‘Prajā’ in the Light of Vedic View

The whole human race is ‘Prajā’ is the notion of Vedic society as told by Black* Yajurveda’s Taittirῑya Samhitā verse 1.5.1.3 –

तस्मान्मानव्य: प्रजा उच्यन्ते 

Tasmānmānavyaḥprajāucyante

This ideology continues to Upaniśadhic literature and developed as ‘Eko’ham Bahusyāmῑ’ i.e. “I [Brahman (ब्रह्मन्/ब्रह्म)] am one; may I become many”. Thus, this whole world or human race is manifested from Brahman. Here Brahman is the ultimate reality or the eternal truth/knowledge or the universal power that pervades whole creation. In Puruśasūkta of Ṛgveda, Brahman is clearly stated as supreme and from Brahman classification of society into four varṇas is listed –

ब्राह्मणो अस्य मुखमासीद बाहू राजन्य: कृत।

ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्य: पद्भ्याम शूद्रो अजायत ।।

Brāhmaṇoasyamukhamāsῑdabāhūrājanyaḥkartaḥ

Ūrūtadasyayadavaiśyaḥpadbhyāṁśūdroajāyata 

It said that brahmin was born from the mouth, kṣatriya from the shoulders, vaiśya from the thighs and śūdra from the feet of the creator.”

(Ṛgveda 10.90.12)

Today the word ‘Prajā’ is majorly used for the fourth varṇa i.e. śūdra and these śūdras are comprising of OBC/SC/ST/Dalits whereas in Vedic view śūdras were born from the feet of Brahman. Symbolically feet represent the foundation. So, śūdras are the foundation of the society. It can be elaborated as anyone who lays the foundation of the society is known as ‘śūdra’. Laying down the foundation means to build up. In other words, one who builds up the society by providing his/her services to the society is known as ‘śūdra’. In this sense, all the service providers of society such as teachers, doctors, engineers, environmentalists, musicians, painters, agriculturists, dancers, economists, writers, architects etc can be called śūdras. With these service providers a society, a nation builds up and sustains forever.

From above annotation, śūdras i.e. ‘Prajā’ are revealed as the creators of society. The etymological meaning of word ‘Prajā’ is ‘Pra’ (Prefix) means intense and ‘Jan’ (root) means creative. The word ‘Brahmā (ब्रह्मा)’ develops from Sanskrit root “Bṛh” which means “to grow” or “to expand”. Though the term ‘Brahmā’** does not appear in Vedas it is more prominently mentioned as deity of creation (one of the trinity) in the post-Vedic-texts and Puranic mythologies. Hence, sometimes Vedic god ‘Prajāpati’ is identified as ‘Brahmā’ – the creator {Brahma is the Puranic heir of Vedic Hiranyagarbha, and Brahmanic Prajapati (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Brahma-Brahman-and-Brahmin)}. Because of this very similarity even in today’s society ‘the creators of society’ i.e. ‘Prajā’ address themselves as ‘Prajāpati’. Like ‘Prajāpati’, Vedic god ‘Vishwakarmā’ too is considered as the lord of creation. In modern era, since creative talents are perceived by ‘Prajā’ people, so they relate themselves with above mentioned Vedic gods such as potters use ‘Prajāpati’ and carpenters, blacksmiths, jewellers use ‘Vishwakarmā’ in their surnames in recognition of their traits with ‘Prajāpati’ and ‘Vishwakarmā’. Thus, there is no harm in calling ‘Prajā’ people as lord of the society, as long as they possess the creative qualities.

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(Source of Image : http://www.scvo.org.uk )

We often come across certain Vedic texts highlighting non-allowance of śūdras for formal education. I feel such meanings of Vedic texts are misinterpretations, and there is a need to have deeper study and understanding. ‘The Whole world as the manifestation of Brahman’ is referred by Vedas many times in different ways, hence how could Vedic hymns encourage discrimination among people? In our opinion, there could have been two categories of centres of education during Vedic era. One was based more on theoretical-knowledge-creation-learning system where primarily intellectuals got admitted for deeper basic research. For skill development the vocational or practical training centre was the other choice for applied knowledge and development. In modern times these would be similar to basic fields like science, economics, etc. for basic knowledge and professional courses like engineering, medical, business, etc. for applied knowledge.

According to popular quote–

जन्मना जायते शूद्र: संस्कारात द्विज उच्यते।

वेद पठनात भवेत् विप्र: ब्रह्म जानाति इति ब्राह्मण।।

JanmanāJāyateśūdraḥsanskārātdvijuchyate

Veda pathanātbhavetvipraḥ brahma janātiitibrahmaṇaḥ।।

“By birth one is a Śūdra (lower caste), by education or by reformation, one becomes a Dvija (higher caste), by study of the Vedas one becomes a Vipra, and one who knowns Brahma is a Brahmaṇa.”

It can be understood that everyone born with capability to be a skillful person. The creativeness of each individual sometimes developed by his own or sometimes by inheritance of the family tradition or sometimes one has to go to special school of training such as we have engineering or medical colleges with specialized streams. Like at present everyone cannot go to every school similarly in Vedic times there was a definite line of schools for various streams of knowledge. We should always look into the context Vedic hymns are referring to rather than arguing on the basis of biased explanations.

