ವೇದಸುಧೆಗೆ ನಿಮಗೆ ಸ್ವಾಗತ.ವೇದಭಾರತಿಯ ಮತ್ತು ಪತಂಜಲಿ ಪರಿವಾರದ ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮಗಳ ಚಿತ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ವೀಕ್ಷಿಸಿ.ಯೋಗಮಾಡಿ,ನಿರೋಗಿಯಾಗಿ. ವೇದದ ಅರಿವು ಪಡೆಯಿರಿ. ನಿರ್ಭೀತರಾಗಿ.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗಾಗಿ ವೇದ

ಶ್ರೀ ಸುಧಾಕರಶರ್ಮರ ಪ್ರವಚನ "ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗಾಗಿ ವೇದ " ನೀವು ಕೇಳಲೇ ಬೇಕಾದ ಉಪನ್ಯಾಸ. ಹಲವರ ಬೇಡಿಕೆಯಂತೆವೇದಸುಧೆಯು ಮತ್ತೆ ಮತ್ತೆ ಪ್ರಕಟಿಸುತ್ತಿದೆ.



[ಮನಸೇ ದೇವಾಲಯ ಎಂಬ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ಇದೇ ಉಪನ್ಯಾಸಗಳ ಆಂಗ್ಲಬರಹಗಳು ಪ್ರಕಟವಾಗಿದೆ.ವೇದಸುಧೆಯ ಓದುಗರಿಗಾಗಿಇಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಕಟಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಬ್ಲಾಗಿಗ ಶ್ರೀ ರವಿಯವರಿಗೆ ವೇದಸುಧೆಯ ಕೃತಜ್ಞತೆಗಳು. ಈ ಬರಹದ ತಪ್ಪು ಒಪ್ಪುಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಶ್ರೀ ಸುಧಾಕರ ಶರ್ಮರೇ ಹೇಳಬೇಕು.]

Vedasudhe – I

Note: This is not my composition (excepting noted paragraphs as indicated with the initials [RV]) or opinion. This is translated from a series of lectures in Kannada by a scholar named Sudhakara Sharma (probably in 2003, and presumably in a town named Belur). I'm breaking tradition on this blog to bring non-fiction, non-kannada material to non-kannada readers. For those who understand Kannada, I suggest heading over to Vismayanagari and searching for vEdasudhe to hear this material in its original.

While I have tried to keep the translation accurate, I don't make claims to absolute accuracy. I may have dropped redundancies. I may also have reordered material to present it better in written form. I have simply tried to bring material I believe to be very significant to a larger audience.

Truth or satya is primal. One has to tediously investigate and research a topic in order to arrive at the truth. As humans, until we get to the truth we will remain spiritually weak. This is what the Veda tells us:

यूयं तत् सत्यशवस आविश् कर्त महित्वना ।
विध्यता विद्युता रक्शः ॥(Rig Veda 1.086.09)

yUyaM tat satyashavasa AviS karta mahitvanA
vidhyatA vidyutA rakSaH

Man derives his (spiritual) strength from the satya. Naturally gifted with the will to do so, he must search for and discover the truth. Any obstacles that arise in this search must be cut down with the power of knowledge.

Man must not be lazy, and must leave behind any prejudice or preconceived notions behind in this search for truth.

There are several questions to ponder on the subject of the Veda:

By our faith, those of us who ascribe to Hinduism believe in the Veda. But then, do we simply believe because our faith tells us to believe in a series of shlokas (hymns) or is it because we understand what is in the Veda and therefore we believe in them? We need to go on a soul-search in this subject.

There has been an opposition to the Veda right since the time of Gautama Buddha. Can we convince the opposition that the Veda is simply truth that can be verified, and thus, that there is nothing to oppose? Can we make everyone respect, if not believe in the Veda?

Most of what we know about the Veda is misinterpreted and mistranslated. This is a big problem; can we think about what the Veda really intends to say?

When we go on a journey of discovery to try and answer these questions the truth unravels itself.

We believe (vishvAsa) in the Veda - this alone, however, is irrelevant. Do we have faith (shraddha)?

