Starting from Vedas, the origin of Vedic Dharma, Manu Smriti, its basic teachings with some controversies and solutions, the main Upanishads, the 6 schools of philosophy, Geeta/Mahabharat, Ramayan, the Rishi Granths including Satyarth Prakash, Rig Veda Bhasya Bhumika (Introduction to Vedas) and Sanskaar Vidhi.
Primary vedic scriptures are the Vedas. There are two schools of thoughts about the origin of vedas. One is the view of swami dayanand saraswati, who firmly believed that the knowledge of vedas was given to the four rishis at the inception of humanity when these rishis were in a deep state of meditation. This was then encoded by them and passed on to their first disciple “Brahma” who then passed it on further by simply recitation to the next generation and so on. At some point, the written form came along. That is why vedas are called shruti. The other view is that these were created some 5-6 thousand yrs. ago during the time of saraswati civilization: the so called vedic period. There is no history in the vedas. These are pure principles. Any names or apparent history really were so given on the basis of vedic knowledge rather than the other way around. The two mantras, one from rig veda (10.90.9) and other from arharva veda (10.7.20) prove the point of view of swami ji.
Vedas are 4 in number. The total mantras are about 20000. These are;
Rigveda-10589 mantras and the first rishi was agni,
Yajurveda-1975 mantras and the first rishi was vayu
Samaveda-1875 mantras and the first rishi was aaditya
Atharva veda-5977 mantras and the first rishi was angira
The word veda comes from the root Sanskrit word vid, which means knowledge. Vedas contain the knowledge of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Rig veda mainly contains the knowledge about God and Soul and some knowledge about nature, yajurvda guides us in our day today lives, samveda is pure devotion to God and atharvaveda mainly contains the knowledge of nature or the sciences.
There are several branches of vedas. Presently only shukla and Krishna branches are available.
After vedas came the following scriptures.These are:
Upavedas: There are 4 texts of fields of knowledge which are considered to have originated from vedas.
- Aaurveda: mainly from Rgveda, but to a great extent form Atharva veda as well. Eight branches have been described. These are surgery, medicine and dietary, pharmacology, psychiatry, plastic surgery, dermatology, pediatrics, pathology. Today the Charak and Shushrut Sanhita are most popular.
- Warfare: Dhanurveda was supposed to have been created by Rishis such as vishvaamitra. The text was supposed to have four parts. These are: Description of the artillery, how to make these, its learning/practice and finally its use in actual warfare. The text is not available today.
- Gandharva Veda: Came from Samveda. The notes, ragas, singing, beat and tone etc. have been described. The three parts of music, namely dance, singing and instrumental music are all supposed to have derived from this
- Arthaveda: Economics, politics, agriculture, sociology, business etc. have been described. This originated from atharva-veda. This text is not available today.
Vedaanga: These are shikshaa, kalpa, vyakaran, chhanda, nirukta and jyotish.
- Shiksha: Teaches how to recite the veda mantras
- Kalpa: This encompases “Shrota sutras, grihasutras(describes the 16 sanskars- the main ones are gobhil, khadir,kaushik,bodhayan,maanav,bharadwaj etc), dharma sutras(do’s and don’ts of life) and shalva sutras.
- Vyakaran: Detailed explanation of vedic words with its analysis.
- Nirukta/Nighantu: Etymological explanation of vedic words and explains the main devata of the mantras.
- Chhanda: Explains letters, maatra, poetry, passages etc.
- Jyotish/Vedaanga Jyotish: This is called Astrology or the knowledge of planets, solar system, galaxy etc. There is no place for astrology in life.
Upaanga: These are the six books of philosophy or darshana. These are saankhya, Yoga, vaisheshik, nyaya, meemansaa and vedaanata. The word Vedanta sometimes is interpreted and the last piece or chapter of vedas. It really means, the basic principles of the vedas. Since these principles are detailed in the Upanishads and the Vedanta darshan, these are generally referred to as the vedantas.
The subsequent scriptures, which are further explanations of the vedic teachings are:
Brahmans: To explain vedas and to spread this knowledge to all, these were the first texts created. Actually the branch of vedas called Krishna vedas such as Krishna yajurveda has some brahaman granths in it. As there are considered to be total of 1130 branches of vedas, same is the number of brahaman granths. At present only a limited of these are available. Of these aitareya, chandogyaa, kaushitiki, shatpath, taitariya, and gopath deserve mention.
Actual time creation of these texts is uncertain. Also, not all were created at the same time. One thing is clear. After vedas, there were the first one on the scene. The word brahaman means, God or one who has knowledge of God and spirituality. There are many stories in the scriptures to explain different teachings. The Shatpath Brahaman needs special mention. The word shatpath has been named so because it has 100 chapters. Rishi Yajyavalakya is considered to have created this Brahaman. It describes different rituals, ceremonies, spirituality, meditation, salvation etc.
Brahaman Granths also describe in detail techniques of havan and its benefits etc. Special yajyas such as ashvamedha yajya. Code of conduct in society is beautifully detailed as well. Honesty is considered the great virtue. There are prayers for long and meaningful life. Presence of wife is considered mandatory for the success of rituals. Math, archery, astronomy aaurveda are described as well. ilable today. kausheetaki, aitreya, brihdaaranak, talvakar, taitiriya, maitrayani etc
Aaranyak– The word Aaranyak means forest.. These scriptures were created to simplify the ritualistic practices of day today life. These were mainly for the people who had already fulfilled their responsibilities as the householder and had now moved into the life of vaanprastha. The main Aaranyaks are kausheetaki, aitreya, brihdaaranak, talvakar, taitiriya, maitrayani etc. Most of these are not available today.
Upanishads-Many, but 11 accepted as the main ones. These are Ishopanishad, Kenopanishad, Kathopanishad, Prashnopanishad, Chhandogyaa Upanishad, Brihadharanyakha Upanishad, Mundakopanishad, Maandukyopanishad, Tettiriya Upanishad, Aittiriya Upanishad and Shwetaashwatar Upanishad
Here is the explanation about certain aspects of Vedas:
The pronunciation of words in Vedas could be in a high voice with emphasis(udatt),with low voice and minimal emphasis(anudaatt) and the rest, which will be called swarit.
There have been many translations and commentaries on Vedas. The oldest available seems to be by Skanda Swami. He completed his translation in 630 AD.There were several subsequent scholars who translated vedas. Most famous are vainkatmaadhav, aanandaa tirth, aatmaananda, mahidhar, uvvat, halaayudh, raavan, devswami, madhav and saayan.
Saayan was the minister in the kingdom of vijaynagar in 14th century.Sayan died at the age of 72 in 1387. According to him, the main subject of Vedas is yajya, day to day living, rituals and invocation of different devataa. Most western scholars have followed this theme or ideology.The overall subject of vedas could be divided in to jyaan, karma, upaasanaa and vijyaan. All mantras have three types of meaning: aadhidevik, aadhyatmik and aadhibhautik. The pandits of india also mainly respect the saayan point of view. He leaned towards idol worship.
The main translator who can be considered authentic is Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Swami ji criticized the existing translations and declared that vedas were misunderstood by most if not all his predecessor translators. He criticized mahidhar for introduction of obscenity in ashvamedha yajya. Swami ji considered yaska (2000yrs before saayan) as the most authentic translator. He proved that there is only one God and all the different names of God are nothing but the different qualities of the same supreme being. Subsequent translators are Pandit Damodar Saatvalekar, jayadevvidyaalankar, satyavrit saamashramee, bhabavaddtt vedaalankaar etc.
