Continued from "God's Quid Pro Quo"
It would be interesting to speculate what would have been the religious tenor of the Hinduism and its early derivatives, the Jainism and the Buddhism, if only the natives of India were equal to the task of thwarting Aryan domination in their own domain. Would it not have brought about a confrontation between the Aryan gods and the native deities? Wouldn’t have Indra, the Aryan spearhead of a God, forced his people into a covenant with Him to destroy the alien gods of the Indian aborigines? Fortunately for the Hindu spirituality and the Indian philosophy, that was not the case. Though Indra spared the local deities of his wrath, his wards were less considerate to the souls of the very land they coveted.
As the brawn of the emigrants should’ve successfully relegated the native Indian souls, save those from the hilly habitats, into subordinate castes, their Brahman brain got into the act of drafting the dharma in the Rig Vedic mould. Anyway, the tribal populaces were out of the Aryan geographical reach, and, besides, would have been beyond their interest. However, it was only time before the Aryan political conquest of the subcontinent was conceptualized through aswamedha yaga ofYajur Veda. At length, when the kshatriyas were on the conquering course, the Brahmans went about composing two more Vedas - Sama and Adharva - to define the spiritual tone of Brahmanism that in later days got evolved into Hinduism.
In due course, the breadth and depth of the Brahman intellect, nourished in the comfort of the Indian climes, came to shape, first the Brahmasutras, and then the Upanishads, as adjuncts to the four Vedas. And that fashioned the Hindu Vedanta of yore. But, the culmination of the Brahman thought process and the crowning glory of the Hindu philosophy is the Bhagavad-Gita. The intellectual achievements of the Brahmans have so fascinated the modern philosophers and scholars of the West that they went eloquent about them.
Jawaharlal Nehru thus compiled the eulogies of Western scholars about the Hindu intellectual achievements symbolized by the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita in ‘The Discovery of India’, of Oxford University Press.
“Schopenhauer felt that “from every sentence deep, original and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit…. In the whole world there is no study…. So beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads…. (They) are products of the highest wisdom… It is destined sooner or later to become the faith of the people.” And again: “the study of the Upanishads has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.”
“Writing on this, Max Mueller says: Schopenhauer was the last man to write at random, or to allow himself to go into ecstasies over so-called mystic and inarticulate thought. And I am neither afraid nor ashamed to say that I share his enthusiasm for the Vedanta, and feel indebted to it for much that has been helpful to me in my passage through life.” In another place he says:
“The Upanishads are the…. sources of … the Vedanta philosophy, a system in which human speculation seems to me to have reached its very acme.” Max Mueller’s wonderment about the Upanishads seems unending going by what Nehru quoted: “I spend my happiest hours in reading Vedantic books. They are to me like the light of the morning, like the pure air of the mountains - so simple, so true, if once understood.”
“Formulating his admiration for the Hindu thought and culture, he further said that,” Nehru continued, “there is, in fact, an unbroken continuity between the most modern and the most ancient phases of Hindu thought, extending to over more than three thousand years. If we were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow – in some parts a very paradise on earth – I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant - I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life - again I should point to India”
“Romain Rolland, who followed him, was no less eloquent: “If there is one place on the face of the earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”
“G. W. Russell, the Irish poet, privy to the power of inspiration said about the inspiring value of the ancient Hindu scriptures: “Goethe, Wordsworth, Emerson and Thoreau among moderns have something of this vitality and wisdom, but we can find all they have said and much more in the grand sacred books of the East. The Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads contain such godlike fullness of Wisdom on all things that I feel the authors must have looked with calm remembrance back through a thousand passionate lives, full of feverish strife for and with shadows, ere they could have written with such certainty of things which the soul feels to be sure.”
It would be interesting to have a peep, first into the Upanishads, and then into the Bhagavad-Gita, that fascinated so many modern intellectuals of the East and the West alike. It could be said, ironically so, that the Brahman intellectual quest that was exemplified by the gayatri mantra of the Rig Veda, which forms the daily prayer of the Brahmans was in fact composed by sage Vishvaamitra, the kshatryia rishi, and it reads thus:
“We meditate on the lovely glory of the god Savitr that he may stimulate our minds.”
The above and the following excerpts are from ‘The Upanisads’ translated by Valerie J. Roebuck which was published by Penguin Books India.
