Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vedasudhe - II

Vedasudhe - II

To understand the Veda, one has to go to the etymology of words. There are 3 types of words:

laukika - Words and their meanings in everyday usage. We don't recognize their roots.

However this can lead to problems, since the same words or expressions in the same language can yield entirely different things in different contexts or geographic locations.
yOgarUDha – We will speak about them later

yaugika - every word is constructed by a set of rules. Each word has a fixed meaning and does not change. There is a system for deriving the meaning of a given word. This system is very scientific, not religious.

So what is this system, then?

There is a dhAtupATha or a list of dhAtu in the saMskRuta vyAkaraNa or grammar. This is equivalent to a seed from which grows the tree of language. This list of dhAtu numbers over 2000. The scholar pANini first collected these dhAtu into the dhAtupATha. This does not, of course, mean that the dhAtu did not exist prior to pANini. pANini simply put together the dhatupathai in order to make them easy to find.

A certain dhAtu has a fixed meaning.

Example: manushya,mAnava, mana, mAnana, all similar words have a root dhAtu, namely 'man'. Per the dhAtupATha,

man j~JAnE

In other words, the dhAtu 'man' shall be used in with the word j~JAna or knowledge.

So if one wanted to construct a word with the subject of knowledge, one would choose the dhAtu 'man'. Then one would add prefixes or suffixes to the dhAtu in order to arrive at the final form of the word. There are also fixed vyAkaraNa rules for adding prefixes or suffixes to the dhAtu. These rules are non-negotiable, and most certainly are not free-form. There are fixed rules for singular/plural, gender, person, voice, tense, etc. After all these steps are followed correctly, one arrives at the word that one needs to express their thoughts. These steps are practically mathematical and one must follow from the other based on fixed theorems and corollaries in the vyAkaraNa shAstra.

That is how, then, the words manushya, mAnava, mana, mAnana have been generated. Per the dhAtu above, what is manushya or a human?

A human is a j~JAni – one who has knowledge.

So manurBava (as the Veda says) effectively means become a thinker, a scholar, a j~JAni. j~Jana is what differentiates a human from animals. If there is so much explanation surrounding the word manurBava in the Veda, the meaning of the word 'manushya' becomes very clear. manushya is j~JAni.

Every word in the Veda, then, has a clear cut meaning. To get to the true meaning of the word, however, one has to go to the basics. Even the word vEda itself:

vEda stems from the dhAtu
'vid' . dhAtupATha says

vid j~JAnE
vid lABe
vid sattAyAm
vid vicAraNe

Veda is knowledge - Veda and knowledge are two faces of the same coin.

That which is profitable is Veda - If we were to know and understand the Veda, there is an immense profit to our lives to be derived from it.

That which is is Veda – Veda isn't someone's imagination, it is satya.

Debate and review is Veda – Veda does not impose. It allows the reader question, understand and only then accept its word.

Most people would define the Veda as the 'religious scripture of the Indians'. Some definitions would limit the word Indians to 'Hindus'. Some Hindus themselves would then limit the availability of the Veda to the brAhmaNas. The brAhmaNas to only the males. Based on the above explanation of the Veda itself, then, how would one limit the Veda to the Hindu faith or a limited sect, or just the men-folk? There is no such limitation in the Veda. So how has this come through in today's date? This is mainly because of repeated misinterpretations of the Veda.

When the Veda is defined as j~JAna, and a human is defined as a j~JAni, the Veda is the legacy of all humans. There is no limitation of gender, cast, tribe, geography or any else on anyone's access to the Veda. The Veda itself says:

यथॆमाम् वाचम् कल्याणीम् आवदानि जनॆभ्यः (Yajur Veda 26.2)

janEByaH - this is for the welfare of all people.

kalyANIm vAcam – these auspicious (or good) words

Over thousands of years of tradition and misinterpretation, the Veda has been deemed inaccessible to certain varNas, to women and to those who aren't Hindu. For as long as we limit ourselves to these misconceptions about the Veda, it will not get the respect it deserves.

When these gates are opened, the Veda will flow to everyone. Everyone gets to profit from it. Everyone obtains the j~JAna of the Veda. Everyone becomes a true human. This leads to the resolution of all conflict, be it within a family or between countries. Peace rules the world when the Veda is free flowing and everyone becomes a j~Jani, and models life according to its principles.

Why then the Veda? What is so special about it that other treasures of knowledge don't offer?

Veda deals exclusively in satya.