It is a perception that Brahamins were the ruling class and śūdras are the lower (fourth) class. Actually there is no ascending or descending order in taxonomy of four varṇas. In our opinion, it is completely a choice-based-system where a person either wants to pursue his practically inherited/acquired skills (as śūdra) or to carry out deeper research (as in case of a brahmin). It can be explained as one who is doing a field job or practice of his skill is a śūdra and one who is inclined to enhance his intellect is a brahmin. This is, what is defined in the statement by Lord Śṛῑ Kṛśṇā–

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टम गुणकर्मविभागशः

Cāturvarṇyaṁmayāsṛṣṭaṁguṇakarmavibhāgaśaḥ

I (Lord Śṛῑ Kṛśṇā) am the creator of the fourfold human society according to aptitude and profession (karma)”.

(Śṛῑmadbhagavadgῑtā 4.13)

and later Sanskrit texts –

न जात्या ब्रह्मणश्चात्र क्षत्रियो वैश्य एव न।

न शूद्रो न च वै मलेच्छो भेदिता गुणकर्मभि:।।

Na jātyābrahmaṇaścātrakṣatriyovaiśyaevana

Na śūdronacavaimlecchobheditāguṇakarmabhiḥ।।

“In this world nobody is brahmin, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra or mleccha by birth. Qualities and their deeds are responsible for these differences”.

(Śukranῑti 1.38)

The words ‘cāturvarṇyaṁ’ and ‘sṛṣṭaṁ’ are singular numbers, which testify that the four varṇas together constitute one singular society (https://sites.google.com/site/hindunew/dharma).  It can be said that Vedic sages didn’t narrate any kind of discrimination. Social unity and welfare were the only aim.

Above discussion is a hypothesis, for today’s society. If this system can be adapted then equitable society and social structure can be achieved. Inequality and social differences among the people can then be addressed.

Notes-

* The Yajurveda is broadly classified into two – the Kṛśṇā (loosely translated as black Yajurveda and the Śukla (loosely translated as white Yajurveda. The term “Kṛśṇā” implies ‘the un-arranged, unclear collection’ of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the “shukla” which implies the ‘well arranged, clear’  Yajurveda. 

** One should not be confused in the words Brahman and Brahmā. The Brahma(n) is a neuter gender word that ends in ‘ न्’. It is the Upanishadic (Vedantic) spiritual concept of oneness whereas the masculine gender word Brahmā is the four-headed Puranic character who is the creator among the Puranic Trinity concept. It can be said that Brahman is a divine concept of Hinduism and Brahmā  is one of Hindu Deity.

– Dr. Aparna Dhir, Assistant Professor and Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, School of Indic Studies, INADS, Dartmouth, USA

 

 

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Children in Vedas

Dr. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES –India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

Great seers, thinkers, warriors, visionaries graced India from the very beginning. It can be assumed that they were bright from their childhood. It is true that narration of bright children is not done separately in abundance, but undoubtedly ancient Vedic literature is not without their mention.

Nachiketā

There is an inspirational story in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad about a little boy named Nachiketā. He was the son of Vājaśravā Uddālaka Ṛṣi who once organized a great sacrifice ‘yajn᷈a’ called ‘Sarvamedha’ to please the deities for accumulating good deeds. He announced that after the sacrifice, he would be donating the bulk of his wealth including cattle to learned Brāhmaṇas as dakṣiṇā. The sacrifice was duly performed, but when time came for the donation, Vājaśravā kept some healthy cattle for himself and his son; and in place of them tried to donate those that were old, infirm and yielded no milk. Nachiketā was observing this. He got disturbed to see the unholy act of his father. He realized that these gifts would have the opposite effect on his future goal. Being adolescent son, he was not able to stop him. So he asked his father with the intention to remind him the law of complete and pure charity. He said, “O Father! To whom you would gift me in charity?” This made Ṛṣi very angry, but he decided not to say anything. When Naciketā repeated the question thrice, Uddālaka lost his temper and said, “I give you to Yama, the Lord of Death.” Yama is the king of death and resides in yamapurī. Hearing this, Nachiketā went to Yama’s kingdom. He decided to obey his father’s command.  He firmly said to himself, ‘I should fulfill my father’s wish, even if it means leaving my home’. When Ṛṣi realized his mistake and tried to stop Naciketā, he did not stop. He reached Yama’s kingdom and was told by Yama’s guards that he had gone out for three days. Naciketā decided to wait at his doorstep till he returned. He waited for three days without food, water and shelter. When Yama returned and saw little Naciketā at his doorstep, he felt sorry for keeping a Brāhmaṇa boy waiting without any welcome or rest. Not welcoming a guest means just like committing a sin in Indian tradition.Yama was very pleased with the clear thinking and honesty of the young boy. He served Nachiketā with all honour and food, but even then he was not completely satisfied, so he said, “Dear child, I have offended you by keeping you waiting for three days. To wash my sin, I request you to ask for three boons.

nachiketa-yama

Naciketā declared, “My first wish is, when I return home, may my father welcome me lovingly. My second wish is to get that knowledge by which I can be worthy of living in the heaven. My third and last wish is to achieve Atmajn᷈ānam- knowledge of the ātman from you.” Yama granted the first two boons immediately and tried to convince Naciketā to give up his third desire for higher knowledge. Instead of that, he offered him long life, gold, pearls, coins, horses, elephants and even the happiness of Swarga – heaven.  “No, I do not wish for anything else,” replied Naciketā firmly. He described all worldly objects as perishable until Lord of Death is the ruler. Finally, Yama granted him the third boon too, and the courageous boy was enlightened with the knowledge of the ātman. Naciketā came to know about the soul, life and death in his early age. Finally, he went back to his father’s house and imparted the knowledge, he obtained from Yama, to many disciples.

