The Vedic View of Life🌺
[21:38, 22/8/2022] Da Vivek Arya Delhi: 🌺The Vedic View of Life🌺
✍🏻Author - Pandit Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya
Presentation - 🌺 ‘Avatsāra’
Philosophy is the background of all human activities. It is an invisible wire-puller. It colours the entire human life. Though apparently, philosophical fundamentals are confined to a selected few of the thinkers, masses cannot remain uninfluenced. The waves of philosophical thoughts spread far and wide and permeate every stratum of life. Just as every rise and fall of our footsteps is subject to the invisible law of gravitation and even an animal who has no idea of any law of nature submits, though unconsciously, to that law, similarly all people submit to philosophical thought, either consciously or unconsciously. If we look deep into the ways of Eastern living, we find the whole life falling victim to this wave of pessimism.
The entire oriental conception of life can be epitomized in one word – pessimism. The Eastemers look upon life as something evil, a thing which is worth being renounced. Lord Buddha described the world transitory, full of sorrow and suffering, though he accepted possibility of emancipation. The great Shankaracharya regards the world as big illusion, a maya. It is common to compare life to a bubble on the surface of water or to a dream. The insubstantiality of life is a theme that is more popular with the poets and savants of the East. The renunciation of the world has always been the chief aim of the sages. Pessimistic philosophy negates the very purpose and meaning of life.
Optimism is the chief motor of all human institutions. All progress depends upon hope. As soon as you are convinced of the unreality of life you are deprived of the generative power of all activities. If the world is unreal, if we stand face to face with a big illusion, an abysmal nothingness, what is it that we should work for? If the world is nothing but a dream; then all our troubles and joys, all activities and inactivities are only a dream and we are no more than dreamers. All patriotic and philanthropic institutions, all efforts to alleviate the sufferings of men and animals are meaningless. What do discoveries and inventions mean to a man who feels that the world in which he lives is an illusion? Who will like to improve the life if, however improved, it is no more than a bubble?
What pleasure can the Universe vouchsafe for him who looks upon it as a prison house? What beauty can the sun, the moon, the stars and other objects present to him who thinks that sheer misfortune has brought him to this life, which, the sooner comes to an end, the better? Will he like to pray that this life of prison be lengthened? Will he pray that others in the form of sons, grandsons and friends should also come and share with him the miseries of imprisonment? Who among the most foolish of prisoners, is such a fool that, when destined to imprisonment might request the jail authorities to drag with him to the prison house, his family and friends?
Such pessimistic attitude can be noticed in most of Schools of the East and especially of India. For thousands of years before Maharshi Dayananda Sarasvati (1824 - 1883) the Indians have been leading an almost inactive life; with few elementary wants. The Indian philosophy prompted from the evil world was given a contemptuous place. There have been occasions when some Shivaji, or some Govind Singh rose and made efforts to consider the hard facts and to see the world boldly in the face. But as they could not change the mentality of the people to the desired extent what little they could do was soon undone. Consequently one hardly finds any significant progress, invention, discovery, or adventures, or achievement during the past few centuries. In fact, nothing that can be the sign of wakefulness of a nation have been achieved by Indians. Just as a magician spreads his magic pieces before an audience and the spectators though amused never care to get either his fruits or coins, just so an Indian sage thinks that the world before him is the work of a great magician who shows this or that either to amuse or to delude him. With this conception of life he develops an attitude of complete indifference to the world, its problem and welfare.
The great Shankaracharya realizing this weak point in the theory of maya and to counteract the evil divided the whole department of life into two parts – actual or Parmarthic and work-a-day or Vyavaharik. He enunciated that from the ultimate standpoint world is unsubstantial or illusory but for all practical purposes it is real. He hoped that this proviso would provide man with sufficient motive power to work. But the remedy proved as fatal as the disease. Suppositions are a weak support to solid actions. The feeling of Parmarthic or actual nothingness lingered behind the supposed reality of the world, and we never made that serious progress which is the outcome of faith in the reality of life.
