[Advaita-l] 'Vedic History' and 'Worldly History' Part Two

Kuntimaddi Sadananda ksadananda108 at gmail.com
Sat Mar 13 04:19:10 CST 2010

Subbuji - PraNams

First I appreciated the differences in terms of characters in the Veda's and
in the puraaNaas.

Coming from a rational background, I look at the Veda, the pure knowledge
part, is apouruSheyam. The incidental characters that helped to discover the
eternally existing truths are incidentals - the same way I look at the story
of apple falling on the head of Newton for the discovery of the eternally
existing gravitational law.

The story part including the Mahaabhaarata war in the Gita is only
dramatization of the teachings to help in terms of Gita in the light of
internal conflicts. Shankara did not comment at all on the first chapter of

Other than the fact that incidents in life trigger the mind to inquire into
the underlying the truth of the experiences, that includes the apple falling
on the head, I prefer not to give any more importance than is requird to
understand the knowledge behind the incidents. The knowledge is eternal and
has to be apurusheyam- that includes even the gravitational laws. The
scientist has to be in meditation for the mind to comprehend the ever
existing laws.

Agreed that it is also my perspective in sepearating the incidental
characters from the knowledge and its relavence to the humanity.

Hari Om!

On Sat, Mar 13, 2010 at 6:50 AM, V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>wrote:

> (This is the second and final Part)
> However, this has to be distinguished from the ‘worldly’, ‘loukika’
> itihAsa/purANa.  Taking the cases of the composed / authored ones like the
> Mahabharata, Ramayana and other puraNas, we have a definite author like
> Bhagavan Veda VyAsa, Sage Valmiki, etc.  These ‘stories’ are believed to
> have ‘taken place’ in the setting of the TretA yuga or Dvaapara Yuga.
> The events recorded in the Veda, however, are different from the above in
> that they are not events that occurred at a particular yuga-setting and
> authored by a specific person.
> We have this one interesting case in the Kathopanishat.  When Nachiketas
> asked for the knowledge of the Fire Ritual (in encashment of the second
> boon) that would take people to heaven, the AchArya Yama taught him this.
>  In
> appreciation of the disciple’s phenomenally quick grasping and reproducing
> the method of the ritual, Yama declares.1.16,17 :
> //The MahAtma Yama, being well pleased, said to Nachiketa: I will now give
> you another boon: this fire shall be named after you. Take also from me
> this
> many-splendored chain.
> 17.  He who has performed three times this Nachiketa sacrifice, having been
> instructed by the three and also has performed his three duties, overcomes
> birth and death. Having known this Fire born of Brahman, omniscient,
> luminous and adorable and realized it, he attains supreme peace.//
> In the ‘aruNa prashna’ of the Yajur Veda, we find the mention of this
> ritual, with the name of Nachiketas, in the expression: ‘नाचिकेतं चिन्वीत’.
> If we hold that the two events are sequential/successive in time, then we
> end up concluding that the aruNa prashna is a ‘later’ portion of the
> Veda.  This
> would be against the traditional view that the Veda-s are eternal, never
> composed by anyone at any point of time.  Then, how is one to understand
> the
> sequence of the two mantras, the one in the Kathopanishad and the other in
> the aruNa prashna?  It is here that we have to abandon the worldly method
> of
> sequencing events and simply take the Vedic pronouncements ‘as they are’.
>  The
> Kathopanishadic ‘event’ of Yama granting the ‘naming’ of the Ritual after
> Nachiketas is not to be seen as an event in terms of worldly time.  This is
> because, the agni ritual has always been there and the *aruNa prashna* name
> ‘naachiketa’ has always been there.  Also, the Kathopanishat mantra we saw
> above also has always been there.
> Here is just one instance where Shankaracharya considers the UpaniShadic
> character Nachiketas as a ‘real’, human, character:  In the UpaniShat there
> is a mantra 1.1.2 that says this Nachiketas is a ‘kumAra’, a small
> boy.   Shankara
> comments: तं ह नचिकेतसं कुमारं प्रथमवयसं सन्तं *अप्राप्तजननशक्तिं *बालमेव
> ....( while still in the prime of life, still not adolescent, still a mere
> boy…) By the word *अप्राप्तजननशक्तिम्  *  Shankara means: the boy has not
> attained the capacity to procreate.  Now, we see that the Upanishad is
> describing Nachiketas as a ‘kumaara’ and Shankara explaining it in these
> terms.  It is evident that unless Shankara considers this character
> Nachiketas as a ‘real’ person, He would not give out such a down-to-earth
> explanation to inform us the physical stature of the boy.  Such examples
> abound.
> In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Shankara often goes into an in-depth
> psychological analysis of the personalities involved.  The
> Janaka-Yajnavalkya conversations offer a rich ground for Shankara to probe
> into the working of the minds of Janaka and Yajnavalkya based on a sentence
> of the Upanishad.
> Thus we have instances of Shankara treating these ‘Vedic historical’
> persons
> just like any other character of a ‘worldly-historical’ work.
> In conclusion, an excerpt [from the Book 'Exalting Elucidations',
> containing
> a series of dialogues where Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Swamigal,
> the
> 35th Acharya of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, gives clarifications on a
> variety of topics concerning Sanatana Dharma.  The book is a Publication of
> Sri Vidyatirtha Foundation, Chennai. (Rs.50)] is reproduced from the
> Chapter
> ‘Veda-s’:
> //Disciple: We find many stories in the Veda-s.  Are they accounts of
> historical events?
> Acharyal: No. The stories do not relate to actual worldly incidents. The *
> Veda-*s, which are like the breath of the Supreme Being, have no beginning.
> As such, they are not the records of the historical events of any age. The
> Brihadaranyaka Upanishad for instance, contains a discussion between sage
> Yajnavalkya and king Janaka. This is not the retelling of a dialogue
> between
> two individuals who lived in some specific period. An event similar to that
> narrated could have occurred at some time but it cannot be said that this
> is
> what has been cited in the *Upanishad*. The stories in the Veda-s are meant
> only as an illustration. //
> This distinction between ‘Vedic-historical’ and ‘worldly-historical’
> personalities and events does not preclude Shankaracharya from considering
> the characters as ‘real’ ones, analyzing them and bringing out the relevant
> facts from them.  All this is done without vitiating the ‘Vedic history’-
> ‘worldly history’ divide.  He chooses to freely quote from the innumerable
> episodes in the Vedic repository when He writes commentaries and other
> works.  It is as though He is quoting from this ‘Vedic History’ Book.  And
> that is quite appropriate, as is the way anyone would do with the ‘worldly
> History’ book. The Brihadaranyaka mantra cited at the beginning of this
> article is the proof of there being ‘historical’ events in the Veda too.
>  The
> other examples are of the Ajaatashatru – Baalaaki episode of the
> Br.UpaniShad,  NArada-SanatkumAra dialogue of the Chandogya Upanishad , the
> Shounaka-Angiras exchange of the Mundaka Upanishad and so on.  A unique
> example is:
> In His Brahma Sutra Bhashyam, Shankara has recounted an interesting Vedic
> tale.  BAShkali was desirous of knowing Brahman.  So, he approached the
> enlightened sage BAdhva and requested: ‘Please teach me about Brahman.’
>  BAdhva
> remained silent.  BAShkali repreated his appeal but again the sage did not
> respond.  Being earnest, BAShkali asked for the third time, ‘Please teach
> me
> about Brahman.’ The sage said, ‘I have already taught you but have failed
> to
> comprehend.  This Atma is quiescence.’ (Give BSB ref.)  The source of the
> Vedic tale is unknown.
> Om Tat Sat
> The Article is available as a pdf here:
> http://www.advaitin.net/Subrahmanian/Vedic_and_Worldly_History.pdf
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