Western translators have been Mcdonald, Roth(vedic literature and history in 1846), Maiksmular published the translation in 1875, and Aafrekt, Lindner, stenjlar and hillbrant, Wilson, Grifith, Ooldanvberg etc.
Rigveda: The different topics or Sukta in this veda are: Agni sukta,Indra sukta, usha sukta, gaayatri mantra, samvaad sukta, akshaa sukta, vivaaha sukta, purusha sukta, daan sukta, hiranyagarbha sukta, vaak sukta, naasadeeya sukta, yama sukta, aranyaanee sukta, shraadha sukta,yakshmaghna sukta, bhaavavrita sukta and sanjyaan sukta.
Yajurveda: The word yajush means yajya or worship. There are two branches of yajurveda. One is more pure and is called the Shukla Yajurveda and in the other one some changes have been made and is called the Krishna Yajurveda(this has some portion of Brahman granth).
Besides all kinds of ceremonies which are to be performed in day today life and ceremonies for special occasions, there is a lot of discussion about the governance of society at large. Math, geometry, arithmetic, medicine, warfare, astronomy are some other related subjects are also described in yajurveda. Shiv sankalpa mantras and shanti mantras and gayatri mantra are some examples of the contents of this veda.
Saamveda: Sama means the beautiful and soothing words. This veda is devoted to pure devotion to God. Gandharva veda is considered the origin of all music(oral and instrumental) and dance is the upveda of Saamveda. Somalata is described in great details. This was thought to be a type of creeper plant which was used extensively and disappeared somewhere along the line. Swami Dayanand felt that the word soma really refers to parmaatma. Some words like Indra, which again means the powerful and protector God has been detailed as well in this veda.
Atharvaveda: This veda is divided in 20 kanda just like the Ramayana. Arthashaashtra has originated in this veda. As far as Aaurveda is concerned, generally it is believed that it originated from Rgveda, but there is lot about medicine in this veda as well and so it can be considered to have originated form both Rgveda and Atharvaaveda. Other subjects of this veda are: the first two stages of life namely brahamcharya, grihasthashram, family structure, agriculture, material sciences, governance or the society and kingdom, meditation and prayer etc.
This veda beautifully declares and instructs that house belongs to the wife, that love and commitment between husband and wife be eternal. Togetherness in all ups and downs in life is advised. This veda instructs the wife to wrap around the husband just as a creeper plant wraps around the tree. The members of family are told to love each other like the love of cow for the new born calf. Similar detailed instructions are given in respect to the respect. Love and relationship between parents and children, brother and sister etc. There are prayers for good harvest, before, during and after it is ripe as well. There are well wishes for an honest and successful business as well. There are clear guidelines for choosing the king, and code of conduct and responsibilities of the kind and types of counsel and responsibilities. Cow is considered very important and sacred and should be taken care of and loved.
Field of medicine is detailed as well. Qualities and healing power of different things like herbs, water, solar power etc and described and there are prayers for different ailments.
Spiritualism, specially the subject of God, creation and its details are beautifully described as well. There are prayers for protection. There is a prayer for experiencing God through meditation. The mansa parikrama in vedic sandhya is form this veda as well.
Before understanding Upanishads, it is important to understand their origin.
Upanishad means- to find spiritual knowledge and sit in meditation for God realization.
Upa- near, Ni- down, Sad- sit– i.e. Sit down near teacher for God realization
Vedas are the first form of knowledge, the primary scriptures. This is the most ancient source of any knowledge. Vedas are Shrutis-which means, which have been heard. After these were revealed to the Rishis while they were in a deep state of meditation, the knowledge was passed from one generation to the next by oral recitation and the process of oral transmission in called Sravana.
Upanishads contain spiritual and philosophical discussions about God, soul, and God-realization. These are link between Shruti and Shastras. It is explained by means of stories in Upanishads that one who can meditate upon God and surrender to God after having a full understanding of the real nature of the supreme being can be free from various sorrows and can attain “Moksha” or salvation.
There are considered to be about 108 upanishads but Eleven are considered to be the most authentic. The period of creation of upanishads is considered to be before the Ramayan and obviously Mahabharat era. There are several branches of Vedas and teachings of individual upanishads seem to have come from one or the other of these vedas. For example Brihadaranyak upanishad focuses on shukla yajurveda teachings and shvetashvatar upanishad on the other hand leans towards the krishna yajurveda. Names of the upanishad in many cases are based on the name of the rishi associated with that particular upanishad.
Some details about these 11 upanishads are as follows:
- ISHA: This is basically the last chapter of Yajurveda with some minor variations. This is about Ishvara or creator. It is also called Vedanta.
- Kena: is named so because it starts with word Kena-also called Talavakare Upanishad. This is about “who is ruled by whom”. This is supposed to be a part of Talavakara Brahamana. Belongs to Samveda School.
- Katha: Deals with the inquisitive mind and soul. It is named after author.
- Prashana: Inquisitive questions and answers by Sage Pippalada. Belongs to Atharvaveda School.
- Mundaka: Belongs to Atharvaveda school-main teacher Angira. There are discussions about scientific and spiritual knowledge.
- Mandukya: Discussions about consciousness and the super-consciousness. Also belongs to Atharvaveda School.
- Aitareya: Named after author. Discussions about pure-consciousness.
- Taittiriya: Qualitative discussions about soul and the realms of soul.
- Chhandogya: Discussions about bliss and God realization. It is quite elaborate, highly illuminating and poetical.
10.Brahadaranyaka: This is last portion of Shatpatha Brahaman. Since the later is the liturgical exposition of Yajurveda and as such, the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad is a detailed exposition of the Isa Upanishad. Deals with the issues of self and creation. It is also quite elaborate
- Svetasvatara: Deals with Reasons and descriptions of creation, soul, God, and the science of God-realization. Concept of the eternal entities, God, soul and nature is firmly explained.
It has only 18 Hymns or Stanzas. Mahatma Gandhi said that if all the Scriptures of Hinduism were destroyed, with the exception of first 3 stanzas of this Upanishad, Hindu Dharma would not suffer total extinction. The mantras of this Upanishad can be grouped in to several parts. First 3 mantras mention 5 duties, the performance of which alone can lead to acquisition of Brahama-Vidya. These are;
- Belief that God exists everywhere and has created everything in this universe. “Jagat” means which moves. Every thing in this universe is in motion. It is in motion, not by itself. Deep faith in God is necessary. One is to believe that God is all pervading and is present everywhere and that He is not stationed at one place. He does not move, but still present everywhere, because he is already present in each and everything is this universe. A person always seeks a lonely place for committing sin or crime. If it is believed that God is present everywhere, then there will be no place where we are not being watched.
- The Upanishad enjoins that man should enjoy things, which are given to him by God. All things belong to him and we only have a right to use them, enjoy them. We should not get attached to them. Thieves, dacoits and rulers snatch away things from the people. There is however, a greater power that snatches away every thing from people and that power is called Death. The reason death is painful is because of our attachment. When a person sees death through the mirror of attachments it becomes awful and fearful. One could argue that if there is no attachment to things, we can’t give our best in accomplishing things in life. Our sages tell us that it is possible to protect things, which are given to a person for use and also enjoy them as well without attachment.
- The third duty is that no one should covet the wealth, property or possession of others. If wealth of others is not taken away, If the sovereignty of others is not snatched or jeopardized, if there is no interference in the independence of others, discontentment will not arise.