How is vishvAsa different from shraddha? Don't they both mean the same? Let's get to the root of the words:

Etymologically, shraddha = shrat + dha

shrat iti satyam

dha = dhAraNe

What results from 'satyam dhAraNe' is shraddha. shraddha is the belief in Truth, exclusive of all others.

Everything one believes in is not shraddha. Only that which one believes to be the absolute truth is shraddha.

vishvAsa is not absolute; it can be questioned. shraddha, however, means that one knows it to be absolute unquestionable truth.

What then, is satya or truth?

Truth is knowledge. They are the two faces of the same coin. That which is applicable to everyone (sArvajanika), applicable at any time (sArvakAlika), applicable everywhere (sArvadESika), and independent (sArvabhauma) is satya.

satya is not a rule or law that can be bent to man's will. It has to be the same for every being of all ages. It must be applicable at all times in the past present or the future. It must also be applicable everywhere, globally - from the deepest ocean to the highest mountains. It must be applicable irrespective of one's acceptance or knowledge, i.e. it stands independent of any external factors.

Let's take an example:

Overeating leads to indigestion.

Is this applicable to everyone - sArvajanika?
Yes, it is. Whether a child or an old man, a man or a woman.

Is this applicable at any time in the past or in the future - sArvakAlika?
Yes, it is. 2000 years ago or 2000 years in the future, this will hold good.

Is this applicable everywhere - sArvadESika?
Of course, it is. Whether in the most modern cities or the oldest tribal lands this is applicable

Is this fact independent - sArvabhauma?
Yes, of course. Irrespective of whether one knows one's capacity or about indigestion or not, if one overeats s/he will suffer indigestion.

Therefore, 'Overeating leads to indigestion' is true. It is satya. There are an infinite number of such satya. The Veda tells us that one must search and discover satya and shape one's life according to them, becoming powerful along the way.

The Veda is sArvajanika, sArvakAlika, sArvadESika, and sArvabhauma. Everything in the Veda is satya and satya alone. One who knows satya and chooses to shape their life accordingly is powerful. One who does not is weak.

This is not physical strength usually associated with the word 'powerful': Let us think of the Elephant, the Mahuta, and the goad (aMkuSa)

ಕರಿ ಘನ ಅಂಕುಶ ಕಿರಿದೆನ್ನಬಹುದೇ?

Can one say the Elephant is big and the aMkuSa is small?

The Mahuta's knowledge of the Elephant's weak spot and his use of the little aMkuSa controls the huge Elephant.

This is not about physical power or mental strength. This is Spiritual Power, the power of satya.


[RV: dharma has often been fatally mistranslated as religion, sometimes, less drastically as 'a way of life', and at others, in a very limited scope, as charity. dharma is simply 'right action'.]

Today, the world recognizes several religions or dharmas. The Veda, though, states that there is only one dharma: mAnavadharma or humanity.

मनुर्भव जनया दैवम् जनम्॥(Rig Veda 10.53.6)

manurbhava janayaa daivam janam

Become a (noble) human being, and bear divine children.

What, then, of the worlds other religions? The religions of the world today are simply opinions. We say this because each of these religions has a prophet who started the religion be it Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Moses, Christ or any others. Their opinions have started new sects which are today called religion which did not exist prior to these prophets. That is not dharma, for if it were, it would mean that there was no dharma before any of these prophets, and right action never needed anyone's sanction.

The Veda deals exclusively in truth. What of the other religious books, then? They expound satya, too, except that truth isn't exclusive. They demand that the believer accept a certain set of dogma without question, before he becomes a believer.

The Veda on the other hand does no such thing, nor does it ask the reader to become a believer. On the contrary, it simply expounds satya that the reader may accept only if s/he can test and verify. In fact, the Veda invites - nay insists - that the reader question its conclusions and verify it's theories for her/himself.

Unlike other religious books, the Veda is not an all-or-nothing scripture. It allows the reader to review and accept only the parts s/he can verify and leave the others alone. The Veda thus instills the freedom of thought in its reader, which perhaps, as scriptures go, is unique to the Veda alone.

