Monday, May 6, 2013

"Tradition" matters in Vedic culture– a rejoinder by R.Ramanathan

Previous article HERE

{This debate is currently going on among experts in astrology from India and abroad. The foreigners claim that "Rashi" and planets were originally Greek innovations which  Vedic astrology borrowed from them. They also say that it is not right to call astrology as we practice in our country as Vedic astrology. Mr Ramanathan who used to contribute fine articles on Vedic yajnas had sent a rejoinder to my article which is reproduced below.}

By profession I am a software Engineer. I will be rambling a bit before I get on to the core topic as stated in the heading. I want to digress a lot because many people are not aware of the context involved in the traditional way of studying the Vedas. As always, credit for any valuable information found in this article is due to the great Brahmavaadins who taught me right from my Upanayana till now. Any inaccuracies or wrong information is due to my deficient understanding and sheer incompetence.

I have good contacts with a lot of south Indian traditional Vedic scholars (of all 4 vedas) who have finished their Vedic studies upto either Krama, jata or Ghanantha along with the 6 Angas. They live a complete Vedic life along with the necessary aachara and rites in remote villages. I have been to many Shrauta rituals conducted by such great people. Also I have seen many real sanyasis from among them who have really practiced the principles advocated in the Upanishads, a few of them who really wander without staying in one place. It is not with a view to boast my qualifications or experiences that I am writing this big an introduction.

Unlike many professors who may have fancy Phd's in Indology, from big institutes who are part of the mail group discussions, I have learnt the Vedas and the related subjects to a very small extent from people who live and practice it in daily life, what they learn. I consider that the real qualification, than studying for a Phd in Indology.   I was introduced to this article and the mail group discussion by Mrs Jayasree. I was pained to see the type of discussions happening on these groups/forums. I thought that the period of colonial Indologists with vested interests has come to an end but I still see those people along with their shishyas alive and kicking. As a traditional adhyayi I feel a responsibility to reply to all these arguments as I feel it insults this great dharma followed for generations.

Of course I do not believe comparative philology to be an exact science. So I am not going to reply using all these "so called scientific" stuff. I have several reservations on the subject of philology and its several fallacies but that is the subject of probably another article. I am going to give a practical response, culled from the everyday lives of persons who have dedicated their entire lives for preservation of Vedas.

It is a pity that in all these discussions none of these foreign professors care to refer to these traditional scholars and get their views. They refer to people like Paul Deussen, Max Weber etc. as experts!  As I said earlier there are people whom I know practicing, "Shravana Manana and Nidhidhyasana" in their daily life and Deussen is considered an expert in the Upanishads!!!.  After all consider the pain these traditional scholars have undergone to preserve them. About no less than 50-70 years ago, to preserve tonal purity of the Vedas these people have travelled on foot alone for many miles through dangerous forests, crossing many wild rivers, risking bandit's en-route etc. to meet scholars from neighboring villages to get the doubts they had, clarified. They painstakingly transmitted it to the next generation with utmost care. When they recognized any lapses on their part they did japa of 1000 Gayathris as expiation for the lapse. They perform the Agni Hotra without fail. I personally know such people now who are in their late 70s and 80s. This is just to emphasize the care and pain tradition has taken to ensure proper transmission. But yet the western scholars care not for these people. After all if these people did not exist, then I bet there would be no "Chairs of sanskrit/Indologoy" in their fancy universties. So literally it is because of these people, that foreign professors get their bread & butter, and I cannot but roll in laughter to think that these university professors pass value judgments on the traditional scholars and tell them what's right and wrong in the Vedas

 Mind that sufficient variations in texts have been accounted for, in terms of various shakas sutras etc.  For example in the term Taittriya denotes around 86 shaakas of which the Maitrayini, Kapishtala, Katha, Ballaveya, Oukhya shaka etc. are a few examples. Also there is the classification of the shukla/Krishna Yajuses. It is the same with other Vedas too.  Also within the Taittriya shaaka there are innumerable numbers of sutras like Bodhayana, Apastamba, HiranyaKeshin etc. So though the Veda is same the application in rituals can differ and is considered acceptable shishtaachara. There are innumerable other differences which are too large to be mentioned in this article. But the idea is that as long as there are traditional "Aarsheya(From Rishis)" source of authorities, even though  a particular concept may not be explicitly mentioned in any of the Veda, it is considered as authoritative and is followed as part of Vaidika aachara.