- The fourth duty is that one should aspire to live for a hundered years, doing deeds which do not cling to oneself. There is no other way except that of Karma-yoga. Everything in this universe is in constant motion. The Upanishads direct us that man should work, up to the last moment of his life. Renunciation of acts is no doubt called Sanyas. But it should be remembered that only those acts “that” are motivated (done with an eye on fruits) are to be renounced. Unmotivated (Nishkam karma-done as a duty with no desire for fruits or rewards) should never be given up.
- The Upanishad says that persons who act against the dictates of their conscience, go after death, in to lower incarnations, which are enveloped in darkness. Manu ji has said that “Dharma” are acts, which are approved by one’s own conscience. Good conduct is the habit of doing good deeds, not out of person’s own volition but by forces of habit.
Performance of above duties is first step towards acquisition of knowledge of soul. According to Vedas there are three independent distinct eternal entities in this universe. God, soul and nature. God is Sat, chit and Anand or bliss. Soul is Sat and Chit (conscious), whereas the nature is only Sat or true and not mithya or unreal.
Mantras 4 to 8 contain the roots of important principles of Braham-Vidya.
The fourth and fifth mantras say that the God does not move from place to place, is unshakable, faster than even the mind, and all pervading. Also because of his omnipotence and all pervading nature, transgresses our mind and other senses. All beings exist and live in him doing good or bad deeds. God cannot be perceived/seen by our eyes or other senses can only be experienced by soul once it is disconnected from external sensory input, as in the state of deep meditation. (Dhyana-fixation or concentration of power at one point, Dharna-concentration of power in the soul, Samadhi-highest state of Dharna.).
The sixth mantra means that one who after careful consideration, sees all beings and things as existing in the supreme soul and also sees him as existing in all beings and things, cannot do bad deeds or be bad to any one. There comes the concept of love for all.
The seventh mantra explains that “he who after careful consideration, knows and sees all beings, like himself, as existing in the all pervading God, becomes Stith Pragya, and does not suffer from pain due to any loss or feel over joyed from achievements or gains.
The eighth mantra is really the most perfect definition of God. God is omnipresent, pure, formless, without holes, free from any body organs, sinless, knower of everything including our minds, all pervading, self-existent (unborn i.e., never takes birth or dies), has created and runs this universe and has given us the knowledge “Vedas” exactly as needed in a perfect way since eternity on an ongoing basis. One who does “Jap” should repeatedly think in his/her mind about various qualities/attributes of God. People who perform Sandhya should aspire for physical, mental and spiritual progress. Constant pondering over the qualities of God results in the illumination of the mind and generation of universal love. When the Yogi finds God in every inanimate and animate thing in this world he becomes free from grief and attachment. In state of meditation Yogi sees none other than God. When he has lost his ego in the love of God how can the material objects of the world disturb his peace of mind or grief and attachments affect him.
The ninth, tenth and eleventh Mantras emphasize that both materialism and spiritualism are necessary to make life useful and complete. Those who are engrossed only in materialism or rituals fall in to blind darkness, while those who are engrossed in acquiring knowledge only fall in to even greater darkness. Knowledge and acts(karma) should go together. Materialistic knowledge and progress help improve the quality of life and may prolong life as well. Spiritual knowledge and conduct according to Vedic guidance will help attain salvation by attaining purity of mind and soul and realization of God. It is stated in these mantras that actions are superior to knowledge, because mere knowledge does not bear any fruit, whereas an act, good or bad, bears its fruits without fail. Accordingly, in the philosophy of the Upanishad acts have a higher place than knowledge and no student of spiritual knowledge should loose sight of this.
The 12-14th Mantras discuss the importance of worshiping both the “manifest and unmanifested Prakriti”. These also deal with individualism (asambhutim) and socialism (sambhutim). By personal care, one can take care of oneself in the matters of physical needs such as food, shelter, and health care only, but it increases selfishness. On the other hand being engrossed in social service only can make one ignore personal needs. So both are necessary.
Basically these mantras also deal with the concept of three bodies-physical, subtle (which comprises of five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, five elements: water, air, fore, earth and ether, five pranas: pran, apan, vyan, saman, and udan, mind and intellect) and causal. Also deals with five koshas Annamaya(food), Pranmaya(air sheath), mannomay(mental), vigyanmy(intellectual) and Anandmaya(bliss). In the waking state, there is connection of three bodies with each other. In dream state, there in disconnection of physical and subtle body, but the causal body remains connected to the subtle body. In sleep state, all three bodies are disconnected form each other. When this happens in the awake state, this is what is to be achieved in the state of dharna, dhyana and samadhi.
Worship of God consists in experiencing in one’s mind His divine attributes and qualities. His attributes are that he is soundless, touchless, formless, imperishable, eternal, endless, beginingless etc. He is all pervading, luminous, pure, wise, omniscient, transcendent, self-existing etc.
The fifteenth mantra “Hiranmayan patren—“ deals with the request to God to please remove the golden lid and uncover the truth in life. Wealth entices away man from the path of truth(duty). Dharma is life of truth and justice. God(brahm) is truth. In order to attain God one should follow truth.
In sixteenth mantra the concept is that god is pushan (nourisher of everyone), Yam (justice giver), luminous and dispeller of darkness and protector of all.
Also that many times we get so absorbed in nature that we forget the real one, the creator. Similarly we get so engrossed in the physical aspects of body that we forget the soul within, which is really the real self, and also forget about the god inside our soul, the Sat, Chit and Anand God.
17th Mantra deals with mortality of body and immortality of soul. Upanishad instructs us that when time comes for the soul to quit the mortal body one should recite Om. There is a built in concept here, that although there are laws laid down by God, the person(being) has full liberty to do acts during lifetime. There are instructions to remember god in all our future actions. It is believed that during the last moments of our life we don’t have the freedom to act, as we want. A picture or film of our life long past actions appears before our eyes, and we depart from this world fully conscious of our good and evil deeds.
The last mantra is a prayer to god to lead us through a righteous path, and to save us from the path of sin. Also there is Namaste to God. God is our ultimate and most ancient guru. Surrender to God is the path to salvation.
It has 6 chapters.
Chapter I: Students of spirituality get together and discuss as to who is the supreme realitity, under whom we live and who controls and governs all that exists.
Several suggestions were made as to whether it is the time period, laws of nature, fate, chance, the five subtle elements of nature or the soul or a combination thereof, which are the cause of this creation. This thought was discounted because the soul goes through pains and pleasure and is not dependent and therefore can not be the cause of creation or “Brahama”.
Here the universe has been compared to a wheel with spokes, tire cover, of course a circumference and other parts which will be different pains and sufferings. Soul without knowing the real form of supreme being is attached to worldly pleasures and goes through pains as well. On knowing the real form of supreme being one becomes free from all pains and sufferings and attain moksha. It also explains that the material things are destructible while the soul is eternal and imperishable. On knowing the enjoyer(soul), the subject of enjoyment(matter) and the ruler(God), one attains moksha(salvation).(12). There is a comparision of existance of God everwhere without being visible just as fire exists in wood and butter in yogurt.
Chapter II: Deals with yoga and how and what it does. Goes in to details about attinment of peace, disconnection of soul from external influence and explains how conncetion of soul with God occurs and then God tranfers or transcends qualities. The soul then becomes free from unhappiness. Yogi realizes that this is the same lord who governs and pervades now, was in existance in past and will be the master in future as well.