Veda is satya. One must, therefore, not just believe, but question, understand and grow into shraddha in the Veda.

[RV: satya is dharma. satya is brahma. Not the 4 headed Brahma known from the purana, but brahma - the all prevading force of the universe. Therefore, satya is the all-prevading force of the universe.]
Posted by Ravi at 11:01 PM
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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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Vedasudhe III


The Veda wasn't composed in the Sanskrit language. That's right; let me repeat: the Veda wasn't composed in the Sanskrit language.

Surprised? No, I'm not crazy. This is a fact! The Veda is its own language. saMskRuta itself arose from this language of the Veda, not the other way around. This is the secret. One who doesn't realize this often trips in the interpretation or understanding of the Veda.

Back to the subject of yaugika words, the Veda exclusively contains yaugika words or words originating in the dhAtupAtha. There is, therefore, a system in which each dhAtu has a fixed meaning, and words originating from a dhAtu also have predictable and definite meaning. If one were to reach into the nirukta in order to understand the Veda within a framework of Vedic principles, there is no question of interpretation, multiple meanings or difference of opinion in what the Veda states. Every word, every shlOka will convey one meaning and precisely one meaning.

If one interprets the Veda outside of this framework, the results can be devastating. There is one very good example of this is the work of sAyaNa.

sAyaNa flourished in the Vijayanagara kingdom probably in the 14th century. The country was gripped in terror from the incursions and raids of the Islamic emperors of the North and the Bahamani sultans of the South - zealots who typically targeted religious rituals and religious leaders, and the Vedas were under threat. sAyaNa called a conference of Vedic scholars of the day in order to preserve and conserve the Veda. He is perhaps one reason that the Veda has survived to this day. Without his monumental work, we may not even have had the recourse to Veda in our day. Up until this point, sAyaNa's work is exemplary.

Next, sAyaNa wrote bhAshyas or commentary to various portions of the Veda. However, in this commentary not only has he not considered the framework of basic Vedic principles, he has also not considered the yaugika basis of language. Not that sAyaNa was stupid, but those were the circumstances of the day he lived in.

The misinterpretations can go to extremes. For the word 'agni''. sAyaNa found the primary meaning as 'fire'. Foreign scholars who have written major works on the Veda have simply taken the word agni to always and invariably mean 'fire'. When one uses 'fire' as the meaning of agni, the meanings are severely stunted. So much so, in many places the maMtra has no bearing on the literal meaning 'fire'. If one were to take these foreign scholars' translations of the Veda – [RV: say for example Ralph Griffith's famous and monumental work on the Rig Veda], it leads to further devastation.

[RV: In Part I, we saw:

यूयं तत् सत्यशवस आविश् कर्त महित्वना ।

विध्यता विद्युता रक्शः ॥(RV 1.086.09)

We translated this as:

Man derives his (spiritual) strength from the satya. Naturally gifted with the will to do so, he must search for and discover the truth. Any obstacles that arise in this search must be cut down with the power of knowledge.

Griffith's translation of the same verse reads thus:

O ye of true strength, make this thing manifest by your greatness – strike the demon with your thunderbolt.

(Source Griffith's translation at Sacred-Texts.com)

One can see how badly mangled the verse seems in Grifith's version. 'Truth is strength' became 'ye of true strength'. 'find or discover the truth' has become 'make this thing manifest'. An unknown 'demon' has crept into the translation while there is none in the original. 'vidyathA' goes unmentioned.

This is not a critique of Griffith. He was a great scholar and probably single handedly responsible for bringing the name Rig Veda to the world. The intent is to only show the difference in translation. This is what happens when translations are done to fit theories into scripture – specifically the then favorite (now debunked) Aryan Invasion Theory. To top it all, Griffith's version is probably the first reference source for all Indologists – Indian and western alike. Any wonder that the Veda and Indic philosophy are badly understood not only in the west, but also in India?]

Misinterpretation of agni is still tolerable. There are some interpretations of the ashvamEdha yAga which bear mention here.

sAyaNa and since him a couple of others – UvaTa and mahIdhara have written commentaries on the maMtras of the ashvamEdha yAga.

