Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti — that which exists is One: sages call it by various names
The above hymn from the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda is Sri Vedayana’s key message through this interview. In his brief biography that was sent to us he has described the scribe of the treatise as only one of the infinite, diverse, changing forms of Nature, who is impelled by The Universal Impeller. Born to parents both of them belonging to families of Vedacharyas, and brought up in a traditional gurukula atmosphere upto the age of 10 and later educated in reputed educational institutions in India and abroad, he holds Master’s degree in two different branches of engineering, a doctorate degree in engineering in a branch different from the earlier two. Gained few years design experience in an industry under Defence Ministry of India, has more than 30 years of teaching and research experience in well-known technical institutions of India.
Initiated into learning of Vedic mantras between the age of 7-10 years. His mind turned inwards due to the sudden death of his father, resulting in his getting involved in the study of 10 major Upanishads. This was followed by writing of ‘A geometrical representation of the Mandukyopanishad’, 'A commentary on Mandukyokarika', and ‘An Advaitik commentary on the Bhagvad Gita’. Provocation for writing this treatise came to him after reading a commentary by Sayanacaryas during the year 1987, which was followed by a visit to Vyasguha (the cave of Sri Ved Vyas), near Badrinath temple in the same year.
Probably this body and mind have been specifically trained, all along, by an unknown hand to undertake this particular and peculiar task.
We present to you the question and answer session with Sri Vedayana for getting a better understanding of his life, the Rig Veda and the treatise on the Rig Veda written by him.
I would like to congratulate you for the completion of your treatise on the Rig Veda which does not seem to be an easy task; to read through the humongous text, translate it, interpret, explain, compile and publish this ancient text which is a heritage of humankind. Thank you for this immense contribution to the material, subtle and spiritual realms of life.
To know more details about you and the text, and its possible applications are a few questions listed below. Would request you to kindly go through them and provide relevant answers or explanations for the readers of Awakening Times.
You studied in a traditional gurukula during your early years. How was the teaching there different from the modern day schools? Did you have any difficulty coping with the education system in the higher education institutes which had a different atmosphere than the traditional gurukula? How did you adapt to the transition?
That gurukulam was run by the father’s family originally in traditional style, stressing on Sanskrit and Vedic studies only. Grandfather believed that, all kinds of Vidya is dhanam (all kinds of knowledge is wealth) so he appointed a tutor to teach the kids subjects taught in modern schools during free time in the mornings and evenings. So coping up for the education system followed in schools and colleges posed no problem. Moreover in the gurukula run by the family we had students from nearby homes staying in our house from the age of 7 years till the time they completed their studies. Also teacher stayed in the house all the time. So from the age of 4 or 5 Vedayana remembers there were about 45 members living in the house, during day and night and about 55 in the daytime. All of them enjoyed the same boarding and lodging facilities without any distinction between members and non-members of the family. This is community living at its best; this might have influenced Vedayana during his whole lifetime. All are equal, none is big or small. Remember last Sukta of Rig Veda.
Do you feel that schools in India or elsewhere should incorporate Vedic hymns as part of curriculum?
Teaching Vedic mantras in school for all students, serves no useful purpose, especially just chanting them. Maybe it can be optional subject like science, meant for students who want to take up Vedic studies seriously later in their life.
Do you remember your reactions to the hymns as a child of 7/8 years when you were introduced to chanting them? Did you take to them easily or had difficulty imbibing them?
Since he had been hearing chanting of Vedic hymns, both in the father’s and mother’s houses, from the day he can remember. Chanting them and studying them by heart was as easy as eating a cake. Chanting them or hearing them chanted for 2 or 3 times was sufficient to imbibe the sounds of the hymns.
As we know that the Rig Veda is one of the most ancient texts in any of the Indo-European languages, and with all the magnitude of literature available and accessible these days what has been your inspiration to make Rig Veda your choice of study and writing a treatise?