Chapter III: This chapter deals in depth as to the powers and presence of God/Lord/Parmatma in every particle of this universe. That he alone is the architect of all that exists. He alone is dispensing justice to all (aryama) according to their deeds without any favour to anyone.
God has created all the objects of divine qualities “Devata” such as fire, air, water, earth, sun, moon etc. God is “rudra” or the punishar of the wicked. Lord is calm, peaceful and destroyer of sins and is kind. Lord you are the revealer of holy vedas-the source of all knowledge.
“vedah metam purusham mahantam, aaditya varnam tamasah parastat
Tameva viditvati mrityu meti naanya panthaa vidyate ayanaya( to get rid of)”
Now yogi has realized God and has come to know the great all pervading, sun like glorious lord, who is beyond darkness. On realizing him alone one passes beyond death and can attain “moksha”. Lord pervades in hearts of all beings, is infinite and benevalent and pure.
14th mantra of the same chapter says that the universe, is than one fourth of the entire domain of supreme being. The expression goes that he has thousand eyes, heads, hands, feet etc. The supreme lord posseses all the qualities and capabilities, functions and strength of all the senses without having any of these senses in physical form. Well, God does not have any physical form at all.
“Apaani pado javano grahita, pashchatya chakshu sa shranotya karnah
Sa vetti vedyam na cha tasyasi vetta, tama aahu agrayam purusham mahaantam”
Javanah-in motion, grahitaa-one who can catch or accept, tam-to whom, aahu-is called, agrayam-first, purusham-lord of all that exists, mahaantam-greatest.
“ano raneeyan mahato maheeyan aatma guhayam nihitasya jantoh
tamakrituh pashyati veetshiko, dhaatuh prasaadan mahimaan meesham”
nihitah-present, asya-this, jantoh-of jeevaatma, akratum-one who does not do karma, pashyati-one who sees or witnesses, veetshokha-free from all sorrows, dhatu-of the adorable, mahimaanam-glory, eesham-to the lord
The lord is unborn, every present, and full understanding and description is not possible.
Chapter IV: It has 22 shlokas. In one of the shlokas, Eeshwar is called by so many names. Some of these are:
- Agni- all powerful, source of all life
- Adityaa- imperishable, eternal
- Vayu- all mighty and creator
- Chandrama- all bliss and bestower of happiness
- Shukra- most holy
- Apa- all pervading
- Prajapati- lord of all beings
“Ajaamekaam lohit shukla krishnaam bahveeh prajaa srijamaanam saroopah.
Ajo hyeko jushmano anushete, jahatyenam bhakta bhoga bhajo anyah.”
The devotee says that all we see is created by sublte or atomic matter. All three entitees: the God, soul and nature are called “aja”, or one who was never born.
“A” is without and “Ja” means birth. Being of female gender in grammer, nature or prakriti is called “ajaa”. The God and soul is called “aja”.
State of unison of the 3 gunaas, the satogun, rajogun, and tamogun is called prakriti. One aja is enjoying [jeevaatma] and the other aja is watching – [parmaatma]
“Dya suparnaa sayuja sakhayaa, samaanam vriksham parishaswa jate,Tayo ranyah pippalam, swat vatya nash nananyo abhichaak sheeti.”
Abichaak-one who witnesses or sees
Sukhshamti suksham kalilasya madhye, vishwasya shrashtah ramanek roopam
Vishwasya ekam pariveshtitaaram, jaatwa shivam shaantim atyanta meeti.
Chapter V: It has 14 shlokaas. Interestingly, God is compared to the thumb of the parent. Just as the child who is holding mere thumb or the finger of the parents feels secure and thinks that he or she is holding the whole body of the parent. To us, who can see very little of the lord’s creation, that is how it feels. God has no gender.
Without knowledge, no action is possible and for bhakti, action is necessary. Only by meditating upon the qualities of the lord and asking to put these qualities in our lives, and then practicing these qualities, our lives can be better.
Chapter VI:This chapter has 23 shlokas. The Rishi who have assembled together to discuss the issue as to who is the lord raise the same question again.
One can attain moksha only by realising him who is imperishable, beyond the bounds of time, formless, by whom this entire universe has been created and put in action and who pervades and envelopes the universe. We humans act, but the intention is what really matters in an act. There comes the concept of “Dhiyo yonah prachodayat”.
“Na tasya karyam kaaranam cha vidyate, na tasyamashchaabhyadhikashcha drashyate
Paraasya shaktirvividheeva shruyate, swabhavikee gyaanabalakriya cha”
There is no cause or effect of him, no greater or even equal power to him. He is possessed of infinite natural or inherent knowledge, power and action.
“Eko devah sarva bhuteshu gudah, sarva vyapee sarva bhutaantaratma
Karmaa dhyaksha sarva bhutadhi vasah, kevalo nirgunashcha”
The one omnicient lord is hidden in the hearts of all creatures. He is all pervading, the innner supreme soul, existing in and controlling the souls of all creatures, pure conciousness and void of the three gunas and never engaging in the cycles of deeds or birth and deaths.
“Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandrataarakam, nemaa viduto bhanti kuto ayam agnih
Tamev bhanmanubhati sarvam, tasya bhasaa sarvam idam vibhaati”
The sun does not illuminate there, i.e., before God, nor the moon, nor the stars and nor these lightenings were there. How can these then illuminate him? It is because of Lord that everything shines.
Lastly the statement is made that it only in the heart of the great soul whose devotion to God is supreme can spirtual truth shine.
This upanishad essentially explains the essence of Soul and God. One could take two different paths in life, the simple one which looks attractive( the preya marg) and is a dead end and leads to unhappiness and the other one is a difficult one( the shreya marg), the proper one which leads to lasting peace, happiness and salvation. As is common to all upanishads, which are the teachings based on vedic knowledge imparted by different sages and generally go by their indivudual names, knowledge in this upanishad has been given by sage Kath in a story and dialogue form. Whether the stories are factual or meant just for educating and instructing the humanity at large to take the right path in life does not matter.
The whole Kathopanishad has been divided in to 6 chapters. For the sake of simplification, I will go over the essence of entire upanishad as one topic.
The story goes that there was a rich person named Uddalak( sone of sage Arun also named Vajshrava. He desired for moksha(emancipation) and started donating all of his wealth. A point came when the cows which were being donated were really worthless. His son, who was dovated to god and realistic asked his father thrice “I am also your possetion to whom will I be given as a donation. Father got angry and told him that he will be given to Yama-the god of death.
Nachiketa went to sage yama and waited there for 3 days and 3 nights till he came back from where ever he was. He blessed nachiketa with 3 boons.
- My father not be upset with me
- How to achieve salvation or “swarg lok”. He asked about the fire(yagyagni) by which salvation could be achieved. Yama explained that the ourside havan fire only symbolic. Real fire is with in us.
We often say that I have fire in me to act. Examples are fire in the heart of great leaders, reformers etc who are adorable to us such as gandhi, swami dayanand ji, maharana pratap etc. Yama taked about the 4 ashrams or stages in life and the three sandhi or joints or connections of going from one ashram of life to the next one. One who passes through these ashrams while judiciously performing his/her duties will achieve salvation or lasting peace.
In first ashram called brahamcharyashram, a stage of salibacy one’s field in limited, which expands in next stages progressively.