In his work Vedanta Regiment, one Veerabharappa quotes sAyaNa's commentary of the ashvamEdha yAga, and states that he feels ashamed to write more on the subject. (Veerabhadrappa is from the Lankesh - of Lankesh Patrike fame ilk of political journalists, and it probably takes a lot to make him feed ashamed). So how bad is the ashvamEdha yAga, really?

Even learned scholars today place UvaTa and mahIdhara on high pedestals. However, the bhashyas of UvaTa and mahIdhara on the subject of ashvamEdha are – to put it mildly – extremely foul. With this kind of interpretation, it would never be possible to accord the respect Veda deserves. When people are presented with this explanation on the sacred subject of the ashvamEdha, will they accept its relevance? Will anyone develop shraddha in the Veda? Or will they oppose the Veda and its relevance?

In this way, scholars who have cast aside the basic Vedic principles, who haven't bothered to interpret from the dhAtu, and have intentionally or unintentionally created monstrous bhAshyas have only invited scorn on the Veda. Today, if there is an opposition to the Veda, the issue isn't with the opposition camp, but with these wild interpreters of the Veda who give abhorrent interpretation.

Of the Veda common man says 'Oh – that Veda which advocates the killing and eating of cows and horses? Forget it, let's not even talk about it'. All anti-Vedic essays today contain quotes from UvaTa and mahIdhara, and point to monstrosities in the scripture, and tell us that the Veda is foul and irrelevant. This is what the original European scholars did during the British rule, too. Their goal was to kill Indian culture, humiliate their ancient civilization, subjugate the population and project themselves as savio(u)rs of India. This is what most of even the learned world believes today. No one was either bothered to or interested in learning the true meaning of the Veda. The Vedic message was twisted so badly that it has lost its relevance.

How, then, should the Veda be interpreted? On what basis should the Veda be understood? What background should be used to convey the Vedic message in order to make it valuable to everyone?

One thing is clear at this point. Veda is not simply for recital. Not that one shouldn't recite the Veda, but Vedic learning does not stop at recital. The real benefit for everyone is from the message of the Veda, the content – the meaning of the Veda. To understand the true intent of the Veda, we must understand the system in which the Veda was built, not in any manner of individual interpretation. [RV: Note the example of Griffith's translation]. At the same time, Vedic principles should not be violated.

What are the Vedic principles?

The first one has already been spoken of:

यथॆमाम् वाचम् कल्याणीम् आवदानि जनॆभ्यः (Yajur Veda 26.2)

There is no segregation – the Veda is for all humankind.

The second one – if the Vedic message were to be reduced to two words, they would be knowledge or j~JAna and non-violence or ahiMsa

A person is a j~JAni if and only if he follows the principles of ahiMsa. If not, no amount of knowledge will allow him to be called j~JAni. Violence and j~JAna cannot and do not co-exist. Mercy and empathy are the traits of j~JAna.

[RV: dictionary.com: Empathy - noun; the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another]

The mahAbhArata says:

(We already talked of the mahAbhArata and said that it has been corrupted. However that which resonates with the Veda is considered pure, and taken as pure irrespective of whether the material is from the mahAbhArata, the Bible or the Koran)

श्रुयताम् धर्म सर्वस्वम् श्रुत्वा च अवधार्यताम्

आत्मनह् प्रतिकूलणि न परॆशाम् समचरॆत् (from the mahAbhArata)

SruyatAm dharma sarvasvam SrutvA ca avadhAryatAm

Atmanah pratikUlaNi na parESAm samacarEt

This is being said to dharmarAya: I am giving you the entire content of dharma. Listen and do not forget. Do not inflict on others that which is inconvenient to you.

This is dharma. One can't make the definition of dharma simpler than this.

What does this mean? Before committing any act, before spewing forth any words, stop. Stop and think. If someone does this to me, will it hurt me? If it does, don't do it (or speak it) to others.