Naciketā as a brightest child of Vedic era inspires us to be kind to all creatures, to respect parents, to be strong-willed, to cross all obstacles with firm determination, to avoid worldly temptations, and to strive for eternal happiness.

 Satyakāma

Satyakāma Jābāla is mentioned in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad. Satyakāma in his childhood used to live in a small hut with his mother Jābālā. He had a strong wish to study, so, he desired to go out in search of a teacher ‘guru’ who would guide him in the path of self-realization, to achieve the goal of mystic life. He enquired about his Gotra from his mother. In fact he wanted to know the name of his father as in those days generally teachers accepted students only after knowing their family’s introduction.

So upon learning about her son’s wish to study, Jābālā told him, “O my Son! I don’t know your family name. I used to work earlier in many houses of different persons. I don’t know when I got pregnant. When asked by the Guru, tell him what I have told you”. Later Satyakāma left with her mother’s blessings. He reached to the āśrama of sage Gautama and requested him to make him his pupil. On seeing the boy, Ṛṣi Gautama asked him,Before I make you my pupil, I need to know about your family.” Satyakāma had no idea about his family except his mother. He said, “I asked it to my mother. She said: ‘Child, when you were born, I used to be very busy serving guests. I had no idea about your father. My name is Jābālā and your’s is Satyakāma. So call yourself Satyakāma Jābāla.” On hearing it, the Ṛṣi said with smile, “I admire you for saying the truth. I am sure you must be born of a noble gotra. I shall accept you as my student. Go and get me some samidhā. I shall initiate you in brahmacharya”. He then initiated him in meditation to calm down his mind and to experience his inner self which was like the vast ocean.The sage was pleased with his love for truth.

One day Gautama told him that before he could teach him, Satyakāma should take the herd of 400 weak cows of the āśrama and return only when it had multiplied to 1000. After that Gautama would impart him higher knowledge. Without uttering a single word, Satyakāma left with the cows. He took them to the forest. Satyakāma built an āśrama for himself in the forest and looked after the cows with loving care. All the time he carefully practiced the duties of a brahmacharī. He was no longer lonely and became friends with nature; every living creature became part of his family.

satyakam

After many years, the herd grew to 1000. Every cow was strong and healthy. It was time for Satyakāma to return to Gautama’s āśrama. All the gods and deities were happy with Satyakāma’s obedience and dedication to his guru. Along the way, he was blessed with knowledge by fire, a bull, a swan and a Sun bird. Now enlightened, Satyakāma reached the āśrama. Gautama saw the glow of enlightenment on his face. He was also very happy that Satyakāma had looked after the cows very well. He then accepted Satyakāma as his pupil and blessed him with Brahmavidyā. Guru said, “Brahmaivedamsarvam’ (Brahman is in everything). Brahman is realized by knowing yourself, at everywhere, in everything, and in every being. You are eternal and radiant because he is in you. This is Brahma-vidyā”. Satyakāma is regarded as an ideal of truth, dedication, obedience and true service to the guru in Vedic traditions.

Thus, Vedic ideals should be implanted in the early age to get strong foundation of character and intelligence for all human beings.

 

 

 

 

The Idea of God (Part-II)

– Dr. Koenraad Elst

Continued from Part-I

Mono- versus polytheism

The Sumerian ideogram Dingir was read as ElIn neighbouring Akkadian, a Mesopotamian dialect of Semitic. We know this word very well through Hebrew, a northwestern (Levantine) dialect of Semitic. Thus the names Uriel, “my light is God”; Gabriel, “my strength is God”; Michael, “who is like God?” But as we shall presently see, these names now carry a meaning of “God” that has resulted from a revolution, viz. from poly- to monotheism.

A derivative of El is Eloha, “a deity”, “a god”. We know it mainly through the plural form Elohim, “gods”, “pantheon”. Strangely, this form has survived the theological revolution described in the Bible book Exodus under the leadership of Moses, ca. 1250 BCE. Here, the many gods were replaced with a single jealous god, yet the plural form Elohim remained but with a singular meaning: God. Thus, the Bible, which received its definitive form only under the Persian empire ca. 500 BCE, when this usage was well-established, starts with the sentence: “Berešit bara Elohim et ha-šamaim ve-etha-aretz”, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The connection with the stars was severed, at least for the Israelites, not all the other nations: “Pay attention lest ye lift your eyes up to the sky for seeing sun, moon and stars, that ye be led astray and adore and serve them, those whom the Lord your God hath assigned to all the nations under heaven.” (Deut. 4:19)

A synonym of Elohim, referring to the same jealous God, is Yahweh. Moses himself introduced this god-name into Biblical tradition. Though new to the Israelites after centuries in Egypt, it must have existed earlier among the Arab (South-Semitic) Beduins as well as among the Northwest-Semitic people of Mari. Moses, when a fugitive from Egyptian law after he was found out to have committed murder, stayed with a Beduin tribe. They had a storm-god Yahweh, best translated as a causative participle of a verb meaning “to move in the sky”, whether “to blow” or “to stoop like a bird of prey”, from an Arab root HWY later attested in the Quran (22:32), but not in the Bible. This meaning is confirmed by the fixed expression Yahweh Sabaoth, “he who causes the motion of the heavenly hosts”, i.e. of the majestic procession of the stars across heaven. Here again we find a stellar meaning associated with a god-name.

