Archive for the ‘Vedas Part II (contd.)’ Category

Hindu Scriptures IV

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The Vedas – Part II (contd.)

Another distinguishing feature or characteristic of Vedic philosophy related to divinity (devas and the Supreme Authority) was the belief in “Sākārvād” or the personification of devas and the Supreme Authority. Vedic philosophy did not believe in water as just water, rain as just a rain, wind as just a wind, fire as just a fire, lightening as just a lightening, or Sun as just a star. They are all the natural powers controlled by divine powers of varied potentials. Vedas believed in water as another (worldly) form of divine personified god Varun, rain as another form of personified form of god Indra, wind as just another form of personified form of god Vāyu, fire as one of many forms of personified form of god Agni Nārāyan, and Sun as another form of personified god Surya Nārāyan. They were all considered Devs (Devos or Theos) whereas the Brahm or Brahmā was considered the creator of all in Vedic teachings. This kind of understanding is known as “Kshetra-Kshetragna” principle (Field-Fielder theory). For every universal or mundane body there lies its essence or divine controller. No one has seen God in the sky and no one is ready to believe God as a human being even if God Himself shows up presently on the earth. But because of personification of God mankind relates more with God than any other form of God. Formless or abstract God still needs to reveal, talk, or communicate to us in the form we understand. What could be better way of communication than the personification of God?

Image worshiping or idolatry (Murtipujā) – one of the major characteristics of Hinduism is the byproduct of personification of God. Murti puja is in fact not the idol worshiping but God worshiping. Just like in a “glass of water” or “bottle of wine” we see water or wine instead of glass or bottle, in murti puja the devotee sees God in side Murti or idol. It seems like murtipuja was initially started with nature worshipning as one way of thanking God, then it developed into “Shivling” and “Shaligram” puja (that has no human face or figure) and then later on it was fully developed as murtipuja of near human like murtis creating more likeness, affinity, and intimacy with God. Eight kinds (ashta prakār) of murtis are discussed in Purāns. For example, murtis may be constructed of or carved from any one of eight substances, namely, stone, wood, metal, clay, paint, sand (drawn upon the ground), jewels, or the imagination of mind (mental).

These eight kinds of murtis are known as sthir or achal murtis, which are not generally interacting. In the scriptures one more kind of murti is described. Sant, Satpurush, or God-realized person is known as ninth kind of murti, called chal murti, which alive, moving, and interacting. Monotheism (Ekeshwarvād) and reincarnation (Avatārvād) are other byproducts of Vedic philosophy. All the Avatars or incarnations were considered many forms of one God called Vishnu Nārāyan. This was another factor unifying Hinduism. Hinduism was the first in believing in one creator. Although, Western religions and Hinduism both believe in Monotheism, the major difference between them is, Hinduism believes in one creator or one supreme God for all, whereas, the western religions mostly restrict their God as the only God.

The system of “division of labor” is started way back from the period of Vedas. In Vedic period, different kinds of work, fixed duties, or functions, according to their abilities and intellectuals, were assigned to different kinds of vipras or priests for the Yagnas or Vedic rituals. For example, sixteen kinds of tvijas (rutvij) of Vedic period for the specialization of roles eventually became 16 different hereditary branches of the Brāhmin (vipra or dvij) caste, such as agnihotri, adhvaryu, pandyā, purohit, dwivedi, trivedi, chaturvedi, etc. Thus, the system of division of labor later on became well known hereditary caste system (Gnātiprathā or Jātivād). Which in turn eventually became much criticized social class system of so called higher class, middle class, and lower class. The word “Varna” (color of skin) for caste (Jāti) was used much later when learned priest or brāhmin caste people stayed under the shade and became comparatively fair complexioned and shudra or laborer caste people working outside in the field became dark complexioned. Members of any caste were restricted in their choice of occupation and for their choice of relationships and association with members of other castes. Since 20th century much of the rigidity or strictness of the caste system is loosen as the society became more and more open, educated, and advanced. Members of any one caste are restricted in their choice of occupation and may have only limited association with members of other castes.

The idea of Waste management, garbage disposal and recycling is a major part of “Think Green” or “Go Green” movements of 21st century. What do we do in modern society of use and throw? After being used for definite purpose we throw away disposable dishes, boxes, wrappers, bottles, etc. on which waste management industry thrives. Everyone knows that what animals do for millions of years about dead bodies of their loved ones’. They just leave carcasses as they are. What ancient human beings used to do for dead bodies of their loved ones’?  Unlike animals they probably used to leaves dead bodies of their loved ones probably not on the streets but at specific places either for vultures or other animals to eat, buried under ground for natural decomposition, or burned to ashes to avoid putrefaction and foul smelling. There was no science developed for proper disposable but the above three major methods shows for sure the early signs of civilization. Rituals were added later on with the disposal to cope up with the shock as human intelligence or understanding developed. Among various methods of disposal of dead bodies, where the Vedic Hinduism differs? Vedic teachings of soul and body had clearly showed the Vedic society that after death the essence of life – the soul – leaves the body for its designated place leaving behind just a dead structure of worldly elements. Hinduism believes that the day of judgment of any soul is everyday or every moment that it lives creating karma. Thus every moment one lives is the final day of judgment for that person, the death of that person decides his next birth or final liberation. So, there was no definite purpose of keeping or preserving the dead body – which was anyway “…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” as the Book of Genesis says. Meaning, the physical elements of the body shall dissolve or return to the physical elements of the nature. Since burying the body under the ground may leave parts of the body for ever, they must have thought the best possible method of its disposal to be the ‘cremation’. They must have known that all of the parts of the dead body are not fully biodegradable. We now know, after invention of the technique of carbon dating, that the bones of Dinosaurs could leave up to 228 million years and other tissues, blood protein, and DNA up to 80 million years. In this way all the elements of the universe are fully restored in the shortest cost-effective and more scientific way and the life moves on. Putting the four R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover the resource into action is what Waste Management is all about.