David Frawley, Author of the Month for December 2008
The Vedic Literature of Ancient India and Its Many Secrets (cont.)
By David Frawley
This failure to understand the ancient literature is often related to a failure to understand ancient archaeological ruins and their implications. Ancient sites abound in artifacts that reflect the same type of spiritual symbolism of the ancient literature. These are usually dismissed as fetishes rather than looking for any deeper meaning.
Once we have decoded the mantric and symbolic nature of the Vedic language, Vedic literature can help us understand the ancient world and the ancient mind, its symbols, rituals and aspirations, as well as the legacy and heritage that it has left for us. But it requires that we approach the ancient teachings with an honoring of the sacred, a respect for our elders and gurus, a regard for our ancient human spiritual heritage and a devotion to the cosmic powers of the greater Conscious Universe.
The Living Vedic Tradition
The Vedic tradition remains alive and many great modern yogis have given their comments on the Vedas and have revealed some of the Vedic secrets in the modern world. Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), perhaps modern India's greatest philosopher, among his voluminous writings wrote several books on the Vedas and translated many Vedic hymns according to an inner yogic meaning.[iii] Many of his disciples like Kapali Shastri, M.P. Pandit and R. L. Kashyap have expanded this work.
Ganapati Muni (1878-1936), the chief disciple of the great Indian guru Ramana Maharshi, left a number of important Sanskrit works on the Vedas, as did his disciple Brahmarshi Daivarata.
Swami Dayananda (1828-1886), founder of the Arya Samaj, the largest modern Hindu sect, based his entire movement on a return to the Vedas and a recognition of a deeper spiritual and scientific knowledge in Vedic texts, a task which many of his disciples have expanded in a number of books, teachings, research and schools.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (founder of the Transcendental Meditation or TM movement), based his work on the Vedic mantras and through them promoted a renaissance of all the Vedic sciences including Ayurveda, Vedic astrology and Vastu.
Other great modern Yogis like Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, have spoken of the greatness of the Vedas, their antiquity and the Vedic culture as the one of the main sources for ancient civilization and world spirituality, though they have not written specifically on the Vedic texts themselves.
The Theosophical Society, also, particularly in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, similarly affirmed the deeper meaning of the Vedas. She wrote of the Vedas as having been composed by the rishis mainly when they resided by the Manasarovar Lake by Mount Kailas in Tibet.
Such a view of the Vedas as a great spiritual treasure house of great antiquity remains at odds with dominant academic views that regard the Vedas as a primitive product of invading nomads into India around 1500 BCE, the so-called 'Aryan Invasion theory'. This theory proposed the Vedic people, whom they called Aryans, were a white skinned racial group from Central Asia who invaded and destroyed the native cultures of India, bringing in the Vedic literature along with them. Though this theory has never been proved or linked to any conclusive evidence on the ground, it has not been abandoned by textbooks either. It has been reduced from an invasion to a migration and now to largely only a language change but still seems to persist in one form or another.
This theory of the Vedic culture as originally based outside of India was first proposed by western scholarship a few centuries ago to explain connections between languages of India and Europe, the Indo-European family of languages that show many connections of grammar and etymology. An equally valid theory, however - and one which agrees more with both the literary and archaeological data - would have such linguistic influences derive from India and its nearby regions.[iv] But during the colonial era, when the Aryan Invasion idea was formed, India as a source of western culture or languages was not such an appealing idea!
The Vedic tradition, we should note, has its own view of history. While the Vedas themselves as religious works do not contain specific or complete historical accounts, the Puranas, another set of ancient Indian literature, has a list of over a hundred kings going back before the time of the Buddha and a delineation of many dynasties from throughout greater India going back to Manu, the primal king at the time of a great flood.
More importantly, Vedic and Puranic literature speaks of previous world ages called yugas andkalpas, extending back many tens of thousands of years and connected to astronomical cycles of various types going back millions of years. They hold that our current civilization is neither the first, nor the highest. In fact, they regard it as a fallen materialistic culture of low spiritual development. Vedas and Puranas also speak of contact with beings of other worlds, both in subtle realms and other physical planets, regarding true human civilization as linked to the greater universe. Such ideas of human history as determined by cosmic time cycles are shared by many other ancient cultures like Egypt, Babylonia, Greece and Mexico and are characteristic of ancient thought as a whole.
[iii] Notably Secret of the Veda and Hymns to the Mystic Fire.
[iv]Frawley article, Sanskritization: A New Model of Language Development.