In the Gayatri vein, the Upanishads expostulate about many facets of Hindu knowledge thus:
Om. That is full; this is full;
Fullness comes from fullness:
When fullness is taken from fullness,
They who worship ignorance
Enter blind darkness:
They who delight in knowledge
Enter darkness, as it were, yet deeper.
Whoever knows knowledge and ignorance-
Both of them, together -
By ignorance crosses over death
And by knowledge reaches immortality.
They who worship non-becoming
Enter blind darkness:
They who delight in becoming
Enter darkness, as it were, yet deeper.
Whoever knows becoming and destruction -
Both of them, together -
By destruction crosses over death
And by becoming reaches immortality.
From the unreal lead me to the real.
From the darkness lead me to light.
From death lead me to immortality.
Now, contrast this with the Torah line where God forbids Adam to eat the fruit from the Tree of Conscience for that would open his eyes, and thus makes him aware of right and wrong, good and bad! And yet, it is the Jews and the Christians, if not the Musalmans, of the Semitic religious dispensations who have reached the heights of science and technology in modern times! And sadly, the Hindus, who once hovered about the intellectual horizon of the world, have sunk into the depths of collective ignorance and prejudice for reasons not far to seek.
However, the most fascinating aspect of the Upanishads, as expostulated in the Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad, composed around 700 B.C.E, is its theorization that man himself was the creator of the gods in heaven, and the dharma on earth, in more ways than one.
Two of the examples taken from Valerie’s Upanisads read as follows:
“In the beginning this was self (atman), in the likeness of a person (purusa). Looking round he saw nothing but himself (atman). First he said, ‘I am!’ So the name ‘I’ came to be. Even now, when someone is addressed, he first says, ‘it is I’, and then speaks whatever other name he has. Since before (purva) all this, he burnt up (us-) all the evils from everything, he is purusa. Whoever knows this, burns up anyone who wants to be before him.
He was afraid: so when alone one is afraid. Then he realized, “there is nothing else but me, so why am I afraid?” then his fear departed. For why should he be afraid? Fear arises from a second.
He had no pleasure either: so when alone one has no pleasure. He desired a companion. He became as large as a woman and a man embracing. He made that self-split (pat -) into two: from that husband (pati) and wife (patni) came to be. Therefore Yajnavalkya used to say, ‘In this respect we two are each like a half portion.’ So this space is filled by a wife. He coupled with her, and from that human beings were born.
She realized: “How can he couple with me when he begot me from himself? Ah, I must hide!” She became a cow, the other a bull, and so he coupled with her. From that, cattle were born. She became a mare, the other a stallion; she became a she-donkey, the other a he-donkey: and so he coupled with her. From that, solid-hoofed animals were born. The one became a nanny-goat, the other a billy-goat; the one became an ewe, the other a ram: and so he coupled with her. From that, goats and sheep were born. In that way he created every pair, right down to the ants.
He knew: “I am creation, for I created all this.” So he became creation. Whoever knows this, come to be in this, his creation.”
“When they say, “Sacrifice to that one!”, “Sacrifice to that one!”- some god or other, that is his varied creation, and he himself is all the gods.
Then he created from seed whatever is moist, and that is Soma. All this is just food and the eater of food. Soma is food, and Agni is the eater of food.
This is the higher creation of Brahma, since he created gods who are better than he: and also because, being mortal, he created immortals, it is his higher creation. Whoever knows this, comes to be in this, his higher creation.”
And here is another of the many an Upanishadic creativity.
“In the beginning, brahman was all this, just one. Being just one, it was not complete. So it created over itself a better form, royalty (ksatra), those who are royalty among the gods: Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra, Parjanya, Yama, Mrtyu, and Isana. Therefore there is nothing higher than royalty: therefore at a king’s anointing the Brahmana sits below the Ksatriya and he confers this honour on royalty alone.
Brahman is the source (yoni) of royalty. So even if a king attains the highest state, in the end he takes refuge in the priesthood (brahman) as his own source. So whoever harms the priesthood attacks his own source: he becomes more evil, like one who has harmed a superior.
He still was not complete. So he created the people (vis), those kinds of gods who are named in groups: the Vasus, the Rudras, the Adityas, the Visvedevas and the Maruts.
He still was not complete. So he created the Sudra class, Pusan. This earth is Pusan, for it nourishes (pus) all this, whatever there is.