Moses saw an apparition of this god in the burning bush. When Moses asks the god who he is, the god expresses his total sovereignty: “I am who I am”, ehyeh ašer ehyeh. Theologians and translators have contemplated this sentence profusely, until in ca. 1900, the German Orientalist Julius Wellhausen hit upon its probable original meaning: it elaborates a pun on the name Yahweh, which the Hebrews misinterpreted folk-etymologically as a causative participle of the verb HYY, “to be”, hence “the being one”, “he who is”, or more philosophically, “he whose essence is existence” “he who necessarily exists”, “he who causes existence to exist”. This edifice of profundities is entirely built on a folk-etymological pun, nothing more. Or to put it more positively: a new conception of the divine was grafted onto an old god.

The Arab form of the originally polytheistic term ha-eloha, “the deity”, is al-Ilāha, also “the deity”. A contracted form is Allāh, “thé deity”, “the god par excellence”, hence “God”. Originally it could refer to any earlier-mentioned god. Thus, Mohammed’s Pagan father was called Abdallāh, “servant of the deity”. Mohammed, in a bid to establish monotheism among the Arabs, reinterpreted Allāhas a synonym of Yahweh. He saw himself as the latest (and even last) one of the line of the prophets of Yahweh, renamed Allāh in Arabia. This way, the star-god El, the Semitic form of Sumerian Dingir, ended up shedding his connection with the stars and becoming the disembodied extra-cosmic Creator-god Yahweh/Allāh. The Quran (6:78, 22:18, 41:37) simply and strictly prohibits star worship.

In the footsteps of the reform movements Brahmo Samaj and Aryan Samaj, many anglicized Hindus claim that “Hinduism too is monotheistic”. This is a very defensive stand, and it is simply not correct. If the Hindu wealth of gods and of ways of worship were not polytheistic, what other religion would be? It seems to us that they are using a word they don’t understand. Monos does not mean “one”, it means “alone”, “one and no other”. Monotheism accepts only Yahweh or Allah, and considers all others as false gods, only good to be destroyed and discarded: Marduk, Ba’al, Osiris, Ahura Mazda, Śiva, Buddha. By contrast, Hinduism is inclusive. The Vedic verse: “The wise call the one essence by many names”, means that the different gods are not false but are essentially the same as your chosen god. There are no “false gods” in Hinduism. Reality is both one and manifold, and Hinduism is not bothered with the question whether the divine is single or many.

This also counts for other Pagan civilizations. When Protestant missionaries set up shop in China, they discovered that a native term roughly meaning “God” was Shangdi, so they appropriated this term as name of the Christian God. (Catholics preferred Tianzhu, the “Heavenly Boss”.) What they did not know, is that the Chinese language mostly does without the separate category of a plural, so the same word can be both plural and singular. Shangdi does not so much mean “the Sovereign on High”, as rather “the Powers on High”. In Chinese, even the grammar militates against the contrast between one and many. To monotheists this numerical matter is all-important, worthy of the iconoclastic destruction of all the “false gods”; but to regular people such as Hindus or Confucians and Daoists, it is just not an issue.

Širk

Heaven-worship is truly the universal religion, rivalled only by ancestor-worship. And even then, these two are intertwined. Deceased ancestors are deemed to be in heaven, often actually associated with a specific star. When your father has died, you take your child on an evening walk, and when the stars appear, you point out one of them and say: “There is grandpa, watching over us.” In a Vedic ritual, a zone in the sky, in the Scorpio-Sagittarius area, is designated as the destination of the dead.

For famous people, who had become part of the collective consciousness, the procedure could be to “elevate them to godhood” (Greek: Apotheōsis) by associating them with a specific star or constellation.A case in point from antiquity is Antinoös, the lover-boy of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who drowned himself and was given a star in Aquarius, still named after him. When in the 17th century the southern sky was mapped, one constellation was named after the protection given to Vienna by Jan Sobieski against the Ottoman siege: Scutum Sobieskii, “Sobieski’s shield”, now simply Scutum.

This practice was first attested in writing in Ugarit, Syria, where in ca. 2000 BC famous people upon their deaths were identified or “associated” with a star. In the native Semitic, this practice was named Širk, “association”. The term ought to be well-known today, but with an evolved meaning. When Islam imposed monotheism, it denounced polytheism and idolatry as Širk, i.e. the “association” of a mortal, a creature, with the Supreme Being, the Creator.

India too has known this practice. The stars of the Great Bear are named after the Seven Sages who composed most of the Ŗg-Veda. There are different variations of this list of seven, but one of the Sages who returns in all of them is Vasiṣṭha. He and his wife Arundhātī are associated with the twin stars Mizar and Alcor. In a moderate way, they did graduate to godhood, with a few temples in Himachal and Uttarakhand dedicated to them. Another sage who made it to heaven is Agastya, the Sage who went to the South, and therefore has the southern star Canopus named after him.

 Conclusion

At the dawn of history, and practically since the birth of mankind, star worship, partly overlapping with ancestor worship, was the main religion worldwide. With the development of civilization, conceptions of the divine grew away from their referents in nature. India generated a spirituality implying renunciation, and the gods followed suit. The Upanishads signalled a break with the Vedic focus on the gods and reoriented mankind’s attention to the spiritual path. A kind of relation with a kind of gods was restored, but adopting the new focus on Liberation.

