Ancient World was a Vedic World
"Hindu Dharma" is a book which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during
the years 1884 to 1994).
"The fact according to me, is that in the beginning the Vedic religion was prevalent all over the world. Later, over the centuries, it must have gone through a process of change and taken
different forms. These forms came to be called the original religions of these various lands which in the subsequent period- during historical times- came under Buddhism, Christianity or Islam
as the case may be."
In the dim past what we call Hinduism today was prevalent all over the world. Archaeological studies reveal the existence of relics of our Vedic religion in many countries. For instance, excavations have brought up the text of a treaty between Rameses II and the Hittites dating back to the 14th century B. C. In this, the Vedic gods Mitra and Varuna are mentioned as witnesses to the pact. There is a connection between the name of Ramesses and that of our Rama.
About 75 per cent of the names of places in
in the sun temple. The people of this land were called Incas: "Ina" is one of the Sanskrit names of the sun god. Don't we call Rama Inakula-tilaka?
There is book containing photographs of the aborigines of
captioned "Siva Dance", shows that the dancers have a third eye drawn on the forehead.
In a virgin forest in
Now something occurs to me in this context, something that you may find amusing. You know that the Sagaras went on digging the earth down to the nether world in search of their sacrificial horse. An ocean came into being in this way and it was called sagara after the king Sagara.
The Sagaras, at last found the horse near the hermitage of Kapila Maharsi. Thinking that he must be the man who had stolen the animal and hidden it in the nether world they laid violent hands on him. Whereupon the sage reduced them to ashes with a mere glance of his eye. Such is the story according to the Ramayana.
Another idea occurs to me about Sagara and sagara. Geologists believe that ages ago the
Some historians try to explain the evidence pointing to the worldwide prevalence of our religion in the past to the exchange of cultural and religious ideas between
established through travels. I myself believe that there was one common religion or dharma throughout and that the signs and symbols that we find of this today are the creation of the original
inhabitants of the lands concerned.
The view put forward by some students of history about the discovery of the remnants of our religion in other countries- these relating to what is considered the historical period of the past two or three thousand years- is that Indians went to these lands, destroyed the old native civilizations there and imposed Hindu culture in their place. Alternatively, they claim, Indians thrust their culture into the native ways of life in such a way that it became totally absorbed in them.
The fact, however, is that evidence is to be found in many countries of their Vedic connection dating back to 4, 000 years or more. That is, with the dawn of civilization itself, aspects of the Vedic dharama existed in these lands. It was only subsequently that the inhabitants of these regions came to have a religion of their own.
Now none of these religions, including that of
Religious and philosophical truths are often explained through parables, stories, so that ignorant people can understand them easily. Since metaphysical concepts are difficult to grasp, either
they have to be told in the form of a story or they have to be given the form of a ritual, that is they must find _expression as religious acts. For the common people the performance of a rite is a means of finding the truth present in it in the form of a symbol. I do not, however, agree with the view that all rituals are nothing but symbolic in their significance and that there is no need to perform them so long as their inner meaning is understood.
Ritual as ritual has its own place and efficacy. Similarly, I would not say that stories from the Puranas are nothing but illustrations or explanations of certain truths or doctrines. As stories they are of a high order and I believe that they really happened. But, at the same time, they demonstrate the meaning of certain truths. As for rites, their performance brings up benefits. But in due course, as we learn to appreciate their inner meaning we shall become purified in mind. This is the stage when we shall no more yearn for any benefits from their performance and will be rewarded with supreme well-being (that is, liberation).
It is likely, though, that, with the passage of time, some stories or rites will become far removed from their inner meaning. Or, it may be, the inner meaning will be altogether forgotten. So it must
be that, when new religions took shape abroad, after the lapse of thousands of years-religions not connected with the Vedic faith that is the root-the original Vedic concepts become transformed or
You must be familiar with the story of Adam and Eve which belongs to the Hebrew tradition. It occurs in the Genesis of the Old Testament and speaks of the tree of knowledge and God's commandment that its fruit shall not be eaten. Adam at first did not eat it but Eve did.
After that Adam too ate the forbidden fruit.
Here an Upanisadic concept has taken the form of a biblical story. But because of the change in the time and place the original idea has become distorted-or even obliterated.