- What pappens after death. Is there a life after death. In essnce, the secret about Soul and God. Yama said that this was a very tough question which has been pondered by all learned people and sages. Yama lured Nachiketa in every possible way from weath to all other materialist possesions but the young boy did not move from his firm determination to know the facts. Two roads, the preya ( path of worldly pleasures) and shreya marg (renounciation and salvation) were described by yama. Nachiketa said that my determination has only become more firm by what ever you have said. He said that he could not live even one split second more than what yama would want.
Phrase “ Na Vitten Tarpaniya Manushya” is vey true. History is witness that money or materialist possetions go only so far in giving us satisfation and lasting happiness. Yama praised nachiketa for firm determination and ressisting the lure of materialism. Yama told him that he has found an able student who could be given this knowledge.
Yama finally went on to explain the secrect about life after death and who the creator and sustainer of this universe. Yama made it clear to nachiketa that the body is mortal or anitya. Since nitya or lasting can not be achieved by anitya or the one who is non lasting, body needs another force or entity to exist. Yama then goes in to the cause and effect relationship to explain the creation and creator concept, that is God and soul.
Here are some shlokas in this upanishad to express this concept.
“Sarve veda yatpadmamananti, tapaanshi sarvaani cha yadvadanti
Yadichhanto brahamcharyam charanti, tatte padam sangrahen brabeemyomittyetat.”
“na jayate mriyate va vipashchinnyam kutashchinna babhuva kashchit.
Ajo nityah shaashvatoayam purano na hanyate hanyamane sharire”
“ Anoraniyan mahato maheeyanatmasya jantornihito guhayam
Tamakratu pashyati Veetshiko dhatu prasadanmahimanmatmanah”
Then yama explains the concept of three eternal entities based on the famous chariot, the passanger or the master and charioteer concept.
Yama clealy proclaims that only the one who know and believe that there is only one God can achieve salvation. Rest are devata, who have divine qualities and give us something or the other in life, like mother, father, teacher and the guest as the living devata.
Soul residing in a pure body is called Hansa(swan), residing in space it is called vasu, sitting at the alter of sacrifice it is called hota(sacrificer) and sitting in a body it is called an atithi or a guest since it does not stick to one body but goes through different wombs.
Air we breathe in is called prana vayu and what we exhale is called the apaana vayu.
Some souls take birth as humans and other as the other organisms in animal and plant kingdom.
The supreme soul or God pervades all beings, controls the whole world and makes the primitive (minutest) matter tak many shapes. It is only the wise who see him inside their own soulds can attain eternal happiness.
He the supreme soul, can not be seen by the rays of the sun or by light of the moon or the stars or by electricily or by this visible fire. It is only through God’s shine that everthing shines.
Indian School of Philosophy: A Synopsis
Indian school of philosophy (also, called the Vedic philosophy) sheds lights on some deep and unseen facts. The soul can attain the state of salvation after freeing itself from all the bonds by achieving true knowledge of God, soul and matter. It appears that the sole aim of teachings of all the Darshan Shaastras or the Indian School of Philosophy is to resolve all human physical, intellectual, mental and spiritual problems and lead us to the lasting peace and happiness (Aanand) which may result in Moksha or salvation. In fact there is no problem of life, which has not been addressed to and given solution of in Darshan Shaastras. Actually, teachings of this school of philosophy are connected to knowledge of proper code of conduct, religion (better term will be dharma), objectives in life, health sciences, and knowledge of the three entities as suggested above (God, Soul and Matter). Ample and deep thought has been given in Darshan Shaastras for total human development. Knowledge of God, Soul, different Devatas (which represent God’s attributes and functions), mind, intellect, our duties in life, origin of universe including sun, earth, human creation, facts about this life and life after death, concept of heaven and hell, phenomenon of rebirth, matter or Prakriti, the five elements: agni (fire), jala (water), vayu (air), prithvi (earth) and aakash (ether), five subtle elements: roopa (sight), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), sparsha (touch) and shabda (sound), life and death, time-space and consciousness, understanding of the happiness and sorrows in life with their causes and remedies, human psychology, different states of mind (awake, sleep, dream), etc. are some of the subjects explained in the Indian School of Philosophy.
This school of philosophy has its roots in the Vedas, followed by Brahman granths, Aranyaks, and then the Upanishads. There are six Vedic Darshans: Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Saankhya, Yoga, Meemansa and finally the Vedaanta Darshan. These darshans can be considered in 3 groups. 1. Saankhya and Yoga, 2. Nyaya and Vaisheshik, 3. Meemansa and Vedaanta. Their brief description follows:
- Nyaya Darshan: This was written by Maharshi Gautam. It has 5 chapters. Main topic of consideration is the Science of Logic. Word nyaya literally means a source or means by the help of which one can reach to a definite principle or a decision. Goal of this darshan is to relieve suffering by dispelling of ignorance through the attainment of true knowledge. Two types of knowledge have been described. These are: Pramaa or the true knowledge and the Apramaa or false knowledge (illusion). Pramaan or proof is what is to be used to achieve the Pramaa.
To achieve this goal, 16 elements have been detailed in this Darshan. These are: pramaan (proof), prameya (those objects which have been proven by evidence or pramaan as above), sanshaya (doubts), prayojan (aim), drashtanta (example), siddhanta (principle), avayav(the sentences which are used to prove something through anumman pramaan. The real goal of this darshan is to prove beyond doubt that there is God by looking at the creation since there is a perfect order and purpose in this universe. Eeshvar is the efficient cause and the Prakriti is the ordinary cause of this creation and the soul in the end user and efficient cause as well in a limited way. tarka (argument), nirnaya (decision), vada (discussion), jalpa (dialogue or discussion where the sole aim is to win the discussion and not necessarily to gain proper knowledge), vitandaa (discussion in which one is just trying to negate the opponent’s points), hetvabhasa (even though it may not be real, it appears to be the reason), chhala (deception), jaati (improper meaning), and nigraha–sthan (acceptance of defeat). There are two traditions of this Darshan, the old and the new. Some details of these 16 elements are as follows.
Pramaan– Pramaa can be achieved by 4 ways. These are pratyaksha or which is obvious and visible either by our 5 senses or our mind. Certain statements such as death is certain, ice is cold, stone is hard or the grass is soft come under this category. Statements made by true yogis because of what they have perceived can also come under this category. Second type of pramaan is the anumaan. Example of this would be where there is smoke; there is fire and not vice versa. Also to judge that there may be a rain coming when clouds are there or to ascertain that there has been a heavy rain when a swollen river is seen. There are many other examples of this such as by watching various positions of moon on different days one can ascertain that moon moves at all times. Third type is upaman. This is when we try to explain certain thing by comparing it with something else. The fourth type is the shabd. This is word of wisdom.
Prameya- To achieve salvation, Maharshi Gautam has considered 12 of these elements or objects. These are soul, body, senses through which an individual enjoys the pains and pleasures, intellect, mind, instinct, defects or Doshas, rebirth, result, sorrows and finally the total freedom from all the sorrows.
- Vaisheshik Darshan: This was written by Maharshi Kanaad. It consists of 10 chapters with total of 370 sukta. This Darshan deals with what is special or Vishesh. This is the reason for its name. In this Darshan, there is emphasis on the science of indivisible particle called atom. Actually this may be the first scripture, which emphasizes the importance of atomic science. The question arose, that if all that exists is made from the same indestructible atom, why are the objects different from each other. Maharshi Kanaad’s explanation of this mystery was that there are “Vishesh” elements inherent in the atomic particles. The examples of these are, that what becomes earth has vishesh earth elements and what becomes water has vishesh water elements etc. So the origin of a particular element can be only from the atomic particle, which have that particular or vishesh properties. According to Maharshi Kanaad, there are seven padaarths (all that can be named are padaarths or elements). These are dravya (thing), guna (quality), karma (action), saamaanya (ordinary), vishesh (special), samavaaya (relationship between cause and action) and abhaava (deficiency).