Star worship remained alive, as “nothing ever dies in India” (in the words of the late Girilal jain), but that old layer was overlaid with new levels of abstraction. The highest of these was the abstract concept of the Absolute (Brahmaṇ) that appeared in the Upaniṣads and remained, in various guises, in the mai sects of Hinduism. But the lower levels, including the naturalistic, star-related levels did not disappear; it was an organic evolution.

A roughly similar evolution took place in the Greek world and then in the Roman empire. The elites outgrew the colourful pantheon and, mainly through Stoicism, accepted a more abstract and more unitary concept of the divine. In Neoplatonism, which may have been influenced by Indian developments, everything was thought to emanate from “the One”. In China too, “the One” was the name of a unifying abstract concept transcending the many natural gods of everyday religion.

Unfortunately, in the Roman empire, this natural evolution was interrupted and forcibly driven in a particular direction by the imposition of Christianity. However, at the same time, to better insinuate itself in the Greco-Roman culture, Christianity also took over much from Stoicism and Neoplatonism, which appear mainly in Christian morals c.q. theology.The breakthrough of monotheism followed the same pattern as the conceptual development in Hinduism to a some extent, but was unnecessarily brutal and destructive regarding the earlier religion. The same scenario repeated itself even more abruptly with the advent of Islam.

The resulting concept of divine unity (in Islam: tawḥīd) was also much cruder than a what gradual development would have made possible. While superseding the colourful old gods, Yahweh or Allah were much like them in their negative aspects: all too human, too personal, not nirguṇa, “beyond qualities”. As India has shown, it was perfectly possible to move from a naturalistic to a more abstract conception of the divine without destroying the earlier conception.

 

Scientific Significance of OM

              – Dr. Raj Kumar, Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA.

IMG_5362Dr. Kumar has developed a broad multidisciplinary background in analytical chemistry, biochemistry, spectroscopy, biophysical studies, cell culture, cell and animal assays. He is an alumni of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi where he completed his bachelor and master in science. He completed his Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts, USA, in the field related to Botulinum Neurotoxin. Before joining to the institute, he worked as a lecturer in UMASS, Dartmouth. Apart from his own field, he has also developed the interest in studying the various aspects of Vedas. He already published an article about Ayurveda. As a rational thinker, he emphasized more on scientific aspects of Vedas.

From the very words of the Krishna Yajurveda, Kapisthala-katha-Samhita (42.1) —–Prajāpatir vai idam āsīt: In the beginning was Brahman. Tasya vāg dvitīya āsīt; with whom was the Vāk (or Sound)… Vāg vai paramam Brahma; and the Vāk (Sound) is Brahman”. According to the “Shabda Yoga”—– The Science of Light and Sound, creation came into being through the light and sound of the creator. This sound is called OM. There is no scientific evidence which can provide proofs whether OM is a sound of creation or not. Although all the spiritual thoughts/aspects/truth cannot be verified with modern scientific tools, a few fundamental bases can be tested with modern scientific instrumentation (may not be appropriate all the time). In this blog, my efforts will be more concentrated on the scientific basis rather than the spiritual one.

First look into the phonetics of the word. According to Mandukya Upanishad (Johnston, 1923), OM is the manifestation of all states of time, Atman, consciousness, and knowledge. In Sanskrit, the sound “O” is a diphthong spelled “AU”.  A diphthong is a mixture of two vowel sounds and can be separately heard. This is why OM sounds “AUM”, which represents the 3-folds division of time.

A (apti) represents the waking state (symbolizes darkness, inertia, ignorance).

U (utkarsha) represents the dream or creative state (symbolizes passion, activity, dynamism).

M (miti) represents the state of deep sleep or meditative state (symbolizes purity, truth, light).

When we sleep we dream and this dream state is part of bigger dream state which we experience in waking state. The dream which we see in the meditative or sleeping state is the dream within dreams, and the life is a big dream or illusion. At the end of OM chanting, there is complete silence.  This represents the state of Turiya, the fourth state; infinite or pure consciousness. Achieving this state evaporates all dreams and one faces the reality (dream disappears and truth emerges). Chanting of OM symbolizes a journey of darkness to pure light—–

The symbol of OM is also representation of these four states (Johnston, 1923). The large bottom curve symbolizes the waking state, A. The middle curve signifies the dream state, U. The upper curve denotes the state of deep sleep, M. The dot signifies the fourth state of consciousness, Turiya. The semi-circle at the top represents “Maya” and separates the dot from the other three states. The illusion of Maya due to the materialistic world is an obstacle to the realization of the pure consciousness (Fig. 1).

Figure 1Figure 1: A representation of word OM.

Now, examine the significance of the above explanation scientifically. Heisnam Jina Devi and colleagues analyzed sound related to OM (A, U, M and AUM). They observed that A is flat, U is initially flat but finally tapered off or flattened off abruptly, and M is the synchronized sound of U which gradually tapered or flattened off. Thus, OM sound is a mixture of all three sounds (A, U, and M) (Fig. 2).

Figure 2 Figure 2: Spectral analysis of Vedic mantra OM (AUM) (Taken from Heisnam Jina Devi et al., 2004).

In another experiment, scientists analyzed fMRI before and after OM (Kalyani et al., 2011). Chanting of OM affects the vibration and generate resonances near to the ear, very close to the cranial nerves. These resonances are transmitted through the auricular branch of the vagus nerve. Chanting of OM has significant deactivation of amygdala, parahippocampal and hippocampal brain regions.