The Upanisadic story speaks of two birds perched on the branch of a pippala tree. One eats the fruit of tree while the order merely watches its companion without eating. The pippala tree stands for the body. The first bird represents a being that regards himself as the jivatman or individual self and the fruit it eats signifies sensual pleasure. In the same body (symbolized by the tree) the
second bird is to be understood as the Paramatman. He is the support of all beings but he does not know sensual pleasure. Since he does not eat the fruit he naturally does not have the same experience as the jivatman (the first). The Upanisad speaks with poetic beauty of the two birds. He who eats the fruit is the individual self, jiva, and he who does not eat is the Supreme Reality, the one who knows himself to be the Atman.
It is this jiva that has come to be called Eve in the Hebrew religious tradition. "Ji" changes to "i" according to a rule of grammar and "ja" to "ya". We have the example of "Yamuna"
becoming "Jamuna" or of "Yogindra" being changed to "Joginder ". In the biblical story "jiva" is "Eve" and "Atma" (or "Atman") is "Adam". "Pippala" has in the same way changed to "apple". The
Tree of Knowledge is our "bodhi-vrksa". "Bodha" means "knowledge". It is well known that the Budhha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. But the pipal (pippala) was known as the bodhi tree even before his time.
The Upanisadic ideas transplanted into a distant land underwent a change after the lapse of centuries. Thus we see in the biblical story that the Atman (Adam) that can never be subject to sensual pleasure also eats the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. While our bodhi tree stands for enlightenment, the enlightenment that banishes all sensual pleasure, the biblical tree affords worldly pleasure. These differences notwithstanding there is sufficient evidence here that, once upon a time, Vedic religion was prevalent in the land of the Hebrews.
Let me give the another example to strengthen the view that however much a custom or a concept changes with the passage of time and with its acceptance by people of another land, it will still retain elements pointing to its original source. Our TiruppavaiT and TiruvembavaiT are not as ancient as the Vedas. Scholars ascribe them to an age not later than 1, 500 years ago. However it be, the authors of these Tamil hymns, AndalT and ManikkavacakarT, belong to an age much later than that of the Vedas and epics. After their time Hindu empires arose across the seas. Even the Chola kings extended their sway beyond the shores of the country. More worthy of note
than our naval expeditions was the great expansion in our sea trade and the increase with it of our foreign contacts. As a result, people abroad were drawn to the Hindu religion and culture. Among
the regions that developed such contacts,
[Here the Paramaguru briefly touches upon the stages representing the emergence of various religions]. In primeval times the Vedic religion was prevalent everywhere: this was the first stage. In the second stage new religions emerged in various parts of the world. In the third stage these decayed and their place was taken by Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. In the subsequent stage the Hindu civilization became a living force outside the shores of
Even today a big festival is held in
If you ask the people of
Those who read the Bible today are likely to be ignorant about the Upanisads, but they are sure to know the story that can be traced back to them, that of Adam and Eve. The Thais now must be likewise ignorant about the Pavis but, all the same, they hold in the month of Dhanus every year a celebration called "Triyampavai - Trippavai. " As part of it they also have a swing festival in which
figures a man dressed as Siva. Here the distortion in the observance of a rite have occurred during historical times- one of the distortions is that of Siva being substituted for Visnu. Also during
this period the Thais have forgotten the Pavis but, significantly enough, they still conduct a festival named after them. Keeping these before you, take mind back to three thousand years ago and
imagine how a religion or a culture would have changed after its passage to foreign lands.
It is in this context that you must consider the Vedic tradition. For all the changes and distortions that it has undergone in other countries during the past millennia its presence there is still
proclaimed through elements to be found in the religions that supplanted it.
How are we to understand the presence of Hindu ideas or concepts in the religious beliefs of people said to belong to prehistoric times? It does not seem right to claim that in the distant past our religion or culture was propagated in other countries through an armed invasion or through trade, that is at a time when civilization itself has not taken shape there. That is why I feel that there is no question of anything having been taken from this land and introduced into another country. The fact according to me, is that in the beginning the Vedic religion was prevalent all over the world. Later, over the centuries, it must have gone through a process of change and taken different forms. These forms came to be called the original religions of these various lands which in the subsequent period- during historical times- came under Buddhism, Christianity or Islam as the case may be.
I am just curious why the close association between Abraham and Brahm-
Rama, and also between Sarah and Sarasvati...both of who are well-
known Hebrew Biblical prophets and Hindu dieries.
"Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully; we find it difficult to provide instruction to all. The effect of this education on Hindus is prodigious. No Hindu who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respected classes 30 years hence. And this will be effected without our efforts to proselytize; I heartily rejoice in the prospect"