer the one who makes a theatrical show or finishes up
quickly. In this environment there is no incentive (and I'm not just
talking about money. A sense of being appreciated is also a reward.) to
pursue higher studies. If we want tot create a supply of true vidwans, we
have to first create the demand.
A comparison of the Gujarati and South Indian communities in America is
instructive. In the South Indian mandirs there are a number of learned
Pandits. The reason is their people demand it and are willing to make the
financial sacrifices to bring such people over from India. They in turn
are helping a new generation grow up with a good understanding of their
traditions. By contrast, the Gujaratis are more hit and miss. While we
have some scholars there is not always proper support and structure and as
a result we are comparatively more ignorant despite being just as
religious and just as interested in preserving our traditions.
> As far as I know, RigVeda Samhita is not taught in Ashrams where
> Advaita (or any other system) is taught, as a part of learning of a
> sanyasi. (I wish I were wrong).
By the time one has taken sannyasa one should already have a good
grounding in shastras. That is the job of grhasthas and if they are not
doing so it is another indication the system has broken down.
> Somehow we have been keeping our ancient texts like RigVeda in owe,
> not to be touched, but just respected and talked about. It is high time we
> change our attitude. We should approach the texts with respects, but
> respect born out of understanding and knowledge.
Once again I agree. I am not a fan of the "Our glorious heritage" school
that treats our dharma as a dusty museum relic. It must be because of
some punya I have done that I've been able to meet people for whom it is a
vital and vibrant force in daily life. And I am trying to be one of those
people! All I'm saying is first we must build on the time-tested and true
methods of the past. Then by all means let's take it to new heights.
To the original poster: My words were not meant to scare you away from
the task at hand but to inform you about the right way of going about it.
But let me assure you it is well worth the effort and this list stands
ready to assist you as much as possible.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/
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