Friday, November 16, 2007

Vedas and unity

By J.G. Arora
There is a misconception in some minds that Hinduscriptures sanction the caste system. Vedas, the proudpossession of mankind, are the foundation of Hinduism.Vedas are all-embracing, and treat the entire humanitywith the same respect and dignity. Vedas speak ofnobility of entire humanity (krinvanto vishvam aryam),and do not sanction any caste system or birth-basedcaste system. Mantra, numbered 10-13-1 in Rig Veda,addresses the entire humanity as divine children(shrunvantu vishve amrutsya putraha). Innumerablemantras in Vedas emphasise oneness, universalbrotherhood, harmony, happiness, affection, unity andcommonality of entire humanity. A few illustrationsare given here. Vide Mantra numbered 5-60-5 in RigVeda, the divine poet declares, “All men are brothers;no one is big, no one is small. All are equal.” Mantranumbered 16.15 in Yajur Veda reiterates that all menare brothers; no one is superior or inferior. Mantranumbered 10-191-2 in Rig Veda calls upon humanity tobe united to have a common speech and a common mind.Mantra numbered 3-30-1 in Atharva Veda enjoins uponall humans to be affectionate and to love one anotheras the cow loves her newly-born calf. Underliningunity and harmony still further, Mantra numbered3-30-6 in Atharva Veda commands humankind to dinetogether, and be as firmly united as the spokesattached to the hub of a chariot wheel. The BhagavadGita, which contains the essence of Vedas andUpanishads, has many shlokas that echo the Vedicdoctrine of oneness of humanity. In shloka numbered V(29), Lord Krishna declares that He is the friend ofall creatures (suhridam sarva bhutanam) whereas shlokanumbered IX (29) reiterates that the Lord has the sameaffection for all creatures, and whosoever remembersthe Lord, resides in the Lord, and the Lord resides inhim. Shloka numbered XVIII (61) declares that Godresides in every heart (ishwar sarva bhutanamhrudyeshe Arjun tishthti). Guna (Aptitude) and Karma(Actions) Hindu scriptures speak only about ‘varna’which means to ‘select’ (one’s profession, etc.) andwhich is not caste or birth-based. As per shlokanumbered IV (13) of the Bhagavad Gita, depending upona person’s guna (aptitude) and karma (actions), thereare four varnas. As per this shloka, a person’s varnais determined by his guna and karma, and not by hisbirth. Chapter XIV of the Bhagavad Gita specifiesthree gunas viz. satva (purity), rajas (passion andattachment) and tamas (ignorance). These three gunasare present in every human in different proportions,and determine the varna of every person. Accordingly,depending on one’s guna and karma, every individual isfree to select his own varna. Consequently, if theirgunas and karmas are different, even members of thesame family can belong to different varnas.Notwithstanding the differences in guna and karma ofdifferent individuals, Vedas treat the entire humanitywith the same respect and do not sanction any castesystem or birth-based caste system. Veda is theFoundation Hinduism is all-embracing and grants thesame respect to all humans, and anything to thecontrary anywhere is not sanctioned by the Vedas.Being divine revelation, the shrutis (Vedas) are theultimate authority on Dharma, and represent itseternal principles whereas being humanrecapitulations, smritis (recollections) can play onlya subordinate role. As per shloka numbered (6) ofChapter 2 in Manu Smriti, “Veda is the foundation ofentire Dharma.” Shloka numbered 2(13) of Manu Smritispecifies that whenever shruti (vedas) and smritisdiffer, stipulation of Vedas will prevail oversmritis. In view of this position, anythingdiscriminatory in Manu Smriti or anywhere else isanti-Veda, and therefore, is not sanctioned byHinduism and has subsequently been inserted withunholy intentions, and deserves to be weeded out.Besides, precise codification of Hinduism in one bookis indispensable to make Hinduism easier to beunderstood by a layman. For this codification,appropriate mantras of Vedas and Upanishads, andselected shlokas in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata(which also includes the Bhagavad Gita), etc. willprovide the basic material. Role of Media In order tousher in a casteless and harmonious society, theall-embracing and universal message of Vedas has to befollowed and spread. Both the print and electronicmedia play an important role in a country’s life. Theyshould contribute their mite to unite various sectionsof the society. But in India, most of the media areunwittingly strengthening caste and communaldivisions. By publishing divisive articles anddescribing political leaders and electorates,achievers and sports persons, and even wrong-doers andtheir victims as members of a particular caste orcommunity, the media is strengthening the divisionsinstead of unifying the society. The media should playa positive role so that there is amity all around. LetYour Hearts be One Anyone believing in the castesystem is violating the Vedic command of oneness ofentire humanity. Although the first known poem in theworld appeared as the first mantra in Rig Veda, andthough the Vedas and Upanishads contain the sublimestthoughts in the sublimest language, because of afaulty education system, most of the educated Indiansare ignorant of their rich heritage contained in theVedas and Upanishads. Most Indians do not knowSanskrit, the language of Vedic literature. Manypersons do not know even the meaning of their Sanskritnames. By learning Sanskrit one can read the Vedas,though even translated Vedic literature can bestudied. We have to ensure that we do not lose ourrich Vedic heritage as it would amount ot losing ouridentity. To ensure the survival of our Vedicheritage, and to bring about unity and harmony insociety, it is imperative that the all-embracingmessage of the Vedes is practised and propagated. (Theauthor is a former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax.

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