◼️The Glorious Past◼️
If we look at the past of India we are amazed at the progress which was made. Such a glorious past was never in the fate of any nation. Even the remnants of the past glory are dazzling enough. The grand buildings of which a few pieces are brought to light now and then, through excavations, show that marvellous must have been the Indian architecture. Ancient Indian art and ancient Indian literature are such as any nation can be proud of. Their linguistic achievements are simply wonderful. Where is a language more perfect than Sanskrit? Then while other civilizations nave crumbled to pieces at slight cataclysms, the civilization of India has stood a test. It has defied the wildest storms. It has survived the most violent shocks.
◼️Living Vedic Philosophy◼️
How is all this possible? Had the Indians been ever pessimistic as dreaming, as illusion-struck, as they have been for during the past few centuries, such achievements would have been simply out of question? Their conception of life must have been bolder and more lively and in order to provide them with a substantial incentive to go forward. Mere dreamers could not have achieved so much.
We would first look to the Vedas, the books that can safely be our postulated fountain head of all religious life of India.
The one thing that strikes us most is that the Vedic prayers are superbly realistic. Pessimism is conspicuous by its absence. And if there is a tinge any where, it is remarkably insignificant. No where has it been hinted that life is nothing. Long fellow's 'Life is real, life is earnest' reflects Vedism more than Christianity. The famous verse of the Yajur Veda which every Arya is enjoined to recite both morning and evening, testifies to this -
🔥तच्चक्षुर्देवहितं पुरस्ताच्छुकमुच्चरत्। पश्येम शरदः शतं जीवेम शरदः शतं शृणुयाम शरदः शतं बवाम शरदः शतमदीनाः स्याम शरदः शतं भूयश्च शरदः शतात्॥ - Yajur Veda : 36.24
That great eye (God) has already placed in our being a potentiality or seed-power (शुक्रम्). May we see a hundred years! May we hear the (Vedas) a hundred years! May we preach a hundred years! May we live free (अदीनाः) a hundred years! Aye several centuries.
Pessimism can not stand before such hopeful prayers. A prayer for a full century of healthy and useful years of life has charms of its own. Who will like to remain in dream for a hundred years? Who will like to stay in a world which is all pain, all misery, all afflictions, even for a day? Is it not a dire insult to the great Maker to call the world ugly, painful and bad? What would you think of a watch-maker if he produces a frail, useless and ugly watch? And what will you think of the great God whose work is alleged to be so bad? The Vedas speak in a quite different strain -
🔥यो अदधाज्ज्योतिषि ज्योतिरन्तर्यों असृजन्मधुना से मधूनि।
अध प्रियं शूषमिन्द्राय मन्म ब्रह्मकृतो बृहदुक्थादवाचि॥
- Rig Veda : 10.54.6
To that God are offered these sweet prayers by the divinely inspired devotee, Who puts light into bright things and who created sweet things bleat with sweetness?
How bright! How sweet!
🔥यस्येमे हिमवन्तो महित्वा यस्य समुद्रं रसया सहाहुः।
यस्येमाः प्रदिशो यस्य बाहू कस्मै देवाय हविषा विधेम॥
- Rig Veda : 10.121.4
Unto that Great God alone shall we offer prayers? Whose are these high snow covered mountains; Whose is called the Ocean with its water; Whose are these directions; and Whose are these arms (of men representing strength).
🔥मा नो हिंसीज्जनिता यः पृथिव्या यो वा दिवं सत्यधर्मा जजान।
यश्चापश्चन्द्रा बृहतीर्जजान कस्मै देवाय हविषा विधेम॥
- Rig Veda : 10.121.9
Unto that Great God alone shall we offer prayers? May he not harm us who is the Creator of the Earth; or who being the controller of true laws, created the firmament and who created the great delight-giving waters.
