Vedas, Upanishads and Us

Vedas and Creation rescued by Varaha

Our retelling of an episode from the Kenopanishad, raised a query on why we dipped into so remote a past of the Hindu tradition, what these works are and what we aim to accomplish by it.

Vedas

The Vedas constitute the bedrock of Hindu thought, culture and living. Every small and mighty edifice of this ancient race is infused through and through with the roar of victory voiced by Rishis more ancient than known history. Vedas were man’s first and perhaps the most profound attempt at Immortality. As with works of posterity whose origins and motivations are a mystery to the brief memory of men, there is a great cloud of ignorance that surrounds popular perception of the Veda. Like the proverbial blind trying to cognize an Elephant, each brings the limitations of his perception to interpreting and understanding the Veda. Add to it people whose goal in life was to show up the Hindu race as uncultured, because Hindus do not follow their particular strain of barbarism and you have a perfect storm of ignorance that makes any objective understanding of the Veda impossible.

Ambition Deficit

Part of the blame would have to lie with Hindus themselves, who due to ignorance, lack of courage and no great ambition kept the Veda on so high a pedestal as to keep it out of reach to the common man. The understanding of the Veda does not have to be via 2nd and 3rd hand translations, transcriptions, commentary and so on. We could reach out to the Veda indirectly via a simple Google search or go the direct route by aspiring to the immanent Divine. Both can act as catalysts to churn our consciousness and give birth to powers and potentialities that are unmistakably part of us, yet add immeasurably more than what we can imagine. This process of churning takes a moment or many lifetimes, depending on the intensity and purity of purpose we bring with our aspiration.

Upanishads

What about the Upanishads then? Well, the Upanishads constitute a later development that built upon the Veda. While the Veda is a mass of intuitions, a collective roadmap to immortality as discovered by the ancient Rishis. In contrast the Upanishads were the intuitions chopped and packed into neat parcels of logic that the reasoning mind would understand. The Veda was poetry of the spirit, the Vedic Rishis travelled as the Gods on their cars of intuition, while the Upanishadic Rishis chose reason as their vehicle to explore trails of consciousness.

Rishis and Seers

We know little of the Vedic & Upanishadic Rishis, apart from what was built around their names in the Puranas and Itihasas. The actual names have come down to us though- Angiras, Bharadwaj, Kanva, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra, Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyapa, Grtsamada, Agastya, Bharata. At times, when the passions of our trivial lives are quelled we hear these names echoing through our being. Each name marking an emperor of the spirit. Each name an adventure of the soul into immortal realms. Each name the reminder of a victory won through the luminous heavens of our being. Each Rishi a guide and preceptor to the aspiring soul of us.

Authorship

The Rishis did not consider themselves authors of the mantras they wrote, they were merely agents, transcribers who had the inner realizations and sang of it in verse. As such they are the undiluted essence of a particular experience. Hence the Veda is called Shruti, that which is heard. It was Sri Aurobindo who in modern times recovered and relived the essence of the Veda, as did the Varaha avatar to save earth from destruction by Hiranyaksha.

How to read Vedas and Upanishads

One has but to read these works. Not with the modern infantile mind that expects all to be given on a platter. The Veda and Upanishad demand a certain discipline of the being. After all if you were a scientist building a cyclotron, you would expect every machinery to be precise to the thousandth of a milli-meter. So it is with understanding of the Veda and Upanishads. Some would even say the mere act of reading the thoughts of a Rishi is an Yagna. No need for detailed paraphernalia, the instruments of external ritual. What the Veda wants is that inner engineering to be in order.

Aim of Kali’s Brood

The goal of Kali’s Brood is to re-acquaint Hindus to the living heart of their tradition. We will do this by providing snippets from the Vedas, Upanishads and other key works. We will get to the heart of its spirit and inner experience. This body of knowledge is not restricted to Hindus alone, it waits for all those who will open themselves to its vast synthesis of man, life and his immortal destiny.

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Comments

  1. This is an all important post that has been put in a very organized manner. Makes it easier for a layman to understand the basic purpose/importance of the Vedas and Upanishads. Kudos for that!

    However a small interjection! I agree that the mistake of the Hindus themselves was to keep Vedas/Upanishads on such a high pedestal that it was out of reach of common man. But the western ‘scholars’ and many recent researchers/so-called Indologists who got to read them, interpreted them for their own purposes and most of them turned out to be U-Turners(Rajiv Malhotra’s term) or fraudulent interpreters. Given this fact, when the Vedas/Upanishads are accessible to all ( as it is now), how do we ensure that they do not turn out to be U-Turners or fraudsters? OR do you think we should NOT be bothered about this aspect at all?

    Wish you all the best in your aim which is not only noble but also very much essential in today’s mere physicalist existence. Looking forward to elaboration or individual posts on each of the topics in this article.

    • Mahesh CR says:

      Prashanth – First of all thanks for the comment and raising an important question. I am aware of the serious misinterpretation done by Western and external funded Indian “pseudo-scholars”..it is exactly this negative aspect I hope to confront by laying out the spirit of Hinduism in its ideal state. And that too not from a scholar’s viewpoint but from a practitioners viewpoint. What I write about is what I have lived and felt. If it is not my own experience then it would be that of the people whom I know intimately. Basically not theory but living practice. In the process I hope to confront prejudices driven by ignorance, malice or cluelessness.

      There is also another aspect, the scholarly way of debate is like fighting with a pig..it enjoys the exchange and we get dirty! So you will see us striking a balance between sharing insights into Yoga, our dalliances with the Divine and talking straight to historians/scholars who have no aptitude or attitude to make pronouncements on Hinduism. As I say to my friends, my interest in women makes me no gynecologist, similarly commenting on Vedas/Upanishads/Hinduism requires qualification of discipline, practice and Divine grace.

      • Very well said my friend :

        “commenting on Vedas/Upanishads/Hinduism requires qualification of discipline, practice and Divine grace.”

        Hope all the “Scholars” take note and learn …..

        Live the Knowledge ….not just read and regurgitate

        • Mahesh CR says:

          Nitin – Very nice to see your comment here 🙂

          Our entire educational system is based on “read and regurgitate”..so obviously scholars spat out by such a system would do no different. The only hope of weeding out pests that feed upon our people & culture is for us to become knowledgeable and lend a hand to those less fortunate. As we become more discerning, those who foster and feed upon our misery will have less to depend on.

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