Another point debated is the accents of Vedic texts. I recently came across some useless project called the "Restoration of Rig Veda", where all the mantras are made to fit Panini's rules. My teacher was approached for this and obviously he did not support it, as mentioned by Mrs Jayasree in one of her mails. It must be understood that Panini tried to explain the existing system in the Vedas. He did not try to create a new system and "Correct" the misfits calling them corrupted text and has left it to the decisions of the Rig Vedins like Shakalya, Ashvalayana etc as to how to pronounce it. Such exceptions in each shakha are dealt with in the Praatishakya texts of each Veda. Panini never claims to have explained all the Vedas nor I bet he would desire so. Also I see some of these Indologists claim that some of the texts got their accents sometime in the 19th century and so on. What a laughable idea. As I said earlier these Vedic scholars dedicate their entire lives to preserve such texts. They study the angas to preserve each shaka as much as is humanly possible. They are loath to even slightest changes in accents and pronunciation. So it is absurd to say that some portions got their accents in the 19th century. This is vintage, colonial, Indological imperialism to the core. Especially the Aranyaka and the Upanishads are usually unaccented in cases like the Rig Veda. So can we consider the Aiteraya Brahmana and the Upanishad as not part of the Vedas? But Taittriya shaakaha has all the 3 swaras till the last. But the Taittriya Upanishad and the Aranyakas have accents that differ from those in the samhita but there is a book called the Aranyaka shiksha that explains these differences and neither the author nor the date is known. I bet no western Indologist knows it. Also the Ishavasya Upanishad that is part of the Shukla Yajus samhita is fully accented. But whereas the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in the Shatapath brahmana has only 2 accents (The Udatta and the Anudatta alone).So just because a particular text is unaccented/differently accented does not mean it is not recognized part of the Veda. As a practical example I wish to suggest that when the Samidheni Rigs(Riks chanted during addition of kindling sticks called samidh to the fire, during Shrauta sacrifices) are chanted they are chanted in Eka shruti (Monotonically) and not with the normal accents with which they are usually chanted on other occasions. So the western Indologists would do well to come to India and interact with these scholars before jumping to hasty conclusions. The problem is that for these Indologists the Vedas are just a matter of academic pursuit, whereas for these scholars it is a matter of heart and life itself and they take it very seriously. So believe me they have done a pretty good job of preserving the Vedas.

We will now deal with the core topic as mentioned in the heading. As told earlier I am not going to use philology or other gymnastics to support my arguments. I would be using practical examples in my arguments. As an example consider the Aupasana. It involves maintenance of a Grihya fire till death by the couple. It is the first basic rite enjoined upon a newly wedded couple. Nowhere in the entire Taittriya Samhita has the word "Aupasana" occurred, though the word "Paaka yajna" occurs.  But it is only using the Aupasana fire to start with; the Shrauta ritual of "Agnyaadhana" is performed. In this ritual, the aupasana fire is divided into the 3 Shrauta fires (Gaarhapatya, Aahavaniya and the Anvaaharya fire). It is in these fires that all the other grand shrauta yajnas are done.  So the source for the first basic shrauta ritual, the Agnyaadhana, is the "Aupasana" agni, which has never been mentioned in the Samhita. So it follows as per these western indologists that if a word does not occur in the Veda then the concept is either borrowed or non-existent. Thus the Shrauta rituals become invalid since the word "Aupasana" never occurred once in the samhita. What patent absurdity is this!!!. The entire life of a Grihasta and the associated dharma's become invalid. In fact the performances of all the basic samskaras like Choula, Upanayana, shraddha, and even last rites become invalid!!!.  Would be ok to consider this as Non-Vaidika?. 