The Vedas no where seem to entertain such an idea. Look at the blessings showered upon the bride and bridegroom just when their nuptials are over -
🔥इहैव स्तं मा वि यौष्टं विश्वमायुर्व्यश्नुतम्।
क्रीळन्तौ पुत्रैर्नप्तृभिर्मोदमानौ स्वे गृहे॥
- Rig Veda : 10.85.42
May you dwell here; be ye not parted; enjoy the full life; playing with sons and grandsons; rejoicing in your own house.* [*Compare with this the Christian view of life - 'In England on the other hand and in Europe generally apart from the increasing influence of prudential considerations, there has always been the idea underlying the teaching of the Christian Churches that it is good for a man not to touch a woman'. 'Why'asks Tetullian, 'should we long to bear children... Whom when we have them desire to send before us... ourselves also longing to be removed, from this most wicked World? St. Augustine admits that some persons ask, if all men abstain from sexual intercourse, whence the human race will exist, but he goes on would that all would thus (i.e. abstain)... much more speedily would the city of God be filled and the end of the world hastened.' (Census of India 1921, Volume, Part I, Page 154) Europe did not progress as long as this mentality remained. The progress Europe has made now is due to change in the mentality, which is exhibited in the modern European literature.]
[21:38, 22/8/2022] Da Vivek Arya Delhi: Vedic View of Life
Who will not welcome the duration of imprisonment reduced? But the Vedas no where admit of such notions. Ferista' or 'live long' is the usual benediction allowed by the Vedas. In fact longevity is everywhere prayed for. Those who think that it is in conformity with Vedic teachings to look upon the world as a big illusion are mistaken like wise. They commit the mistake of taking or mistaking for the Vedas the books which are neither Vedas nor consonant with the Vedas. The doctrine of Maya or illusion which generally passes as Vedanta is nowhere encouraged in the Vedas. The Vedas no where, say that the world is a big illusion. Even the word 'Maya' which occurs so often in the Vedas does not mean illusion or nescience, but just the reverse of it i.e. science or knowledge or intellect. In Nighantu the word (4841) Maya is one of the eleven synonyms of (5) Prajna or wisdom and the great Vedic lexicographer Yaska while commenting upon the word quotes several verses of the Rig Veda (e.g. Rig Veda : 6.58.1, 10.88.6, 5.85.6, 10.71.5), where from the very context the word 'Maya' means knowledge or wisdom and not an illusion.
◼️Misinterpretation of Maya◼️
It is true that in later ages the word 'Maya' underwent a degrading change and began to be used in the sense of illusion. But the practice of looking upon the universe as a big illusion is of a very late origin as compared with the age of Vedic civilization. It was the Budhistic nihilism or Budhistic idealism that first gave currency to the illusory conception of the outer universe. And subsequently Gaudpadacharya and Shankaracharya twisted the doctrine in their favour and gave it a Vedic tinge. Since then the whole Hinduism began to regard the world as a big illusion or a big dream and hence the national inertia or degradation to which we have been reduced.
If the universe were a dream or an illusion, the following bold injunctions of the Vedas would have had no meaning at all –
🔥कुर्वन्नेवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेच्छतं समाः।
- Yajur Veda : 40.2
Only doing actions in the world should one desire to live a hundred years.
What do actions mean in dream or illusion?
🔥सं गच्छध्वं सं वदध्वं सं वो मनांसि जानताम्।
- Rig Veda : 10.191.2
Walk together, speak together, and let your minds be united. What place have walking, speaking and unity in a world which is no better than illusion?
Then again, if the world has no real existence at all, what would the following verse mean?
🔥सूर्याचन्द्रमसौ धाता यथापूर्वमकल्पयत्।
- Rig Veda : 10.190.3
The Creater made the sun and the moon as in the previous cycles.
If the world is an illusion, the sun and the moon that are a part thereof are also an illusion, and their creation has no meaning at all. Shankaracharya's great proviso too that the world has no real reality but a practical reality only does not find support in any verse of the Vedas. Neither in the beginning, nor in the middle nor in the end of the Vedas is there any clear evidence that it is for practical purposes only that the universe be regarded as existent. The very first verse of the Rig Veda addressed to Agni gives a bold expression to a bold world: by no means to a world supposed or illusory or merely seeming.