Man is the only being capable of empathy. One who understands this is a j~JAni. A j~JAni does not hurt another being; a j~JAni practices ahiMsa. The equation balances.

If the Veda teaches j~JAna, it implies that the Veda also propounds ahiMsa. Therefore, ahiMsa, too is one of the basic Vedic principles. The basis of the Veda is in ahiMsa.

Modern interpretations indicate that animal sacrifices were a part of yaj~Ja and yAga. However we have already stated that ahiMsa is one of the basic principles the Veda. This is a contradiction. How does one reconcile the two statements? The truth is that animal sacrifices were never a part of the Veda; not that idiots who didn't know better haven't conducted animal sacrifices in yaj~Ja, however, the Veda does not sanction animal sacrifice in yaj~Ja.


अग्ने यं यज्ञमध्वरं विश्वतः परिभूरसि ।

स इद्देवेषु गच्छति ॥ (Rig Veda 1.1.4)

agne yaM yaj~JamadhvaraM viSvataH pariBUrasi |

sa iddeveShu gacCati ||

What is this maMtra saying? It gives another meaning for the word yaj~Ja (यज्ञ). yaj~Ja is also called adhvaram. In other words, adhvaram and yaj~Ja are synonymous. What is adhvaram? More pertinent, how do we arrive at the meaning of adhvaram?

Common sense says that we should go to a dictionary. saMskRuta also has dictionaries, but there are two kinds which is a detail we often miss out. One of them is the widely known word reference dictionary where words are in alphabetical order. However, as we already said, the Veda does not use the saMskRuta language.

The uninitiated assumes that the Veda is written in saMskRuta. S/he fails to understand say one of the words therein. Where does s/he turn to? To a Sanskrit dictionary; s/he goes wayward right from that point on. saMskRuta dictionaries are for laukika words that has been discussed previously, and not for the yaugika words that is the language of the Veda. Not that there aren't equivalents, between yaugika and laukika words, but it would be wrong to assume that what a saMskRuta dictionary indicates is final and binding on the language of the Veda.

Since the Veda is its own language, one must, to get the meaning of any word therein, refer to a Vedic dictionary. Vedic dictionary and how words are constructed in the Veda has been given to us by yAskAcArya.

[RV: From Wiki:

Yāska (Devanagari यास्क)) was a Sanskrit grammarian who preceded Pānini (fl. 4th c. BC), assumed to have been active in the 5th or 6th century BC.

He is the author of the Nirukta, a technical treatise on etymology, lexical category and the semantics of words. He is thought to have succeeded Śākaṭāyana, an old grammarian and expositor of the Vedas, who is mentioned in his text.

The above is a facsimile from Wiki; I am not sure I agree with the dates given therein, although the subject matter is probably accurate enough]

One of the vEdAMga, the nirukta has been authored by yAskAcArya, and this is the reference Vedic dictionary. To get a final and binding interpretation of a yaugika word, one must turn to the vEdAMga and the niGaMTu therein, which is the nirukta.

Back to the word adhvara. The nirukta says:

dhvara iti hiMsAkarma

dhvara therefore means hiMsa. Clearly, then, adhvara means ahiMsa. Very simple. If yaj~Ja is equated adhvaram as above, then without a shadow of doubt, yaj~Ja is an ahiMsAkarma. There is no scope for himsa, including any sort of animal killing or sacrifice. Therefore, one can very logically conclude that the Veda never sanctioned any kind of animal sacrifice.
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Vedasudhe IV
[Disclaimer and Note (repeat): This is not my composition (excepting noted paragraphs as indicated with the initials [RV]) or opinion. This is translated from a series of lectures in Kannada by a scholar named Sudhakara Sharma (probably in 2003, and presumably in a town named Belur). I'm breaking tradition on this blog to bring non-fiction, non-kannada material to non-kannada readers. For those who understand Kannada, I suggest heading over to Vismayanagari and searching for vEdasudhe to hear this material in its original.

While I have tried to keep the translation accurate, I don't make claims to absolute accuracy. I may have dropped redundancies. I may also have reordered material to present it better in written form. I have simply tried to bring material I believe to be very significant to a larger audience.]

yaj~Ja is an ahiMsAkarma. There is no scope for himsa, including any sort of animal killing or sacrifice.

