The Vedas – Part II
Following are some of the major uniquely distinguishing features of Vedas:
Vedas believed in “Universalism” or “Universal Brotherhood”. What science now, at the end of 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century, says Vedas believed thousands of centuries or rather hundreds of millennium before, that we are one big family whose roots can be traced to a single pair of a father and a mother – common parents! Color, race, creed, and other features were developed later on.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, meaning, the entire world is one family.
“Ayam bandhurayam neti gananā laghuchetasām, Udāracharitānām tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (Maha Upanishad: Chapter 6, Verse 72), meaning, “One is my brother and the other is not – is the thinking of a narrow-minded person. For those who are broad-minded, liberals, or noble people, the entire world is a one big family.”
‘Ayam nijah paroveti gananā laghuchetasām,
Udāracharitānām tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ | (Hitopadesh: 1.3.71), meaning,
“This is my own relative and that is a stranger” – is the calculation of the narrow-minded; for the magnanimous or generous hearts, however, the entire earth is but a family”
The message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is also told in Panchatantra: 5.3.37. It is also mentioned in Purananuru (a collection of 400 verses composed by more than 150 poets) – an ancient Tamil Sangam literature dated around 100 BCE. “Yathum Oore Yavarum Kelir” (Song 192 by Kanniyan Poongundran), meaning, “every place is my home town; everyone is my kin’ or ‘to us all towns are one, all men our kin”.
“Sisters and Brothers of America, I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance…We are the children of God…” When this Vedic message of universal brotherhood and children of Brahmā was presented to the western world at the parliament of Religions: 11th to 27th of September 1893, by Swami Vivekananda the whole audience of seven thousand people of the assembly went into inexplicable rapture with standing ovation and clapping that lasted for more than three minutes.
Vedic philosophy believed in “Environmental Friendliness” thousands of centuries before the concept was developed by the modern world. Respect to the nature and to all natural resources was the first message of Vedic philosophy to the mankind. Environmental friendliness just did not include only nature and the human beings but it also included animals, tiny creatures, plants, and all living things, as well as, all non-living things like land, air, water, fire, Sun, Moon, planets, etc. We can say that the Vedic society was the first “Environmental Protection Agency” in the history of mankind. Vedas were the first promoters of “Animal Rights”.
Vedas believed in “Non-violence” and “World Peace”. “Ahinsā Paramo Dharma”, meaning, the very first duty, ethics, and responsibility of mankind above all duties, ethics, and responsibilities are to maintain the non-violence and peace in the world. Not only that to keep weapons, develop weapons, or use weapons was considered a big sin. It was all forbidden in the Vedic society. Any type of cruelty was forbidden under the laws of ahinsa (also spelled as ahimsa).
Any kind of killing (hinsā or himsa) was considered a big Sin (Pāp) in Vedic society. Not only killing of human beings but killing of animals, even tiniest creatures, was also considered a sin. Not only killing of others but the killing of self, called “suicide” (Ātmahatyā), was also considered a big sin. Not only killing but even disfigurement or dismemberment of any bodily parts and even causing pain and sufferings to others,was also considered a grave sin.
Killing for any purpose, not even for praising or pleasing the deity or lord, was also forbidden in Vedas. People misunderstood the meaning of “Sacrifice” for their own preferences, likings or understandings. Sacrifice always meant giving up something that is most loving thing for a person. Sacrificing meant for the self-offering of the self or the most loving thing of the self and not the offering of the others or the most loving thing of the others. Sacrifice never meant innocent third party killing. Barbarianism was considered antisocial or uncivilized acts. Animal sacrifice was never the message of Vedic philosophy. When human beings became more and more civilized they understood the rights of others more and more.
The trend of civilized society was towards limiting the violence and killing for the betterment of the society. Just as unjustified mass killing is limited by justifying one killing by the legalization of death sentence, in the history of mankind, killing was tried to be limited by older societies under the name of sacrifice. The ideas of prescribed or controlled burn and controlled killing (death sentence) of modern society to prevent major catastrophic wildfires and mass murders have their roots in Vedas. Although Vedas did not believe any kind of killing, people took the ideas for their self interests. Just as there is a big difference between killing and murder, between murder and death sentence, between death sentence and human sacrifice, there is a big difference between animal sacrifice and grain sacrifice. Vedic society clearly understood the above Vedic principle of ahinsa or non-violence. Vedic yagnas, rituals, and religious ceremonies were prescribed to perform based on this philosophy. Not only that, Vedic teachings propounded sacrifice of only those grains (as against endangered and rare spices of grains) that were naturally more abundant, very old, and could not be grown again even if they are sowed. Until someone would think of another environmental friendly way of disposal of excess of grains this was the master idea of Vedic period – an idea of relating everything in our day to day life to our religion.
“Vegetarianism” was more of the byproduct of Ahimsa or non-violence rather than of health consciousness of Vedic period. It became the main feature of civilized Vedic Hindu society. Cruelty or inhumanity lies behind meat eating. Moreover, they must have realized that the bodily features of human beings were never meant for meat-eating. Man was never created carnivorous or scavenger from very beginning. Cooking was a main difference between sober human beings and wild animals of that period. Scientists now agree that meat or flesh of any kind is not the food for human beings. It is never cost-effective nor it is health or cardio friendly.