Only the Grihya sutras (For example Apastamba grihya sutra) explain the performance of the Aupasana and other grihya rituals like the Aagrahayani sthalipaaka, the pinda pitru yajna, the Ashtaka shraddha etc, in detail. So the authority is mainly based on the grihya sutras.

Similarly even the sandhya rite (Event the word) is not mentioned in the Rig Veda Samhita even once. It is explained only in the Mahanarayana Upanishad, a text according to western Indologists is of dubious antiquity. The entire set of Sandhya mantras are taken from this text for all the Vedas. So since the word Sandhya did not occur in the RV and the Sama Veda, does it follow that the concept is foreign to them and they need not do it? So it can be seen that the basic rites required for a Vedic life do not find direct mention in the Vedas. The source for all these texts is the Kalpa or Dharma shastras written by Rishis and not the Vedic texts.

It follows that many astrology texts like the Brihat jataka, Parashara hora etc and many texts like the Ramayana and the Puranas are texts composed by Vedic Rishis. Why should people following them to practice astrology be not termed "Vedanga Jyothishyas"?.  There are texts in the Vedas like "Dwadaasha Maasa Samvatsaraha". It means "The year has 12 months". So the concept of 12 units in one year is not alien to the vedas. It is just that the grouping of the nakshatras into a raashi gana is of dispute.  If it has been coded by Vedic rishis like Parashara etc, it can be considered "Arsheya" and be followed as shishtaachara. The taittriya Upanishad says "When in doubt on dharma please consult brahmanas well versed in the Vedas, impartial and having a dharmic bent of mind, and take their word as the word of the Vedas".  So it is in this sense that the word "Raashi" need not be considered "Avaidik" and of Greek origin. Thus texts that deal with predictive astrology composed by Vedic rishis are also considered very much part of "Vedangal Jyothisha", by the force of Shishtaachara alone.

I appeal to every person interested in this ancient Vedic culture of Bharatavarsha and its preservation to just trash the arguments of these Western Indologists. They do not live and follow the precepts contained in them. To them it is just bread and butter and they do not have an inkling of what they talk. Also they have many social/governmental pressures to conform to, awards/perks to win etc. Same is the case with our own Indologists who are devoted shishyas of Karl Marx, Witzel etc. So for any doubts you have on the Veda, please consult, these traditional scholars if you can find them. Probably they cannot talk in English and do not know fanciful subjects like "Philology" and cannot browse the net. But they are our only living examples of this culture and it is proper to learn only from them. Otherwise all these wild speculations made by these "Indologists" are like speculations made by paleontologists after they find Dinosaur bones.  And finally if we accept the views of these Indologists, then we are like people, though having a living species of animals to study, only confine ourselves to study the bones of these animals got from a dig and trying to understand them!!!.

1 comment:

Rupak Panigrahy said...

Hi Friend, You are very true.
Sometimes I get tears in my eyes to hear such things about Vedas and how they are mishandled. Its not just harmful for india but also for the whole world.

I request all to read the book "Searching for Vedic India" by Devamrita Swami.

Anyways I dont think its so important to convince these biased indologists regarding the purity and divine origin of Vedas. Basically those deluded by illusion; Vedas will not be revealed to them. They are a matter of heart and of revelation. Not of some word jugglery.

You are true about the South Indian brahmins who sacrifice their entire lives for perservation of Vedas. Probably if these indologists visit and interact with these experts they may get some insight. But anyways I feel its not so important.

Its we who have to preserve. We need our politicians to be educated in Vedas or at least guided by people who are teachers of Vedas which is the ideal system. We need our teachers to understand Vedas , at least a toplevel understanding. So if majority of Indians understand the divinity of Vedas, then almost the purpose is served.

I agree that this is a real big task and it needs some real geniuses. We can contribute to this by whatever small way we can for the restoring the respect for Vedas in hearts of indians which was strategically destroyed by british employed biased indologists.