- Saankhya Darshan: Maharshi Kapil wrote this Darshan. This Darshan emphasizes on knowledge. Actually the word Saankhya itself means true knowledge. According to this Darshan, the God, soul and matter are all eternal. Total 25 elements have been described. These are: nature in its un-manifest form, 5 sensory organs (eyes, tongue, ears, nose and skin), 5 motor organs (hands, feet, organs for defecation, organs for urination and organs for procreation), 5 basic elements (fire, water, earth, air and ether), 5 tanmaatra (sight, taste, touch, smell and sound), mind, ego (ahankaar), mahatatva and the soul. The five sensory and the five motor organs and the five basic elements are all derived from the primordial matter or Prakriti, which fundamentally has three modes: sattva, rajas, and tamas. There is a perfect order in this universe and all acts of God are purposeful. It is clearly stated that in order for something to be created, basic materials have to present in some form, either visible or non-visible. You cannot get anything starting from nothing. Creation is the combination of Prakriti and Purush or soul. Neither soul alone nor the nature alone can result in creation, since only the soul is the conscious being.
Here is the sequence of events leading to creation. First Mahattattva develops followed by intellect
( buddhi), ahankaar( sense of me or mine). It is because of ahankaar that the individual gets the desires to act, feels the ownership and really is the basis of all that an individual does in life. Ahankaar further leads to development of the senses and tanmaatras and the mind. The five basic elements described above develop from the tanmaatras. There is some disagreement in interpretation of the darshan as to whether it affirms the belief in God in addition to the Prakriti and soul or not. This does however clearly accept the role of God as the sustainer at least. In this darshan it is quite clear that everyone has full and equal right to seek Vedic knowledge and salvation.
- Yoga Darshan: This was written by Maharshi Patanjali. The book has four parts called Paad. These are Samaadhi-Paad, Saadhan-Paad, Vibhuti-Paad, and Kaivalya-Paad. The Saankhya and Yoga Darshan are closely interlinked with each other. According to this darshaan, Yoga has eight limbs/steps. These are: Yama, Niyama, Aasana, Pranayaama, Pratyahaara, Dhaarana, Dhyaana, and Samaadhi.
- Yama is the social code of conduct and consists of Satya (honesty), Ahimsa (nonviolence), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Aparigraha (avoidance of excessive materialism).
- Niyama, or the rules for yourself, that is the personal code of conduct. Shaucha (cleanliness of body and mind), Santosha (contentment), Tapa (hard work and non-deviation while facing difficulties), Swaadhyaya (introspection and contemplation of scriptures), and Eeshwar-Praanidhana (surrender to God).
- Aasana: physical exercise including postures for relaxation and flexibility.
- Pranaayama: breath control through various breathing exercises.
- Pratyahaara: to disconnect your senses from the external objects and thoughts.
- Dhaarana: to concentrate mind on a specific object or point, preferably inside body.
- Dhyaan: a stage of deeper meditation just before Samaadhi. Here, there is concentration becomes stable, unwavering and free from other thoughts.
- Samaadhi: This is the deepest state of meditation where a Yogi can connect his/her aatma (soul) with parmaatma (God), reaching a state of bliss, or Aananda.
Five states of mind have been described. These are: Kshipt or very disturbed, Moodha where mid can not make wise decisions, vikshipt where one wavers between right and wrong decision, aikagraa where mental concentration can be achieved and finally the best state of mind which is nirudha which leads to a real peace. This is the best state of mind. The whole idea of practice of yoga to achieve this state of mind and of course a better physical, mental and spiritual well being and even Moksha.
This darshan also guides us as how to live happily in the society. It says that when you see someone unhappy, feel sorry and try to make efforts to remove their sorrows. Be happy when you see a good person. When you meet a wicked person be indifferent. 5 types of sorrows have been described. These are: avidya ( mistaking body as the soul), asmitaa ( considering body and soul as the same thing), raga (intense desire to seek happiness), dvesh (anger) and abhinivish (fear of death). Goal of Yoga is to eliminate these and achieve aanand or lasting happiness.
- Meemansa Darshan: This was written by Maharshi Jaimini. The book has 12 chapters with 2745 sutras. The word meemansa means to resolve any problem or mental confusion about an issue through proper logic. This Darshan deals with day-to-day code of conduct and rituals and is appropriately also called the Karma–meemansa. In this Darshan, there is a harmony between the knowledge, action, psychology, and the matter. The main conclusions of this Darshan are: 1. The soul exists after death and is eternal. Jeevaatma has to go through the fruits of action, good or bad. 2. Soul is governed by another supreme power, called parmaathma, or eeshwar, (i.e. God) that acts only as a drashtaa, and does not get involved into the fruits of action.3. Vedas are authority by itself and doesn’t depend on any extraneous authority. 4. The creation is a reality, and is not mithya (an illusion) as maybe believed by some. Besides the ways of proving described in the Nyaya Darshan, there is yet another type of pramaan called arthaapatti in which a conclusion is drawn in an indirect way. The example is-if a person is overweight without eating anything in daytime, one would conclude that he/she must have been eating at night.
- Vedanta Darshan: This was written by Maharshi Baadarayan Vyasa. The Sutras of this Darshan are called Brahama-Sutra too. Upanishads are called Vedanta as well. In fact, Brahama-Sutra has been created based on the principles of Upanishads. Brahama-Sutra is also called Uttara-Meemansa, Shaareerik-Meemansa, Vedaanta-Sutra, and Shaareerik-Sutra. This book has four chapters. Different Aacharyaas have interpreted this scripture in their own way, at times quite different from each other. For example, Shankara-Achaarya considered Soul as part of God and the principle has been called the Advaitwad (Non-Dualism). Ramanujacharya believed that Soul and even the matter are special qualities of the Brahman. This concept was called “Vishishtaadvait”. Madhvaacharya on the other hand considered the Soul and God as two different entities and his concept was called the Dvaitwad (Dualism). There was yet another concept by Nimbaarkaacharya who theorized that the Soul and God were same in certain ways and different in some other ways and his concept was called “Dvaitadvait” (Dualistic Non-Dualism).
Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati (1824-’83), however firmly believed that there are three different eternal entities in this universe, the God, Soul and Matter. This concept is called “Traitwad” (Trinity). There are several mantras in the Vedas, Brahaman Granthas and Upanishads, which clearly prove this theory of Traitwad. This view seems to be most logical of all.
Manu Smriti-(Dharma as per Manu Smriti)
“Dhritih kshama damo’steyam shaucham-indriya nigrahah
Dhir-vidya satyam-akrodho dashakam dharma lakshanam” (Manu Smriti, Ch.VI-92)
Meaning: “Patience, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, cleanliness and purity, restraint over the senses, wisdom, knowledge, truth and calmness are the ten attributes of dharm” These are not only the attributes of dharm but also of humanism and are the cornerstones for bringing about world peace.