He still was not complete. So he created over himself a better form, dharma. Dharma is the royalty of royalty, so there is nothing higher than dharma. Through dharma a weaker man overcomes a stronger one, as though through a king. Dharma is truth: so they say of one who speaks truth, “He speaks dharma”, or of one who speaks dharma, “he speaks truth”. Both are the same.
So there were brahman (priesthood), ksatra (royalty), vis (the people) and sudra (the labourer). Brahman came into being among the gods through Agni; as a Brahmana among human beings; as a Ksatriya through the Ksatriya: as a Vaisya through the Vaisya: and as a Sudra through the Sudra. So folk seek a world among the gods in Agni, and a world among human beings in the Brahmana, for brahman came into being through these two forms.”
As against this, the manner in which the God created the world, as propounded by Judaism and subscribed by the Christianity, is narrated in the Torah thus:
“There were no plants or grain sprouting up across the earth at first, for the Lord God hadn’t sent any rain; nor was there anyone to farm the soil. (However, water welled up from the ground at certain places and flowed across the land.)
The time came when the Lord God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And man became a living person.
Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and placed in the garden the man he had formed. The Lord God planted all sorts of beautiful trees there in the garden, trees producing the choicest of fruit. At the center of the garden he placed the Tree of Life, and also the Tree of Conscience, giving knowledge of Good and Bad. A river from the land of Eden flowed through the garden to water it; afterwards the river divided into four branches. One of these was named the Pishon; it winds across the entire length of the land of Havilah, where nuggets of pure gold are found, also beautiful bdellium and even lapis lazuli. The second branch is called the Gihon, crossing the entire length of the land of Cush. The third branch is the Tigris, which flows to the east of the city of Asher. And the fourth is the Euphrates.
The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it. But the Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience – for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.”
And the Lord God said, “It isn’t good for man to be alone; I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs”. So the Lord God formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever he called them, that was their name. But still there was no proper helper for the man. Then the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the place from which he had removed it, and made the rib into a woman, and brought her to the man.
“This is it!” Adam exclaimed. “She is part of my own bone and flesh! Her name is “woman” because she was taken out of a man.” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife in such a way that the two become one person. Now although the man and his wife were both naked, neither of them was embarrassed or ashamed.”
On the other hand, the Quran avers that, “He hath created man from a drop of fluid” (v4, s.16) and “And the cattle hath He created, whence ye have warm clothing and use, and whereof ye eat” (v.5, S.16). It is another matter that Muhammad would have us believe that the first revelation to him read, “In the name of thy Lord Who createth. Createth man from a clot.”
While the stress on religious belief led the Semitic people to take the Lord God’s word without demur, the Brahman inquisitiveness went on to explore the relation between the self (atma) and the god (paramaatma), besides the nature of the soul and its probable immortality. It is this essential feature of Brahmanic enquiry that was possibly carried on for centuries, which culminated in the Vedanta. However, in the end, the quintessence of the Upanishadic wisdom got crystallized in the Bhagavad-Gita, which William von Humboldt described as ‘the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue.’ What is more, Humboldt’s admiration for the Gita was such that he wrote seven hundred verses, equaling its length, in praise of it.
What is that which makes the Gita so unique and fascinating to the Hindus and others alike?
To start with, it is the setting: the battlefield of Kurukshetra where were assembled the armies of Paandavaas and Kauravaas, the estranged cousins, and the dilemma faced by Arjuna, the warrior–in- Chief of the former, about the propriety and usefulness of the fratricide that war ensues. Could the spiritual and temporal conflict in human existence go any better than that? And the highly sophisticated philosophical discourse that followed between Krishna, the supposed incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and Arjuna his alter ego, has a universal appeal to humanity at large, irrespective of the individual’s religious orientation and belief.
After all, the Bhagavad-Gita is not a sermon of religious conditioning; it is a spiritual tool of self-enlightenment. Apart from its peerless philosophy, the Bhagavad-Gita postulates the presence of one Universal Spirit, nursing no sectarian interests on religious lines. And one might contrast this with the unabashed partiality of the Semitic God to His protagonists, which, if only we were to go by the Quran, was prone to shifts and turns as well.
It is this concept of a universal, though uninvolved, God, as can be seen from the following verses from the Bhagavad-Gita, which sets Hinduism apart from the Semitic religions that seek to appropriate ‘the God’ all for their dogma besides prejudicing their followers towards other faiths.