Other treasures of knowledge also offer satya, but do not offer satya alone. That means one has to find satya first, and only then make use of it.

One does not have to agree to these statements. One may study and research for oneself and only then accept this as fact.

Veda does not impose on the reader. It invites question and doubt

Other scriptures of religious books first give the reader a 'package' that one has to believe before one reads further on. This dogma shall not be challenged.

Veda is the oldest scripture in human history

None of the other scriptures are as old as the Veda. It is universally accepted today among historians that Rig Veda is the oldest book in the library of mankind. It is time-tested and has remained absolutely unchanged through millennia.

Veda has no internal contradictions

The Veda has no internal self-contradiction. This is a something that can be observed in most other religious books over and over. The 4 Vedas together yield over 20,000 hymns, but there is not a single contradiction to be observed anywhere.

Veda has remained intact through its conception. There has been no contamination.

Most religious books today have been contaminated from the original intent many times over. These may have been manuscript copy-errors in the days before printing, mistranslations or whatever else. These are still ascribed to the original author, while there is no way to distinguish the original from the contamination today.

We don't need to go far to demonstrate this. The mahABArata itself has suffered this fate. vyAsa to whom is ascribed the authorship of the mahABArata, wrote about 25% of the mahABArata we know today. The original story was called jaya and contained about 24,000 shlokas or verse. Over time, jaya with additions by various other authors became bhArata and today stands at > 100,000 shlokas as the epic mahAbhArata, with no reliable way to distinguish the original jaya from the mahAbhArata. The Bagavad gIta being a part of the mahABArata is also similarly contaminated. Likewise in the rAmAyaNa dated even before the mahABArata.

Bottom line, we should not – cannot – accept either the rAmAyaNa or the mahABArata as the gospel truth anymore. So what can we believe, then?

Veda, however, as indicated before, is the lone scripture that has survived unchanged, uncontaminated and intact through the ages.

This is not just a statement or conclusion. The reader must now ask "Why?". Why do we say the Veda is uncontaminated?

vEdAMga are auxiliary disciplines associated with the study of the Veda.

The first vEdAMga is chaMdas or meter. chaMdas keeps track of how many syllables to a maMtra. There are fixed rules relating to chaMdas. For example, the gAyatrI maMtra is a shlOka of 3 lines with 8 syllables each. This metre is called the gAyatrI chaMdas.

So 100 shlOkas in the gAyatrI chaMdas must contain 8 * 3 * 100 = 2400 syllables. Adding or subtracting a letter or word is not straight-forward, else one breaks the chaMdas and the knowledgeable reader immediately knows something amiss.

What, then, if one were to add a syllable while subtracting one, altering the meaning but keeping the chaMdas intact?

This is where the vEdAMga named shiksha comes into the picture. shikSha is the science of phonetics and phonology of Sanskrit. It indicates where the udAtta (high pitch), anudAtta (low pitch) and svarita (falling pitch) must be used. Pitch is rooted in the letter, and is independent of the content. The reciter immediately knows, then, if a syllable has been added, and one removed keeping the chaMdas unchanged, and fixes the contamination.

What if the contamination were such that it would be undetectable by both chaMdas and shiksha? The vyAkaraNa or grammar then comes into the picture. There are fixed rules for word construction, and the contamination would be caught in the laws of vyAkaraNa.
The next layer of error protection and correction, the next vEdAMga is the nirukta. nirukta is etymological interpretation of root-words from the dhAtupATha.

The fifth vEdAMga is the jyOtisha or astronomical basis. There are mathematical calculations based in astronomy, associated with the Veda, which are absolute. This has to match with the context of a given shlOka. Else the contamination will be flagged and corrected.

The sixth vEdAMga is kalpa or ritual basis. kalpa is the application the prayOga of the shlOka. The shlOka has to match the action or application associated with it, failing which an error or contamination can be weeded out.

If one were to study and understand all six vEdAMga with the goal of contaminating the Veda, the study would so transform them that they would give up the intent and only grow to respect the Veda, to shraddhe in the Veda.

With six layers of error detecting and correcting codes, it is practically impossible to corrupt the Veda. Therefore we can confidently say that the Veda has survived unchanged for the past several millennia, right from its inception.

In this way, the uncorrupted Veda, the Veda that exclusively deals in satya, the Veda without internal contradictions, the Veda that belongs to entire humankind, the ancient Veda, the Veda that gives absolute meaning, is unique among religious scriptures. When we base our lives in the path that the Veda indicates, the life becomes enlightened, divine.

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