"Oh really?" people would say: "What about the ashvamEdha yAga? Didn't they kill horses during those?" Let's see how badly the venerable ashvamEdha has been maligned.

Let's take the word itself: ashvamEdha.

If one were to go to a standard saMskRuta dictionary and look for the word ashva, this would be the first mistake. One should have gone to the scriptures that were from the period of the Veda – one should have consulted the Vedic dictionary, the nirukta, instead. If one turned to a modern Sanskrit dictionary, the meaning of the word gets turned on its head.

A modern dictionary would say ashva is a horse; mEdha is to beat or to cut. Therefore, ashvamEdha yAga means a yAga where a horse is killed. Completely opposite of what it actually means!

We've forgotten the steps to be followed by which one arrives at a certain word. We've forgotten the vEdAMga. We simply take the words to have the same literal meanings as those in modern usage: ashvamEdha becomes horse slaughter.

With such interpretation, no wonder the Veda is continuously losing the little respect it still has: it has ahiMsa as its basic principle, and advocates killing a horse in this yAga? We already said that the Veda is without contradictions. How do we reconcile this?

We must, then, go to the nirukta of yAskAcArya to get to the root of the word ashva, the etymology of the word ashvamEdha.

The dhAtu 'ash' is described as:

ash bhakShaNe

bhakShaNa means to eat or to consume. That which consumes is known as ashva.

If one were to take this in a yaugika context, it would be more appropriate for interpreting the Vedic meaning.

Here, we describe the third kind of word, apart from the laukika and yaugika words, which we touched upon previously – the yOgarUDha word. yOgarUDha words take the original meaning from the dhAtu, but also put the words within limits of rUDhi or usage.

Let's take an example of a yOgarUDha word.

jalajA: One straightaway understands this to be the Lotus flower.

jala means water; jA means 'born in'. jalajA in yaugika terms literally means that which is born in water. But why limit it to the Lotus alone? What about fish and other aquatic fauna? Water Lilies and other flora? Why not call them jalajA as well – they are, after all, born in water. In usage, however, the Lotus flower alone is called jalajA, not the other forms of life named above. Therefore, there is a yaugika meaning, but that meaning has been limited by usage to make it a yOgarUDha word.

This is exactly the problem with the modern meaning of the word ashva. ashva in yaugika terms means 'that which consumes'. This has been limited in usage to a horse. yAskAchArya also has this to say:

ashNAti adhvAnam iti ashvaH

adhvAna means 'road'. ashva is that which eats the road. In this context, therefore, ashva actually means a horse. However, if we were to assume that ashva exclusively means a horse and a horse alone, we trip and lose hold of the Veda. This is the problem. In the Vedic context, we have to understand the yaugika meaning of the word. ashva therefore is not limited to a horse alone. A horse too, but not exclusively a horse.

In the nirukta it is also said that ashva also can be equated to the iMdriyas or the senses. The eyes consume the sights; the ears consume sounds; the tongue consumes taste; the nose, smell and skin, touch. So what does the word ashva really mean, then? Not just a horse – a horse too, admittedly, but not exclusively a horse alone.

There is another dhAtu that indicates:

mEdhr saMgame ca

saMgamE means to collect, to unify or to control.

In other words, ashvamEdha means to control the senses. This also resonates with the tone and the maMtras of the ashvamEdha yAga. The subject matter therein is what one is required to do in order to control the senses; neither a horse, nor its slaughter. Once we realize this face - the actual intent of the ashvamEdha we not only develop respect for this sacrifice, we will be able to convince everyone that there really is nothing contradictory or violence involved in the ashvamEdha. This also resonates perfectly with the basic principle of ahiMsa.

The problem of interpretation, therefore, lies with our interpretation of the Veda in laukika terms rather than in yaugika terms as it should be.

The shatapatha brAhmaNa (the brAhmaNa scriptures are among the first of scriptures that explain the Vedic message in greater detail) says:

ashvam iti rAShTram

shvaH means 'tomorrow'.

ashvaH therefore means that which has no tomorrow.