The importance of action is the first thing that the Vedas enjoin. A few instances may be cited-
🔥अग्ने यं यज्ञमध्वरं विश्वतः परिभूरसि। स इद्देवेषु गच्छति।।
– Rig Veda : 1.1.4
O God, the harmless sacrifice, which thou encompassest all round, verily conduces to good qualities.
Here God (Agni) is said to be the encompasser of Yajna or good actions. Had Yajnas been due to nescience, God would never have been called their encompasser of doer.
🔥पावका नः सरस्वती वाजेभिर्वाजिनीवती। यज्ञं वष्टु धियावसुः॥
- Rig Veda : 1.3.10
Let purifying learning which provides us with means of livelihood, pervaded with wisdom, help our sacrifice.
🔥चोदयित्री सूनुतानां चेतन्ती सुमतीनाम्। यज्ञं दधे सरस्वती॥
- Rig Veda : 1.3.11
Learning, actuator of truths and inspirer of gracious thoughts, supports the sacrifice.
🔥महो अर्णः सरस्वती प्र चेतयति केतुना। धियो विश्वा वि राजति॥
- Rig Veda : 1.3.12
Learning, deep as a great ocean glorifies with action and illumines all intellects.
The Vedas abound with such verses which prove without doubt that actions or sacrifices are not the result of nescience. They are the imperative duties of leamed men and are necessary not only for worldly prosperity but for ex-worldly bliss. The greatest error that has found currency among some influential schools of thought is that the Vedas hold all actions as result of nescience and enjoin the renunciation of them. Those texts which glorify the actions are either belittled or misinterpreted only to so conform to the supported theories. I shall give one instance. While writing an exposition of the 2nd verse of the 40th chapter of Yajur Veda enda ‘कुर्वन्नेवेह’ etc., (which I have quoted above) the great Shankaracharya says: अथतरस्यानात्मज्ञानतयाऽऽत्मग्रहणयाशक्तस्येदमुपदिशतिमव:कुर्वन्नेवेति । Meaning : "This verse (कुर्वन्नेवेह) advises that one who is different i.e. ignorant of spiritual science, is unfit to receive spiritual knowledge."
I hold that this remark is unwarranted and utterly unfounded. It has been put in by the learned expositor, only in order to make the Vedas consistent with his absolutely non-Vedic theory that actions are due to ignorance, nescience or Avidya.
Some persons think that the Vedas have nothing to do with mundane affairs; they speak of God or Gods only. This is utterly wrong. Religion according to the Vedic doctrines belongs not only to one phase of life but to the whole of it. Kanad, the author of Vaisheshik, defines religion as -
🔥यतोऽभ्युदयो निःश्रेयससिद्धिः स धर्मः।
That which is conductive through worldly prosperity to ex-worldly bliss.
This is, I think, the correctest position of the Vedas. This is the spirit that pervades through all the Vedas. The Vedas do not ignore any department of life. Their love of nature is proverbial. If you read the Vedas you cannot but be impressed with the beauties of the universe. Lordly mountains, gliding streams, spacious firmaments, they all inspire. Not vagaries or cruelties of nature, but its sweetness, grandeur and loveliness are the themes of the Vedic verses. They create in the reader's mind not a hatred, but a peculiar love towards the great work of the great God. The Vedas nowhere speak of an abstract God who has nothing to do with the universe or is absolutely unconnected with living being. An actionless, unconnected God who belongs to nothing and to whom nothing belongs, who loves nothing and is loved by nothing, will be an entity no better than nothing, hardly an object of worship or human devotion. God is ours and we are His. He loves us and we should love Him. The Vedas sing of him as -
🔥स नः पिता जनिता स उत बन्धुः।
- Atharva Veda : 2.1.3
He is our father, life-giver and kin as well.