Spiritual Progress

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Jan 7 00:59:11 CST 1998

On Mon, 5 Jan 1998, Vaidya N. Sundaram wrote:

>  By God, I mean Parameshwar. I understand that there quite a lot of
> ambiguity of meaning in the word God, but the vedic doctrine refers to
> demi-Gods, if you will, as Devtas or Ishwars of specifics. By that I
> mean, specific realms are added to the word Ishwar and then stated as
> such; so Purusha or Parameshwar may be safely considered as referring to
> the Supreme God. So the Sanskrit texts are clear.

Of course.  The problem is not with the Sanskrit texts but with the
English translations.  That's why we should be extra-careful when reading
those books.  (Ideally we should not rely on them at all.)

> > As for one world and one humanity, this is demonstrably false.  Nobody
> > anywhere thought in these terms until modern times.
>  I would again disagree. To point out why, I would have to rely on the
> many stories of the Puranas and the Srimad Bhagavatam. For example, it has
> been stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam, of a great King Ambareesha, who was
> a excellent devotee etc. His realm is described as consisting of "the"
> seven "dveepas". I draw attention to two words here. the word THE is as
> significant to me as Dveepas. I have seen translations referring loosely
> to the continents as dveepas. The names of the seven dveepas are also
> referred to, although I do not know them by heart now.

I am well aware of that description having given Bhagavata katha
myself once and being a regular reader for my personal practice.
The seven dwipas are from Mt Meru outwards are Jambu (Where Bharat is
located), Plaksha, Shalmala, Kusha, Krauncha, Shaka, and Pushkara dwipas.
However it would be a stretch to say dwipa == continent.  According to the
description, the Earth is flat and all the dwipas are circular in shape
and seperated by oceans of ghee, yoghurt, wine etc.  Even the ancients
knew enough about geography to know that's not true.

Interestingly, I once heard a famous Gujarati preacher of the Bhagavat
Purana, Shri Krshnashankar Shastriji say the 5th Skandha does not refer to
geography at all but is to be understood in esoteric terms as refering to
the human body and yogic practices. Indeed if you read it, many mantras
are given in the course of the descriptions.

> To give another
> example, there is, in the MahaBhArata, a listing of all the Kingdoms that
> supported Yudhistra and those that supported Duryodhan. Also, it gives
> reason as to why each supported etc etc. There are references to kingdoms
> that have been positively identified to be in the African continent. As
> before, I am referring to stories and the interpretation of present day
> historians. So, I quite safely assume that the concept of a single world
> and unity of religious thought was very much present.

It's true that Indians had knowledge of other countries.  But does it
neccessarily indicate "unity of religious thought?"  In Sanskrit works
Yavan (Greek) or Turushka (Turk or Muslim in general) are synonymous with
mleccha or barbarian.  That doesn't sound very complimentary.

> > There is no historical basis for any of this.  For all of our recorded
> > history, The Vedas were taught by Brahmans to Brahmans.  Which is not to
> > say that nothing was taught to others.  That's not what I'm saying.
> > Puranas, Mahabharata etc. also the products of Rshis containing the
> > essence of the Vedas are meant for those to whom Vedic study is off-limits
> > as they themselves explicitly state.  If the Vedas were for all that
> > entire category of shastra would be redundant.
> >
>  The Vedas were not off-limits for any body.

But it was recognised widely,
> that the level of comprehension of the Vedas was not the same everywhere.
> Comprehension of the Vedas and the proper method of rendering it is, you
> will agree, quite an ordeal. The numerous Bhasyas and the Bhasyas of the
> Bhasyas will testify to this effect. In order that the ordinary man was
> not left out, these Puranas come to the rescue. And who is better
> qualified to impart the essence of the Vedas in an easily accessible and
> comprehensible form than the very Rishis who wrote it? So, it is not that
> the original Vedas render the Puranas redundant or the other way round.
> Rather, they serve as introductory texts. I could give you the example of
> Introductory thermodynamics that just gives a set of equations to use and
> advanced texts that actually tell you why and how they were arrived at.
> That the more detailed and elaborate books are available and being taught
> does not in any way imply that every one could actually do it and
> understand it. And one does not make the other redundant. See the
> difference?

Yes but that is not true of all the parts of the Puranas.  For instance I
have the commentary of Shri Bhaskararay on the Lalita Sahasranama which is
a part of the Brahmand Purana and with subcommentaries it is about 400
pages.  Similiarly those few parts of the Vedas I know (our shakha is
Madhyandina Shukla Yajurveda and I know Sandhyavandana, Purusha sukta and
some of Rudri from it) I learnt the traditional way, words first without
meaning but with my general knowledge of Sanskrit I find it pretty easy to
understand most of it.

> > Why not give some real life examples?  Who were the teacher of Veda to any
> > old person in the 15th century? how about the 10th? or the 5th?  There
> > aren't any.
>  Again, I could give examples. There are recorded stories of Appaiya
> Dikshidhar (whom many believe was in the 16th century) having taught
> Vedas to any one who was willing make a commitment to go through the
> rigour for the 7 or 8 years it took to learn the Sakas. In fact, even
> today in Madras, India, there are teachers who trace their lineage
> directly back to Sri. Dikshidhar's disciples.

I would like to know more about this.  It seems highly improbable to me.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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