That, which has no tomorrow, has no yesterday either. What is it that has no yesterday or tomorrow? It is that which is endless, that which is permanent - the nation, the land. ashva is therefore the nation: ashvam iti rAShTram. We've already seen mEdhr saMgamE ca. In other words any program that is undertaken to unify the nation – any program of National Integration – is ashvamEdha yAga. How beautiful – how lofty the thoughts – the intent behind ashvamEdha, and how awful horse slaughter seems before this!

Let's take another example – not that this discussion is exhaustive, but just one more:

gOmEdha: In colloquial terms one would say cow slaughter. But gO does not mean cow alone. yAskAcArya also gives the meaning iMdriya to the word gO. gO is also equated to vANi or vAk. gOmEdha therefore means keeping control of one's speech. gOmEdha yAga is therefore vAk saMyama. No cow slaughter here. There's direction on how one should speak in the Veda:


सक्तुमिव तित‍उना पुनन्तो यत्र धीरा मनसा वाचमक्रत ।

अत्रा सखायः सख्यानि जानते भद्रैशांलक्श्मीर्निहिताधि वाचि ॥ (Rig Veda 10.71.2)


saktumiva tita^unA punanto yatra dhIrA manasA vAcamakrata |

atrA saKAyaH saKyAni jAnate BadraiSAMlakSmIrnihitAdhi vAci ||

When one speaks, one must speak as if sifting flour in a sieve. All the dirt, sticks and stones in the flour will be lost when sieving flour – likewise, one must throw away undesirable words and speak only the clean and kind words that remain.

What is the sieve of speech? Before speaking, one must check if what one is about to say is the truth. If it isn't, it must be caught at the tip of the tongue and not spoken. If it is the truth, it has passed the first test. Does it bring out angst in the listener? Does it hurt someone? One must ponder these questions before speaking, then and only then and that too, only if the words don't do any of these – if the words are satya, priya and hita – should the words ever be spoken. If not, they should be held in the sieve and thrown away. If everyone puts this into practice, the world will be a peaceful place – all speech that incites acts of violence would be sieved away since only that which is satya, priya and hita would be spoken by everyone.

This sieving and speaking is vAk saMyama. This vAk saMyama yaj~Ja is gOmEdha yAga. Idiots, through the ages, unfortunately took gOmEdha to mean cow slaughter, killed a cow, put its meat into the yaj~Ja kuMDa, even went so far as saying that a cow thus sacrificed is permitted to be eaten. Heights of stupidity and ignorance!

Such interpretations have been taken to extremes. There is another word 'gOghnA'. This literally means one who is the cause for killing a cow – sometimes 'cow killer' in English terms. Who is gOghnA? The guest, the atithi is gOghnA. This has been taken to mean that if one has guests visiting, they must be served by killing any cow/calf that one keeps. Again, this only showcases the illiteracy, the aj~JAna of people offering such interpretations.

vyAkaraNa shAstra says that not just a cow, but products derived from a cow – Milk, butter, butter-milk, curd, etc – are also denoted by the same word gO. So, 'serving guests with gO'' means that one must serve the guest with Milk, butter, etc. gO, as we saw earlier also means vANi. The subject here being serving of a guest, this also means serve the guest with (kind) words.

This is how the beautiful Veda has been mis-interpreted to show it in bad light. It pains those who knows the real nature of the Veda. A scripture that belongs to the whole world – to the whole of humanity has been spoiled and soiled to such an extent that people today reject the authority of the Veda. This is not the realm of just ordinary man – even great saMskRuta scholars have fallen into these pits. When ordinary man does this it is limited to himself, perhaps his own circle. When scholars, people who must be leading lights misinterpret the Veda, the whole society falters and stumbles.

Once one understands and realizes that the basic principle of the Veda is ahimsa one can see these meanings – one will know that one has to go in search of the alternative interpretations, rather than simply accept a contradictory mistranslation. Only then, will one understand the relevance, the importance and the greatness of the Veda.

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