From the age of 24, I was designing military weapons for 30 years. All of them are meant for the destruction of mankind. Then a question was asked by the Universal Impeller: "Do you know only this? Why don’t you do something useful to humanity?"
At that time I came across the Malayalam translation of Rig Veda Bhashya. Having found the inadequacy of such a translation I thought this is the god-sent opportunity to write a meaningful commentary on Rig Veda based on whatever experiences that have been built upto that time.
It is quite intriguing that you being a scientist by profession have chosen the study of Rig Veda which is a collection of hymns in praise of deities like Agni, Maruts, Varuna and others, that as per science are purely physical entities viz. fire, air, water? How do you describe that state when a physical reality is deified and praised like a god? It certainly takes a great degree of humility and going beyond reason to do that!
It is quite amazing that people consider the deities like Agni, Varuna etc. as deities; they are personifications of certain aspects of Nature that the rishis have observed. For example, Agni means personification of forms of Energy, electrical, mechanical, heat, light, flowing energy, are all personified collectively in the name of Agni. So what these deities represent is personifications of some aspects of nature or science collected together. In this light it is essential that Vedic studies must have a good background of scientific knowledge to explain these scientific phenomena in the modern language.
Does scientific study benefit from the study of the Vedas?
From the above mentioned fact Vedic studies need a good scientific background and not the other way round.
How do see the ancient seers who wrote the hymns, as scientists or poets or both, or something else?
Ancient perceivers of Vedic mantras are not just scientists, nor poets, they are all rolled into one. They are good observers, and good analysts, to explain the phenomena in the language of those days.
Even though the Rig Veda is written in a state of immense emotion of wonder and appreciation of these deities, seeking their blessings, yet it is written in a very structured format of 10 Mandalas, each containing a definite number of Suktas and each Sukta containing a definite number of hymns or shlokas. What could be the possible reason for such formatting?
It is definitely a well-structured text. The structure is explained in the abridged version of Rig Veda. Then from physical consideration like chhandas, number of mantras etc. the structure of Rig Veda was arrived at. These are not really meant as requesting the deities blessing, all hymns are trying to bring out the qualities of the devatas/ deities, to whom these hymns are dedicated.
Those from spiritual field often speak that the Vedas were revealed to the seers at a certain state of meditation. How would you describe that state?
When the perceiving rishi loses his/her ‘I-ness’ or Ahambhava he attains the state of the birthless nature. Birthless state and that is state of oneness, and in that state the universal impeller impels the sage to bring out his experience through words, which are quite often not legible for the common man
Some scriptures like the Bhagwat purana would say that peace cannot be found by knowledge, as is mentioned in this excerpt (Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, the great sage, after he completed writing the Mahabharata and the seventeen Puranas. It is said in the beginning of the Srimad Bhagavata that after having completed the Mahabharata, the great epic into which every knowledge has been pressed into service by the wise Vyasa, he felt that something had been left out and he had not completed his work, and he was disturbed by this ‘something’ which he could not properly comprehend.
At that time Narada came and asked, “What is the problem? Why are you looking despondent?” Vyasa replied, “I have written everything conceivable on dharma, artha and kama in the Mahabharata, yet I feel that something has been left out. I have to complete my mission, but I cannot properly picture what it is that I am expected to do.”
Then Narada said: yathā dharmādayaś cārthā munivaryānukīrtitāḥ, na tathā vāsudevasya mahimā anuvarṇitah (S.B. 1.5.9).
“You have not sufficiently glorified God in the Mahabharata. This is the defect of your work. You were busy with the narration of the epic—heroes, characters, and their vigorous opposition among themselves. You described the war in a mighty manner, but you have missed one thing. You have not adequately paid your honour, your homage, your tribute to the Almighty Creator of all this. In the Mahabharata epic, you have not expressed your love for God sufficiently. You have placed before people all the rules and regulations, but man cannot live only with rule, law and regulation. He also wants love; you just need to love God to find him). What are your views on this?