Chanting of OM mantra sequentially activates the stomach, spinal cord, throat, nasal and brain region. The energy moves from stomach all the way to the brain. Resonance observed in fMRI in the vagus nerve supports the above point. So, chanting OM has several benefits – therapeutic, physiological and spiritual.

Om is also called Pranava, meaning it sustains life and runs through the breath or Prana. The ‘O” or ‘AU’ sound makes all the bones of the thoracic cage vibrate, which leads to the vibration of lungs and finally to the delicate membranes of the alveolus. This can stimulate pulmonary cells and enables a proper exchange of air in the lungs.  These vibrations produce a much accentuated effects in the endocrine glands. This leads to the balance activation of several glands and organs. Besides this vibrational message, which results from the emission of the vowels ‘AU’, the latter acts especially in the abdominal and thoracic cage, whilst the vibration of ‘M’ in the skulls induces a vibration of the cranial nerves. Gurjar and Ladhake (2008) concluded, based on their research, that OM chanting steadys the mind, which ultimately helps in reducing stress of the human mind.

Based on the above data OM can be represented as a model (Fig. 3), summarizing the above arguments as follows. By chanting ‘A’ we activate communication of body and mind, whereas chanting ‘U’ and ‘M’ activates conscious and unconscious mind which finally connects to infinite or pure consciousness.

Figure 3(1)Figure 3: A model representing different components of OM.

In my view, there are two important components which are the basis of Vedic philosophy: a) The unmanifest (avyakt) gives rise to the manifest (vyakt), and b) Sound vibration is a tool which provides a medium for this transformation. The primordial sound is a medium (pure consciousness) from where everything emerged and to which everything will return. Thus, sound vibration has a profound effect on the physical, conscious/unconscious, astral, and spiritual body. This is one of the reasons why Vedic philosophy considers OM as a primordial sound.

References

Devi, HJ, Swamy, NVC, and Nagendra, HR (2004). Spectral analysis of Vedic mantra. International Journal of traditional knowledge, 3, 154 – 161.

Gurjar, AA, and Ladhake, SA (2008). Time-Frequency analysis of chanting Sanskrit Divine sound “OM” mantra. International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, 8, 170- 175.

Johnston, C (1923). The Measures of the Eternal – Mandukya Upanishad. Theosophical Quarterly, October, 1923, 158-162.

Kalyani, BG, Venkatasubramanian, G, Arasappa, R, Rao, NP, Kalmady, SV, Behere, RV, Gangadhar, BN (2011). Neurohemodynamic correlates of “OM” chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study. International Journal of Yoga, 4, 3–6.

Ganesh/Janus, and the Lost Hindu/Vedic Secrets of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Part-II)

ganesha

Continued from part-I

On a more subtle level of understanding, why would Janus/Ganesh be worshipped as the old year leaves and the new one begins? What is a year? It is time. Then who is old man time? Time is Saturn, whom the Greeks called Chronos, hence the word chronology. It is well known in India that Saturn, who in Sanskrit is called Shani, is the Lord of time and also the placer of obstructions or impediments. In time, things that once served us become rigid or fossilized and then become obstructions on our path. We then need to throw them out and make some new resolutions. We need to remember to be child-like again, like a baby, worship the baby with an elephant’s head, Ganesh/Janus, to remove the obstacles and give us a fresh start so we can make more progress.

In the extreme, the poor man’s method of forgetting the past has been alcohol, so we see it is used and often abused in ringing in the New Year. The wearing of masks to celebrate New Years is related to our removing the layers of not self that may have accumulated over the year. It is related to the masks or faces that Janus/Ganesh presents to us, asking the question: “Who are you really? Then why do we celebrate Janus/Ganesh in the aftermath of the Winter Solstice? What is the meaning of the longest night of the year and it’s opposite the Summer Solstice, the longest day? The ancient thinkers called those two days the gates of the year. If you include the Autumnal and Vernal Equinox in March and September, you can see Janus/Ganesh Quadrafons, the four headed Ganesh. But the two gates in June and December are the most famous.

In India it is believed that the two solstices divide the year into two parts, the time from December to June when the days are increasing and the days from June to December when the nights are increasing. From this perspective, the two solstices are “gateways” to the realms of dark and light. The two times of year are called in Sanskrit the Uttarayana and the Dakshinayana, or the Northern way and Southern way. It appears that the “yana” of Sanskrit is the same as the “Jana” of Latin. The other name for these two times of year is Devayana and Pitriyana.

The Devayana or realm of light, is the place where the Angels or Devas, the Divine helpers reside. In the material world you could call this place Heaven. It is closer to God or Brahman the Divine light. The apex of Devayana is Brahmaloka, the golden planet of the Creator. This path leads back to the eternal, spiritual and transcendental realm. The gate to the realms of Light opens the day of the Winter Solstice and remains open until the night of the Summer Solstice. At that moment the Dakshinayana or dark gate opens. The path into darkness is called Pitriyana or the path of the ancestors. The implication is that one’s ancestors are often still bound in darkness resulting from previous actions that have produced negative consequences. As a result, they still reside in Pitriloka or in material places within the darkness of matter.

In the Vedas it is said that a yogi who leaves their body during the time from the Summer Solstice to the Winter Solstice cannot achieve liberation and must take birth again. Conversely, those who leave their body during the time from the Winter Solstice to the Summer Solstice can achieve liberation by going out through the Deva gate. In the Mahabharata there is a well known story that the great warrior Grandfather Bhisma lay for days on a bed of arrows waiting for the Winter Solstice gate to open before he would leave his body. He had been given the power to leave his body at will and so waited for the Northern gate to open and then ascended to the Deva realm.

