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How to Better View Vedic Literature ?

How to Better View Vedic Literature ?

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Vedic literature has not been properly analyzed in its own right. It has largely been filtered through modern disciplines that are peripheral and interpretative in nature and bring to their views on the Vedas their own modern ideas or biases that may have little relevance to what the Vedas actually teach. Traditional sources of interpretation, ancient and modern from India, though detailed in nature and sustained since Vedic times, particularly of a spiritual nature, have been ignored, including the Vedic studies of great modern Indian teachers like Sri Aurobindo, which you will rarely find mentioned in modern academic studies of the Vedas.

Rather than studying the Vedas and finding out what these ancient texts actually say according to their own language and mentality, the texts are dissected for special unusual words that they may have or for suggestions of what they do not actually make explicit. The tools of modern academia in looking at the Vedas – namely comparative mythology, linguistics, Freudian psychology or Marxist economic theory – likely tell us more about the scholar interpreting the Vedas rather than reveal the essence of the Vedas. These disciplines may have their relevance from outer angles but do not address the deeper dimensions of Vedic thought.

Traditional methods of Yoga, mantra and meditation should not be ignored in studying teachings ascribed to seers, rishis, kavis, vipras and having hidden meanings of our or seven levels for the initiate. Yet most academic accounts of the Vedas do not look into such mystical and poetic implications and are usually content with one level of meaning of an outer nature only.

This is particularly true of the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, which has the greatest complexity of symbolism. While it is not wrong to look for confirmation of other interpretations or types of data in the Rigveda, it remains crucial to determine what the Rigveda actually states apart from these. The Vedas reflect a vast universe, a great culture, and a pursuit of higher awareness beyond the ordinary realm of time and space.

Yet even at an outer level of interpretation, the obvious is often missed. For example, the Rigveda mentions the term samudra, which commonly means ocean, over a hundred times, including rivers flowing into the sea and ships upon the sea. These include rivers like Sarasvati and Sindhu in India that reached the sea. Vedic cosmology of the worlds is of a series of oceans, earthly, atmospheric and heavenly, with the Sun itself as a ship on the cosmic sea. Vedic deities and rishis are connected to the sea. The main Vedic story is of its supreme deity Indra slaying the obstructive serpent Vritra at the foot of the mountains and releasing the seen rivers to flow into the sea.
The maritime image of the Rigveda is clear. One can hold to the belief that the Vedic people did not know of the ocean and therefore the term samudra meant any big body of water or something else. But we cannot construe such manipulations of words as evidence or proof of anything. We can it construe that as a means of discrediting what the Rigveda says by recourse to other types of proposed information.

Yet if the meaning of a term in the Rigveda like samudra makes perfect sense according to its generally accepted meaning, we need not reject that because it may contradict what views about the Vedic people we may subscribe to based on considerations outside the literature. This is particularly true when we recognize that the Vedas mention the Sarasvati River and place it in the Haryana region, where it was a dominant river of India flowing to the sea before 2000 BCE.

 

 

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