To consider anyone who practices these ten features as a follower of a particular organized ‘religion’ would be a narrow-minded attitude. They are not confined to one sect or religion but have a universal import for all humanity. These virtues cannot be brushed aside as blind beliefs because they have been tested rationally and practically; they have proved to be eternally operating principles of noble human life. All religions, sects, prophets, saints and mahatmas have stressed the practice of these virtues for well-being of individuals, societies and humanity as a whole.
Dhriti (patience): Any work undertaken can only be accomplished with patience. Before beginning a work, a patient person thinks about its positive and negative results, and thus chooses the right method to execute it. An impatient person, on the contrary, neither thinks about the consequences of his actions nor of its worthiness. He acts haphazardly, without due planning, and so his actions remain infructuous.
Kshama (forgiveness): A person who forgives others their trespasses creates no enemies and adversaries. He thinks about the welfare of everyone in the world and obtains people’s support and blessings in his endeavors. He receives love and respect wherever he goes.
Dama (control over the mind and desires): It implies reining in of erratic, wayward and unbridled mad rush of chaotic thoughts, desires and unrefined instincts. It is not possible to overcome evil with a thoughtless, vengeful approach. Fire can be extinguished by water and hostility can be ended by kind-heartiness.
Asteya (non-stealing): Here non-stealing also means integrity and honesty. An honest person does not covet what belongs to others. He practices truthfulness in thought, speech and action. Such a person acquires trust of all who come in contact with him. He lives a pious, pure, fearless and happy life.
Shaucha (cleanliness and purity): The body of a person whose mind and praña are pure remains healthy. Bodily and mental disorders or sinful activities do not invade him. He always maintains an inner and outer purity and cleanliness. He keeps himself free of mental and physical impurities. He performs altruistic acts and attains inner peace.
Indriya-nigrah (sense-control): Restraint over senses means the development of three qualities in a person: optimum food intake, judicious use of money and restrained speech. Optimum food intake protects him from diseases, judicious and wise use of money protects from poverty and indebtedness and restrained speech keeps him away from unwanted conflicts and arguments. He thus attains health and happiness. On the contrary a person who is a slave of the senses remains ever dissatisfied, discontented, unhappy and unhealthy.
Dhee (wisdom): A wise person is never daunted by the gravity of any difficulty because of his wisdom. Discriminative wisdom makes him ever wakeful and fearless and engages him in righteous deeds. Hence a wise person lives a life of abiding peace and happiness.
Vidya (knowledge): Vidya refers not only to school/university education but also to practical knowledge of the laws of life gained through experience. In the absence of practical knowledge a person rarely develops humility and becomes arrogant. He is not respected anywhere; people ignore him as much as they can. All his wealth and possessions become useless due to the lack of right knowledge. If an ignorant person inherits wealth, he would not be able to handle it wisely or use it for noble purposes. He suffers at every step in his life. Even in most adverse conditions, a person endowed with knowledge and wisdom would live in peace.
Satya (truth): Truth means absence of falsehood or distortions in all its masks. One who worships truth does not get influenced by the masquerade of any person or object and does not try to imitate anybody or covet any object. He ever remains a seeker of truth and tries to discover the reality behind every event, person or object. The speech of the seeker of truth is straightforward and his deeds resonate with his innate integrity and honesty. Truth is the essence of life. It is impregnable armor against all evils.
Akrodha (non-anger): Akrodha means refusing to be provoked to anger under all circumstances. Conquest of anger means conquest of the world. An angry person does not think about the consequences of his actions and commits unpardonable blunders. Anger stuns the reasoning and discriminative faculties and inexorably pushes a person towards self-destruction.
The word Satyartha Prakash literally means “to shed light on the truth”. Swami Dayananda Saraswati lived from 1824 to 1883. The sole purpose of his life was to find out the truth about life, about God, and about everything else that exists. After studying most, if not all, important writings on Hindu Dharma starting from the Vedas, he put together a treatise to summarize his views based on the truth. Satyartha Prakash has fourteen chapters. The first ten chapters deal with the different subjects in life, and the last four is a critique on what he saw was wrong with the practice of dharma in this age. He had absolutely no intention to criticize anyone or any belief. He just wanted to state the truth, and by doing so, his intent was to improve the lives of people and make this world simply a unified and a better place to live. The first ten chapters deal with the following:
- Meaning and explanation of Aum and other names Ishwara, the One God of the Universe,
- Rearing and teaching of children,
- Formal education and the discipline of Brahmacharya,
- Marriage and household,
- Retirement and renunciation, and social service,
- Socio-economic organization, government, and administration,
- Ishwara (God), Jivatma (soul), and Revelation (Vedas).,
- Creation, sustenance and dissolution of this universe,
- Knowledge and ignorance, freedom and bondage,
- Ethics of good conduct and humanitarian diet.
The eleventh and twelfth chapters are the critique of the practice of Hindu, Jain, Budh, and Sikh dharma. The thirteenth chapter is the critique of the practice of Christianity, and the fourteenth and final chapter is the critique of the practice of Islam.
The essence of the whole book can be concluded as follows:
- There are three eternal entities: God, soul, and nature. God is one, ever-present, and unborn. The soul is infinite, eternal, and distinct from God. The nature is true and eternal as well.
- We humans are the children of the universal God, and are one family. The ultimate source of all knowledge is the Vedas given by God. Any scriptures which confirms with the Vedic philosophies is acceptable, and is called the Aarsha granth (literature), while others are not. The word dharma means to lead your life with honesty and hard work, and follow the eternal laws, and have full faith in the real God.
This chapter deals with the hundred names of God. God has infinite qualities, and is called by so many names. Out of these, one hundred names have been described by Swami Ji with distinct proof, as given in our Aarsha literature.
Om Shamno Mitra Sham Varun Shamno Bhavat Aryama
Sham Nah Indro Brihaspati Shamno Vishnu Rurukrama
Namo Brahmane Namaste Vayo Twameva Pratyaksham Brahamasi
Twameva Pratyaksham Brahama Vadishyami Ritam Vadishyami
Satyam Vadishyami Tanna Maam Avatu Tada Vaktaaram Avatu
Avatu Maam Avatu Vaktaaram
Om Shaanti, Shaanti, Shaanti Om.
In this mantra, God has been called friend, the creator, the sustainer, the dissolver, the kind, and the just. However, the main name of God is Om as per Kathopanishad. God is just first, and kind later. Actually, his kindness is in being just. God is called Paramaatma because He is the smallest of the smallest, and pervades in all souls. God is called Indra, because he is the lord of power and glory. God is called Manu because he is the source of all knowledge. He is Prajaapati, because he is the sustainer of all. He is Suparna, because he is perfect and is gracious. He is Bhoomi, because He is home to all living beings. He is a friend of all, worthy of love and worship, and is called Mitra. He is called Varun because He is worthy of choice, and He loves all. He is Brahaspati, because he is the greatest of all. He is called Yama because he is just. He is mahadeva, because he is the lord of lords. He is Niragun, because he has some negative features such as lacking a physical form. He is Sagun, because he has some positive qualities. In this way, there are many other names and qualities of God, however it is the same God known by different names , as described in the Rigveda (1, 164, 46): Ekam Sadvipra bahudha vadanti.