These then, are the two gates that Janus/Ganesh is looking at and guarding with his two heads. The two heads in their original form of Janus Geminius also conceal a further mystery. That form was a male and female face wearing a single crown. This form of Ganesh is often depicted in the spiritual art of India. The male and female are Shiva and Parvati, who are Father and Mother God as well as Father and Mother Nature. Shiva is also called Mahadeva or the Greatest of the Divines and Yogesvara or the Supreme Yogi. He is the ruler of the Devayana path. Parvati or Durga is the Mother matter and place of birth of all beings. She is Mother Nature and the keeper of the dark material energy, the Womb of Life. Thus she is the ruler of the Pitriyana path, of birth and our ancestral relations. It is those relationships that we celebrate during the festivities of the Winter Solstice/Christmas.

According to the Vedic knowledge, the two Persons of the Divine are an inseparable couple who love each other endlessly and are perpetually embraced. Like the yin/yang symbol of the Taoist philosophy, Shiva and Parvati, the light and dark of this world are elaborately intertwined. In India, their conjoined form is depicted in many ways. In one of these, they share one half of each other’s body. That form, called Ardineshvara shows the upper quarter of Shiva on the left with the upper quarter of Parvati on the right. On the lower quarter, Parvati’s leg is on the left, beneath Shiva’s torso and his leg is the quarter on the right beneath Parvati’s upper body. They are shown as dancing together, becoming each other and yet retaining their distinctive identity and individuality. They have two heads with one crown.

Often this cosmic form is depicted with Ganesh’s face on the front, between the faces of Shiva and Parvati. In that way he represents the transitions or gateways between the various states within matter, light and dark, past and future, birth and death. In other words, he is worshipped first at the beginning of every new thing or phase of being. He is Janus/Ganesh, the Lord of transitions or progress as we move through time which presents itself as a series of portals or new opportunities which requires us to move on and forward from what we were in the past. In our New Year current celebration, we say good-bye to the old man (the same Saturn Janus gave shelter to) of the previous year and usher in the baby of progressive possibility through Ganesh/Janus. That Janus gave shelter to Saturn is due to his being the remover of obstacles and whereas Shani (Saturn) is the placer of them. In fact, both Shani and Ganesh are angels (Devas) according to the philosophy of Hinduism but they have different functions.

At another level, Ganesh is depicted in the Yoga Philosophy as the deity in charge of the first chakra of the seven chakras that are depicted within our body’s energy system. That chakra is called Muladhara and is related to the earth element. The earth element passes in through our mouth while carrying the light or life force (in our Northern gate) and then, after giving us life, passes out through the Southern gate (our anus). This is Ani again or the annual circle of living. The year cycle is replicated in our body as the two gates of our cycle of life. In the cosmic body it is the same. In India it is said that the cosmos is actually a great person or form of God, called the Jagat Purusha or Cosmic Person. We are the microcosm and He/She the Jagat Purusha are the macrocosm. On January 1st, Ganesh/Janus guards the gate or transition from the first chakra where we begin as a baby on the earth, toward our ascent through the six chakras until we ascend to Heaven at Midsummer Night’s Eve, the Summer Solstice. The seventh chakra is the 7th Heaven, where Mahadeva and Mother Parvati live surrounded by all the Devas and holding their favorite child Janus/Ganesha.

There are of course, many more such mysteries and whole volumes in the Vedas, related to Ganesh, Shiva, Parvati and their relation to our lives, the cosmos and beyond. This article has just been one small exploration into the origins of the Hindu/Vedic origins of world culture that have become shrouded in the mists of time. Many of our now unconscious rituals and actions and most of our speech and ideas have their origin in the great cultures that preceded us. Rome was one of those cultures and India which preceded Rome and Greece is a rich storehouse of ancient wisdom that is still relevant today.

Fortunately for us, the culture of India is still intact, so a study of the world in the light of its teachings and history can reveal the roots and depth of meaning behind many of our now forgotten beliefs and customs. May Janus/Ganesh make the way straight before you, remove the obstacles to your progressive unfoldment and open the gate to your Divine aspirations. May you pass safely through the solstice gate and find no obstacles as you cross the threshold of the New Year.

Om Gam Ganapataye Om Namaha.

May Lord Ganesh bless you with success.

– Mr.Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), Founder of VASA, Canada, USA

Sanskrit : A Language Sculpted to Perfection

– Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture, Pondicherry, India

 Sampadananda Mishra

Dr. Sampadananda Mishra is passionate about Sanskrit. He has spoken at various conferences both nationally and internationally, conducts workshops, teacher training programmes and authored many books. Dr. Mishra has launched the first ever 24 hours Sanskrit Radio called Divyavani. The Govt. of India has conferred the President’s award (Maharshi Badarayna Vyasa Samman 2011) on Dr. Mishra for his outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.

Sanskrit, as many conscious learners have experienced, generates joy, clarity, purity and peace. It is indeed a perfect harmonizer (saamarasyaparaayanaa) that balances the body, mind and soul. It leads to true happiness and fills the heart and mind with a perfect sense of immortality. Its purity draws us, inspires us, constantly reminds us of the true aim of our life, and makes us conscious of the Truth that exists within us. The rhythmic beauty and melody of this language, vibrational purity of its sounds, richness of its phonetic quality, transparency of its root sounds and their senses, richness of its vocabulary and thought content, all these have made Sanskrit truly great.