It is comparatively a difficult question to answer. Basically Dvaita-darshana (vision of duality) is not encouraged because Veda preaches Advaita (non-duality). Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti (That which exists is One: Sages call it by different names) remember this. So against this, if the orders of Puranas talk about, it is only meant for a part of humanity, it is not the highest truth. Truth is Ekam. Oneness is truth. Diversity is changing nature. It is superimposed on the state of oneness. Without a steady state as a background, the nature of the changing phenomena cannot be understood. I hope this basically answers it.
What is implied by the term ‘knowledge sacrifice’, mentioned in most of the hymns?
Please remember that sacrifice can be done, by the body, by the mind, or by Ahambhava; that is Sthoola (physical), sukshma(mental), kaarana(causal) bodies. So if the sacrifice is performed in a fire with physical materials as offerings, then it is a physical sacrifice, the other is by the mind, this is what I meant by knowledge sacrifice, any sacrifice done by the mind, by the I of the mind, that becomes a knowledge sacrifice. A discussion between teacher and taught, etc can be taken as a knowledge sacrifice. Or one’s own chanting these Vedic mantras, this could also be a knowledge sacrifice.
Was it so that the seers had gone through various paths of knowledge, scientific and literary, reasoning and psychic and then when they couldn’t find satisfaction in either and they dropped it to see the wonderful interplay of elements that they suddenly felt a love for them and these words of praise as written in the Rig Veda happened?
A part of this point has already been refered to in point no. 7. When the perceivers of these Vedic hymns attained the state of oneness in a supreme sacrifice, where they offered everything they had (as described in Purusha Sukta), the Universal Impeller gave or impelled his ‘I’ the experiences that the Impeller wanted him to write. To gain this he has omitted whatever individual characteristics are there and also the universal characteristics, all of them were given as offerings to the unborn Purusha. In this state or conditions, by their gyanendriyas (sense organs), mind and Ahambhava (ego), they brought out these hymns.
This can be interpreted to have brought immense peace and satisfaction to the seers, but how can words of praise to deities, help or benefit the world?
Let me again remind you, once the rishis are in a state of oneness, there is no ‘I’. It so peaceful, that they don’t see anything, they don’t hear anything. They are existing in the state of oneness itself!
Lastly how can the youth today, who are so much impressed by scientific developments, be inspired to read the Vedas, as they hold the future of the planet and take this heritage along to the coming times?
It is not easy to change one man’s nature, that body and mind, which they cannot transgress. Most of them can never raise upto the level of understanding or imbibing the Vedic truths. So, very little percentage of humanity will have the understanding capacity or even wish to understand the Vedic knowledge and that is nature it cannot be helped.
Vedas means the revelation of knowledge, but surprisingly they are written in a form that has hidden meanings, which makes it more of a mystery than a revelation. Thank you bringing out the hidden meanings of the hymns with your lucid explanations.
What can be said about this point is, most of the spiritual information contained in the Vedas is beyond the capability of understanding of most human beings and it is beyond words, and beyond sensory organs. So this somebody has to feed it or he cannot do it. This must be remembered in any case it is not easily expressible in simple words. In many places you will find this statement that it is beyond words and beyond the sensory organs. It is a belief which you can only imbibe when you are in a state of oneness.
We thank Sri Vedayana once again for this immense contribution in preserving the heritage of this sacred text, in a form which is both easy and enjoyable to read.
Author: Jyoti Prateek
About Song of the Being by Jyoti Prateek
Allegorical and Imaginative; at times the poems tend to take a mystical shape. The language is simple yet profound in meaning. The book expounds and illustrates the journey of a Being, where brief pauses in life provide insights. Poems are a good medium to simplify the thoughts and provide a natural rhythm to the flow of Being's experience through discovery of Love, that Inspires a Vision which finally paves the Path, as the Being moves along to maturity and realization of Self. This unique collection of Poems is bound to invoke thoughts and inspire the reader to explore own perspective towards life.