This chapter deals with the early education of a child. Sixteen sacraments, or sanskars, have been described, three of them being before the birth, twelve during life, and one after death. Swami Ji has taken pains and meticulously detailed when prospective parents want to have a child, their code of conduct and lifestyle should be of a certain way in order to have a child of the greatest character and physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This is called the Garbadhaan sanskar. When a woman is in her early pregnancy, attention of parents is drawn towards the physically developing fetus. Again, the emphasis is on the parents’ code of conduct and lifestyle in presence of friends and family, and God’s blessings are invoked. Seemantonayan Sanskara is performed late in the second trimester of pregnancy, and attention is drawn towards the developing brain of the fetus. When the child is born, several different sanskars are performed with the intention of giving the newborn a safe environment for proper development including providing proper nutrition, which changes from milk alone at birth to introduction of solid foods. At some point, when the baby begins to interact, the mother becomes the first teacher of the baby followed by father. This education involves teaching to do certain things, avoid certain things such as genitals, correcting words, speech, manners, habits etc. Children should be clearly instructed to avoid superstitions; especially the astrology and horoscope are to be completely avoided. Swami ji called the horoscope the sorrow scope. Health and moral education should be an integral part of the learning at home.
This chapter deals with the formal education of the child. Swami ji clearly paid a great deal of emphasis on educated both boys and girls. Maharshi Manu clearly states in Manusmriti(7.152) that health, education and protection of the boys and girls is the responsibility of the state. Swami Dayanand stated that the schools for boys and girls should be separate. The idea that shudra and women should not receive education was strongly opposed by swami ji and he quoted Yajurveda(26.2) which says the God had revealed vedas for the humanity at large with no exception. Upanayan sanskar should be performed and initially the Gayatri mantra be taught with it meaning followed by all scriptures in certain order. Simple life with discipline has been emphasized. A child should know what dharma is and should not accept any teaching unless it is backed up by proper proof as per the teaching of Nyaya Sutra. At the end of this education, the student should have clear understanding of the 3 eternal entities, the God, Soul and the nature. This education should end formally with the performance of Graduation ceremony or Samaavartan Sanskar in which the teacher gives clear instructions about the code of conduct and gives the formula of success in life.
This chapter deals with marriage and family life. Emphasis seems to be that marriage should be performed between mature boys and girls with their full consent and consanguineous marriages are to be clearly avoided. Re marriage of widows is encouraged. Emphasis is on the responsibilities of family life rather than lust. Fulfilling the duties by the householder is the way to achieve salvation by most. Yoga and 5 yajna are to be regularly performed by the householder.
It deals with performance of social responsibilities by people when their children are grown up and you have become grandparents. Living in forest as was advocated in ancient times is out of question. The whole society has changed. Now it is practical to minimize interference in the lives of children and spend more times in providing guidance to the society and doing more social work. The level of detachment with finances and family should be gradually increased in later part of life. Yoga should be practiced fully and dharma emphasized in daily living.
- Aashram Vyavastha or stages of life
- Our sages have divided the life span of 100 yrs in to 4 stages. This division is called the “Aashrams of life”. The 4 stages are: Brahamacharya, or celibacy, Grihastha, or family life, Vaanpristha, or social life, and, sanyaasa, or the stage of total detachment. The word Aashram denotes “hard work for self-benevolence”. Swami Dayanand Saraswati defines Aashram as a system in which one works as hard as possible and acquires the highest level of qualities. (aaryodesh ratnamala).
- The sole aim of human existence is to get rid of all forms of negativity and acquire lasting peace and happiness. To achieve such, a well-organized daily routine and hard work are essential. Our sages have given the doctrine of four forms of hard work in the form of Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha. Dharma constitutes performing our duties in life while following the path of honesty and justice. Artha is to attain prosperity by following this path which leads to attainment of Kaama, the fulfillment of desires, ultimately leading to everlasting peace and salvation, Mokhsa. These goals can be fulfilled only through the 4 stages of life.
- Brahmacharyaashram: The goal of this aashram is to live with proper discipline, acquire all forms of knowledge, and achieve physical, mental and spiritual strength, all the while remaining distanced from materialistic desires so often expressed in our thoughts, speech and action. The first 25 years of life have been traditionally designated for this aashram. Brahamacharya is made up of two words, brahama and charya. Brahama denotes Veda, knowledge, God etc. and charya is to achieve, obey, follow and utilize all that is given in life. In present context Brahamacharya, therefore, is to achieve knowledge of both materialism and spiritualism. The ancient Gurukul education curriculum consisted of exactly this lifestyle in which students were known as Brahamachaari. During this first aashram of life, Brahamachaaris also remained unwed. The word Brahamachaari, therefore, became synonymous with one not having entered marriage, though even in Vedic times if a student in Gurukul was not married, he or she would still be referred to as a Brahamachaari. Even in present day, by practicing simplicity, hard work, acting perseverant and disciplined, this proper code of conduct can be followed alongside the modern education system to bring about the best of both worlds to produce confident and independent students to make the world a better place to live.
- Grihasthaashram: In Vedic times, the right to enter in the family life was given only after finishing the education and going through the Brahmacharyaashram properly as outlined above. Usually the age of this part of life was considered appropriate from 25 to 50 yrs. To marry a person who would confirm to his/her personality, habits and expectations was considered most important. Even today, some of these elements are considered important in finding a life partner. What used to be equally important is that after getting married, the couple would follow the path of 5 Yagya and 8 part yoga in their life, have progeny, and do their absolute best to inculcate the same values in their children by example rather than preaching. The householders were also the main work force and used to take care of all other segments of society and everyone who is in the other 3 aashrams. Therefore, this aashram is considered the most important and the best part of life. However, our sages made it very clear that this part of life was not a mere source of luxury and sensuous pleasures, but this opportunity was to be utilized for the upliftment of the society and be used as a step stone for self-realization and eventual salvation. The householders, who did not do sandhya and havan on a regular basis, did not take care of parents and other elders and of those who could not care for all other beings and the environment were not looked upon with respect. If this ideology and code of conduct is followed in our lives today, the result will be lasting happiness and peace in the personal and family lives and will result in a better community, nation and the world.
- Vaanprasthaashram: Historically, the ideal way to fulfill the requirements of this aashram was to literally leave the house when one would be over 50 yrs. of age and became a grandparent and spend rest of the life serving the society while still taking care of your own needs physically and financially. It appears that the society in those times provided such a strong support and the personal needs were so minimal that this change of life did not pose any problem to anyone. However, today, our life styles have changed so much that such a drastic change is neither possible nor practical or beneficial to anyone. On the contrary, this can only put more burdens on the householder. Actually it appears that the whole emphasis in the part of life seems to be on asking this individual and couple, who now has grown up children, some finances and knowledge about life and connections, to be able to provide service to the society in form of physical service, providing guidance, making donations etc. much more than they could ever provide while fulfilling the responsibilities as a householder. It is often seen that after retirement, most people spend their time purposelessly, eventually feels useless, get depressed, become ill and do not live long. If this golden period of life is spent with a purpose of self upliftement while being of service to the community at large, life will seem useful, there will be hope. This will certainly result is a better health and longevity.
- Sanyasaashram: The word sanyas literally means God realization and live life of Dharma and the Sanyaasee is the one who lives life with high code of conduct. This is the last stage of life, traditionally from 75 to the end of life. Most people reach this stage of life after passing through the previously mentioned 3 stages (aashrams). However there are rare souls who can go directly from Brahamacharya to Sanyaasa. This requires a total control on senses, all forms of vices and intense disciple and is very difficult to follow in real life. A true sanyaasee has of follow the Yama and Neeyama, have a routine of regular sandhya, havan, praanaayama and other higher stages of meditation. In this stage a person can truly influence the society by example of their lives more than by simply preaching.