Sanskrit always starts from a deeper base. It believes that the Sound and the Word are at the origin of creation. It believes that they have light, consciousness and power – the sound has potency. Therefore the meaning of the fundamental Sanskrit roots is not arbitrary but based on a deeper truth. Through a process of deep contemplation and intuition, it is possible for one to enter into the heart of a sound vibration and discover its meaning. This was the way of the Rishis when they gave meaning to the roots. Thus each seed-sound and each root-sound in Sanskrit has a fundamental meaning associated with this. Further the fundamental meaning can give rise to many other meanings related to the root-experience. By a deeper analysis of the Sanskrit sounds and words derived from root-sounds one can arrive at the fundamental experiences associated with those sounds and words. In this manner each word in Sanskrit has its own connotation, its definite shade of meaning, its special nuance.

Let us look at a few examples.

A letter in Sanskrit is called akshara (a + kshara) which literally means imperishable. This is not merely attributive. The term akshara reveals the whole secret of the speech process or the sound system. It says that the sound is eternal. It does not perish. Shabdonityah. Nityaavaivaak. Na vaakkshiiyate. It shows that the moment one makes a sound, it remains forever and can be retrieved by special yogic power. This is how the Veda Mantras are revealed to the Rishis in their meditation. The word vyakarana (vi + aa + kri + ana) is not limited simply to grammar. It shows the development and growth of speech from its undistinguished stage to the distinguished stage, and while doing so it leads to the Sound-force, the eternal shabdabrahman. The word darshana (from root drish to see) is not philosophy, but a seeing revelation; svaadhyaaya is not mere reading but the process of going deep into self contemplation. The word chatra is not an umbrella but anything that covers. The Sanskrit word for beauty is sushama. In its true sense it means superbly (su) equal (sama). This shows that true beauty is full of harmony. To remain svastha is not just to be healthy but to remain stable in one’s own state of being. When someone falls sick he becomes asvastha which means he has fallen from his own state of being. These are few examples showing not only the high connotative power of the Sanskrit words but also how Sanskrit has derived meanings of its words from their very depth. It shows that the meaning of the word is inherent within the word itself. And it is always discoverable by going back to the root of the word. And further the word and the meaning are inseparable. They fuse into one another and give life to one another. An in-depth study of many Sanskrit words shows that in this language a word is not just a conventional expression for an idea, but itself the parent and the creator of ideas. This transparent system of formation of words from the root sounds follows a natural process and is one of the important factors that makes Sanskrit an ever-creative language.

The resonating power and vibrational purity of Sanskrit make it a perfect instrument for an integral spiritual growth. Its very name Samskritam means ‘polished’, ‘refined’, ‘sculpted to perfection’. The physical structure of the language is flawless. Its construction follows an organic and logical development. In Sanskrit, all the sounds are articulated through five distinct places of articulation located in the mouth: throat, palate, cerebrum, root of the upper teeth and lips. Therefore, the sounds are guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental or labial. Though the letters of one group are pronounced from one location, yet each sound of that group differs from the other because of its internal efforts. For example: ka, kha, ga, gha and nga belong to the guttural group. Here ka is a hard unvoiced consonant with minimum breath; kha is also hard and unvoiced but it is pronounced with maximum breath; ga is soft and voiced with minimum breath while gha is soft and voiced with maximum breath; nga is the last sound in the group which is soft and voiced but nasal. For this sound, the breath gets released through nostrils and the mouth. The arrangement of the rest of the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet follows the same order. The importance of this scientific organization lies in the degree of resonance created by each sound. Thus, the sounds of Sanskrit are amazingly capable of bringing clarity of articulation. And because of this refinement, perfection and structure, Sanskrit is capable of infusing into its conscious users a sense of completeness, scientific spirit and, at the same time, a sense of beauty and harmony.

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The mere speaking of or listening to the sounds of Sanskrit generates joy, clarity and inspiration. It has a refining influence on one’s consciousness. By a conscious use of this language one gets the result of doing Pranayama. Thus, Sanskrit, with its power of great resonance is highly powerful and potent for creating a happy and peaceful atmosphere in and around the one who uses it consciously. Furthermore, each language has its own dharma, its uniqueness, and when its growth and development are in harmony with that, then the language becomes capable not only of sustaining itself but also of enriching its users in many ways. An intimacy with Sanskrit also reveals that in its journey it has always been in harmony with its svabhava and svadharma.

The seers and sages (rishis) of ancient time were minutely discerning in their observations, and were highly conscious in the matter of using the language. They did not use the language just for the purpose of communication, they used it as a tool for discovering the true nature of their selves and all that they saw in and around themselves. Herein lies the sacredness of Sanskrit—it helps to discover the nature of everything; it helps to discover the sacredness of life. It is a force that functions at many levels of consciousness, ever purifying, ever formative and creative. It has tremendous potentiality to make the Divine Life possible on the earth.

However, the most practical value of learning Sanskrit lies in the fact that it trains the mind to think logically, brings clarity of expression, develops intellectual strength, and provides keen insight into the meanings of the words. The vibrational quality of Sanskrit has a direct impact on the functioning of the brain, and can help in enhancing memory and the ability to concentrate. Moreover, it helps in the growth of consciousness, has immense power in bringing a greater transformation.