You are on page 1of 3

Veda: A new Introduction

Very few literary works in the entire human history have raised so much applause and criticism as Vedas. Throughout the centuries, The Veda has been interpreted in various ways by different critics. Before the arrival of western scholars, Vedic interpretation was not very common. Even though saints like Yaska and Sayana tried to make an explanation, generally, Veda was considered to be ‘Apaurusheya’[Divine], 'Anadi' [without beginning] and 'Ananta' [without end]. The Rishis, who composed those hymns, were considered to be a mere media chosen by the Ultimate Reality to reveal itself. So, those who studied Veda never felt the need for an interpretation. That was the condition when western scholars took over the Vedic studies. Their entrance changed the scene completely as they introduced an entirely new, different methodology. They believed that, like other scriptures, Veda contains a logical philosophy. They used their reason and logic to find an interconnected philosophy in Vedas. Since they couldn’t find a unified ideology or philosophy, they assumed that different parts of Vedas were written in different periods. Actually it was not their fault. They were only familiar with western philosophy and scriptures, all of which had a unified philosophy. But, Veda does not posit a unified philosophy. The seers knew that Reality is ‘decentered’ and hence they avoided the slightest chance of giving a single philosophy. That is why they talk about the Ultimate Being in one context and talk about the material benefits we get from the performance of rituals at the very next moment. The Vedic seers know that different truths can exist in different layers of existence. That is why they talk about universal love in one hymn and in the very next, they pray to God to destroy their enemies. Veda can rightly be labeled as ‘WHOLE’ as it contains things which appear contradictory to ordinary logic. In Vedic hymns different deities are addressed and worshipped. Western scholars name it as Polytheism. Naming is not a problem; but when they put Polytheism opposite to Monism and tell that the Monistic sections of the Vedas were added later, the vedic message is completely lost . More than that, they glorify the fantastic philosophy of Upanishads and condemn the hymns of Rig Veda as the prayers of barbaric men. Sometimes even Indian scholars unknowingly fall into this trap. For example, Bansi Pandit, in his wonderful book ‘The Hindu Mind’glorifies the Upanishads very much and tells that they represent the essence of Vedas. If Upanishads are the essence of Vedas,what about Samhitas, Brahmanas and Araniakas? Are they then inferior? He doesn’t make any comments about Brahmanas or Araniakas, but just gives only what appears to

be a factual description. He even criticizes the Rig Vedic Seers for glorifying the earthly pleasures. The problem lies not with the persons but with the analytical logic they used. In the analytical logic there is always a binary pair e.g.; virtue/vice, knowledge/ignorance, nature/culture, white/black, reason/madness etc. In the whole history of western thought one can find this phenomenon. First a pair of opposites or binary pair is created and one part of the binary pair has always been given importance than the other. So virtue is glorified and vice is condemned. Knowledge is projected and ignorance is concealed. God is worshipped and Satan is cursed. This kind of interpretation is okay with ordinary texts. But with Veda, which tries to present the Reality as it is, this analytical logic is insufficient and sometimes useless. Application of this binary logic is the sole reason why different scholars find different philosophy in Veda. Just like a mirror that reflects the person who looks at it, Veda reflects the ideas of the persons who interpret it. No interpretations of Veda interprets Veda, instead they only interpret the interpreters. Veda can better be understood if we accept the difference between ordinary analytical logic which is based on binary opposites and the Vedic logic which is beyond binary opposites. Our feeble and small instruments of perception - Five senses and the co-coordinating power called Mind - are incapable of catching the vast and deep panorama of Reality, which is inclusive of all the contradictions. That is why we feel that day is opposite to night and Satan is the enemy of God. But Vedas show how Reality can contain day and night, knowledge and ignorance in it. Reality is not Monistic or Polytheistic. It is Monistic as well as Polytheistic at the same time. Vedic seers never try to hide or suppress contradictions. Theirs was a brave attempt to present reality as it is. They were bold enough to accept and present contradictions. So they permit free play to every aspect of existence which may appear contradictory to ordinary logic. Take the famous line, ‘ekam sad vipra bahudha vadandhi’ [Reality is one but wise call it many]. From this line, it is quite clear that it is the Wise persons or Realized persons, not the ignorant ones, who call it many. So how can we say that Reality does not contain 'many'? This mantra is the declaration of Vedic seer’s logic. Reality is one and many at the same time. In the whole galaxy of religious scriptures, The Veda is the only scripture that accepts everything as part of Reality and accepts life in its wholeness. That is why; we find elements of shamanism, ritualism, black magic and a profound discussion about the nature of the soul side by side. It is perhaps because of the influence of this Vedic logic that, in India, sex was not considered to be opposite to spirituality. The most wonderful thing is that the greatest work on sex [Kamasutra] was written by none other than a great saint, Vatsyayana Maharshi.

This Vedic or spiritual logic is the basis of Indian society. Western people superficially label it as ‘tolerance’. As a matter of fact, Indian soceity is ready to accept any kind of beliefs as Reality because the realization that all the beliefs are different interpretations of the Ultimate truth is deep- rooted in India's social psyche. Because of the prevalence of this Vedic logic semitic religions could easily make themselves at home in India. In truth, only this Vedic logic can give birth to the real spirit of democracy and, in that sense, Veda is the last resort to anyone who loves and values his existence in this polyphonic era.