All known translations and understanding of the Vedas, Upanishads, Sthotrams, Ashtakams, or Mantras, consider these works of literatures to be the philosophical concepts and ideas of Hinduism. Hinduism by itself is considered to be a religion. The sorry state of affairs is that these works of literatures are considered to be a spiritual and ideological belief system. But, I beg to differ here. Yes, I agree, that over a period of time Hinduism has taken the form of fanatical religion (more so now), and transformed itself into a belief system. In-fact I need to say, I cannot find “Hinduism” as a word, in these pieces of literature. It is definitely a word that has been coined over a period of time, in the very recent past, within the previous century, to attribute these works to some group or race of people. Hindus also is a coined word to represent a set of people from a certain region more specifically in India. Sure, there is references to Bharat or Bharatvarsh. Those are references to the land and the people of a land, nothing more. But, none of these works talk about God, people or religion. In-fact they don’t even talk about beliefs. The problem is, no one anymore understands or knows the core principles and concepts that were originally propounded by these works of literature. Hence they have been classified and cast into superstitious works of philosophy.
To take a simple example: Not all people, in fact it would be correct to say that only a handful of people in the current world, truly understand quantum physics and its concepts. If, over thousands of years the number of people studying quantum physics declines to zero, what remains after that are only the words with their meaning open to misinterpretation. Photons, bosons, neutrinos, electrons etc., become just a belief system since we cannot “sense” any of these. Having lost the knowledge of proving the existence and studying them, what they mean, can only be transferred by word of mouth. These words themselves invoke no inherent meaning within us. Any description written of these words is bound to be open to interpretation as seen feasible. These are just acquired knowledge and unless transferred correctly can get lost in the sands of time.
Similarly, I believe, the concepts in the Vedas, Upanishads and other literature have been reduced to nothing or nonsensical in the sands of time. I agree, they do not talk about the same science as physics, quantum physics, chemistry and so on, but, science, indeed they are. Science need not always be the creation of what we call “technology” and “scientific knowledge”. Technology need not always be that which enhances the luxury in human life. Technology is the practical use of “scientific knowledge” to enhance life. Life can be enhanced in many forms, not just with respect to comfort of matter. “Scientific knowledge” also need not always be that which understands the science of matter. In-fact matter is merely incidental in the whole scheme of things. Studying matter only helps us scratch the surface of the whole. Studying matter is like taking an equation for a simple harmonic motion, substituting specific values to ‘x’ and ‘t’ and always staring at that one generated point and forming ideas around that point, instead of seeing the equation itself and seeing the variance based on the change in values of ‘x’ and ‘t’.
Veda or Vedantam means knowledge. Knowledge cannot be obtained from philosophical beliefs. The question we need to ask ourselves is “what is the knowledge they are talking about?” There is infinite knowledge. Knowledge is that which is known inherently. Knowledge is not that which we call intelligence of this human form! Philosophical beliefs, logical deductions by the brain and such can only lead to intelligence or “concluded knowledge”. This happens only because, we as humans have limited access to that infinite knowledge. Hence we are always seeking for proof for this concluded intelligence. This makes us intelligent beings as opposed to knowledgeable beings.
I think the primary prerequisite to even start appreciating the science these works are talking about is the comprehension that “reality” and “truth” are not the same. Reality is what we sense, recognize and logically conclude with the brain, from the truth around us. The search for the truth is not philosophy or belief. It is a gradual diminishing of this staunch belief or conviction that there is nothing else other than this reality around us and to become aware of the unvarnished truth as opposed to a glazed version of the truth we call reality. This is “the science and knowledge” that these works are talking about. “The science of the truth”.
It is very difficult to appreciate the nuances of such a science. The first and primary major setback with such a science is that we understand and accept ideas as facts through our brains. This means the brain itself is just a part of the reality and not the naked truth. Given that, what we want to study is “why these thoughts are formed and how these thoughts are formed”, we inherently need to form the “correct thoughts” to understand them. How can we do this? It is as if one part of the brain is observing the other to understand! The “Kena Upanishad” brings this out succinctly when it says:
yanmanasā na manute yenāhurmano matam |
tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 6 ||
That which the mind cannot think, but that which is the mind, know that to be the ultimate truth and not that which you have imagined.
Yes, the science of truth is pretty difficult to comprehend. Even defining what, it is really studying is a huge challenge. Yet, while the path is indistinct and unclear, the end goal is well defined viz-a-viz “find the truth”. The point to be appreciated here is, “Can we even feign to know when we have reached the end goal?” The words “find the truth” seems to have a meaning, yet, the knowledge itself is elusive without any means of knowing how to validate when we get there. It only has to be assumed that it is a knowledge that will be self-proven. It is for this reason that when describing any of these, the path taken is a path of negation rather than a description. For e.g., the Nirvana Shatakam by Shankaracharya says:
Na Me Mrtyur-Shangkaa Na Me Jaati-Bhedah
Pitaa Naiva Me Naiva Maataa Na Janmah |
Na Bandhur Na Mitram Gurur-Na-Iva Shissyam
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivoham Shivoham ||5||
I have neither death, nor fear, nor is there discriminations
I am neither father nor mother, nor do I have birth,
I am neither relative nor friend, nor teacher nor disciple,
I am awareness, the form of Shivam
Aham Nirvikalpo Niraakaara-Ruupo
Vibhu-Tvaacca Sarvatra Sarveindriyaannaam |
Na Caa-Sanggatam Naiva Muktirna Meyah
Cid-aananda-ruupah Shivoham Shivoham ||6||
I am unimaginable, a form, without a form
I am present in all and I am in all senses
I am not attached yet there is no freedom from me
I am awareness, the form of Shivam
In Dasaloki, Shankaracharya says:
Na chaikam thadanyath dweetheeyam kuthasyath,
Na chaa kevalathwam na vaa kevalathwam,
Na soonyam na chaa soonyamadvaidhakathwath,
Kadam sarva vedhatham sidham braveemi
I am neither one, for where is the second
I am also not alone nor also alone
Neither void nor also non-void
Yet, all learning in the vedantam is about me
In talking about the truth, it should be remembered that we cannot in any way use similar terminologies as we do in reality mostly because they make no sense in that environment. What does that environment mean? That directly leads us to the question “What does this environment of reality, really mean?”. We have studied matter, we have called it The Big Bang, we have said immediately after The Big Bang this space around us was formed with gravity and hence time. We have studied in-depth to the level of photons, neutrinos and muons etc., particles to the quantum level, we have string theories and standing wave theories. Yet, we cannot describe what this “environment of reality” really is. This book is an attempt to understand what the ancient literature talks about as reality, the environment and the truth.