* Thus spoke Arjuna:
Pray tell who’s better realized,
One that devoted as stated
Or relies who on God Obscure. (v1, ch.12)
Thus spoke the Lord:
Me in devotion who worships
Him I reckon as well realized. (v2, ch.12)
Having said that add I might
Looks as one to God Obscure – (v3, ch.12)
Doth he fine with senses reined
If well disposed towards the world. (v4, ch.12)
This is about the famed Hindu religious tolerance, and now for a sample of its philosophical sparkle in Lord Krishna’s postulations.
Wise all realize
Embodies selfsame spirit all one
From birth to death, in every birth. (v13, ch.2)
Spirit in lay us All-Pervading
Given that not to destruction,
What sense doth it make to think
That ever immutable gets destroyed! (v17, ch.2)
Unbound being ever unborn
Ageless since it’s endless too
Goes on Spirit, beyond life-span. (v20, ch.2)
Change as men fade if clothes
So doth Spirit as frames are worn. (v22, ch.2)
Wind as carries scent of flowers
While leaving them as is where,
In like fashion Spirit from frames
Moves its awareness to rebirths (v8, ch.15)
Hold as patent on thy work
Reckon though not on royalty
With no way to ceasing work
Never mind outcome but go on. (v47, ch.2)
It’s but yoga
If thou strive
Emotions bereft. (v48, ch.2)
Work well greedy with motive
Work wise not with result in mind. (v49, ch.2)
Wise not sentiment bring to work
That’s hallmark of art of work. (v50, ch.2)
Freed from bonds with mind even
Act wise regardless ever composed. (v51, ch.2)
Clears if reason one’s illusion
Bothers he not to what’s over
Or for what might lie in store. (v52, ch.2)
Rein in senses, hone thine effort
Rely on Supreme, that’s true wisdom. (v61, ch.2)
Thus spoke Arjuna:
Why should one with right intent
Stray ever on the wayward ways! (v36, ch.3)
Thus spoke the Lord:
Well, it’s passion, lust ’n wrath
Drag that man on path painful. (v37, ch.3)
Flame ’n mirror as shrouded
Without let by smoke ’n dust
As well embryo in the womb
Wisdom is by wants clouded. (v38, ch.3)
Wise all tend to cap all wants
Which like fire all burn to core. (v39, ch.3)
Veiled off wisdom sees not man
Mind and body steeped in wants. (v40, ch.3)
Rein in matter with thy mind
Thus thou nip thy wants in bud. (v41, ch.3)
Score over senses sensuous feelings
Betters that mind, bettered by knowing
Above all Spirit that reins supreme. (v42, ch.3)
Thus spoke the Lord:
Give up all ’n thou be freed
So is the case with selfless work
But know latter scores much better. (v2, ch.5)
Wise neither want, nor they shun
Thus they give up ever engaged. (v3, ch.5)
Way action ’n path learning
Know not ignorant not different. (v4, ch.5)
Work highway ’n lane freedom
Know the learned are the same. (v5, ch.5)
What thou abnegate if thee quit
Deeds selfless make acts forsake. (v6, ch.5)
Such one realized
Within self remains
Without ever engaged. (v7, ch.5)
Privy to this will realize
On his body as it works
Say hath he none to name one. (v8, ch.5)
Wise do realize needs physical
Are but urges driven by genes. (v9, ch.5)
Spreads on lotus leaves as water
Sticks none sin to deeds dutiful. (v10, ch.5)
Wise in selfless work engage
Forego while they self-purify. (v11, ch.5)
Wise ever stay cool never in want
Bog down naive all ever in want. (v12, ch.5)
Covetous not ’n ever laid back
Wise in tune with Supreme stay. (v13, ch.5)
It’s his nature but not Spirit
Makes man act by wants induced. (v14, ch.5)
Takes not Supreme credit or fault
Grasp none have of this uncouth. (v15, ch.5)
He that keeps his bias at bay
Like sun he shines being wise (v16, ch.5)
In clear conscience ’n fairness
Faith in Him gives man freedom. (v17, ch.5)
In stark contrast to the scriptural exclusivity of the Semitic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that ironically are mutually skeptical and hostile as well, thus runs the all-inclusive Hindu philosophical stream in seven-hundred verses of Bhagavad-Gita.
And yet, as if to prove that the destiny of man is but to suffer in strife, either of religious bigotry or of racial prejudice, and/or both, the Brahmanism had abused the all-inclusive Hinduism by subjecting large sections of the Indian society to Inhumanism.
Continued to "Ascent to Descent"