By Prashant Saxena
Monotheism as the world knows from the west means belief in one God. The one God in the western faiths is isolated from the nature, created the world, judges the mankind from their behavior the directions for which are given in the western holy books with a set of DO-s and DONT-s. He divides the mankind on the basis of belief i.e those who follow that holy book blindly and those who question it or who do not follow it. Thus, the monotheistic concept from west reduces the mankind to blindly believe into some god who has a particular gender, a particular name and categorized his believers with a particular label and differentiates the world between “you and them” on the basis of that belief which is to be followed blindly.
Similarly, stemming out from theism, we have polytheism which means belief in different gods. Atheism is a disbelief in the possibility of a god who plays dice with human lives, judges the humans on a judgment day as prescribed by western holy books and who created the world.
In the Indian terminology, there is no such belief of a god having a particular gender or a set of DO-s and DONT-s. Vedas and Upanishads which are a part of shrutis (considered as primary works) talk of ultimate reality which is formless, un-manifested, unborn and inconceivable. Unlike, the western beliefs and holy books, Vedas teach about what a person can realize in his highest state of consciousness. Thus, Vedas are also characterized as “revealed” which means coming from the highest source of consciousness which is conceptualized and called as Brahman. Hence, Vedas are only a tool to raise one’s consciousness and know the ultimate reality. A person who has a dharmic mind, spirit of questioning and practical intellect can know the ultimate reality even without knowing the Vedas. Therefore, unlike the western faiths and conditioning where the followers need a “book”, one doesn’t always need the Vedas to know the ultimate truth. The knowledge of the Veda is embedded in everyone which needs to be known by detachment and getting rid of the Maya which is constantly affecting both physically and mentally and hiding the realization of the ultimate reality.
Gita Verse 3.42
It is declared the sense are superior but more than the senses the mind is superior but more than the mind the intelligence is superior and more than the intelligence that which is superior is the individual consciousness.
How can one realize the ultimate reality without the Vedas? It cannot be explained in a few words. Gitopanishad has eighteen chapters that give a hint of ultimate reality. Kenopanishad states,
1. By whom missioned falls the mind shot to its mark? By
whom yoked moves the first life-breath forward on its
paths? By whom impelled is this word that men speak?
What god set eye and ear to their workings?
2. That which is hearing of our hearing, mind of our mind,
speech of our speech, that too is life of our life-breath and
sight of our sight. The wise are released beyond and they
pass from this world and become immortal.
3. There sight travels not, nor speech, nor the mind. We know
It not nor can distinguish how one should teach of It: for It
is other than the known; It is there above the unknown. It
is so we have heard from men of old who declared That to
4. That which is unexpressed by the word, that by which the word is expressed, know That to be the Brahman and not
this which men follow after here.
5. That which thinks not by the mind,1 that by which the mind
is thought, know That to be the Brahman and not this which
men follow after here.
6. That which sees not with the eye,2 that by which one sees
the eye’s seeings, know That to be the Brahman and not this
which men follow after here.
7. That which hears not with the ear,3 that by which the ear’s
hearing is heard, know That to be the Brahman and not this
which men follow after here.
8. That which breathes not with the breath,4 that by which the
life-breath is led forward in its paths, know That to be the
Brahman and not this which men follow after here.
A simple scientific example can be taken in context of relativity. The motion of everything within the universe is taken with respect to something. We measure our speed relative to the ground which we assume to have a speed of zero. But in reality earth is rotating and revolving around the sun. What is our actual speed as compared to sun at rest or zero speed? Analyzing the angular speed of earth around the sun and motion of our speed on earth, we can mathematically deduce our speed around the sun. If we expand reality, then sun is also revolving around something higher.
Rig Veda 10.149.1
“The sun has tied Earth and other planets through attraction and moves them around itself as if a trainer moves newly trained horses around itself holding their reins.”
Yajur Veda 33.43
“The sun moves in its own orbit in space taking along with itself the mortal bodies like earth through force of attraction.”
Rig Veda 1.35.9
“The sun moves in its own orbit but holding earth and other heavenly bodies in a manner that they do not collide with each other through force of attraction.
Rig Veda 1.164.13
“Sun moves in its orbit which itself is moving. Earth and other bodies move around sun due to force of attraction, because sun is heavier than them.
According to the modern science, sun moves around the centre of the milky way galaxy. With proper logic and mathematics, one may find his speed relative to the center of milky way galaxy too. If we expand our awareness even higher, then the next question that automatically comes : Is milky way galaxy is also moving around something higher? Lets call it X. Going by that chain we have a non-stop function if that X is also moving around something higher, lets say Y and Y around Z and so on. Where does it stop? There are only two cases for such a problem : (a) It stops and hence universe can be called as finite or (b) It doesn’t stop and hence universe can be called infinite. For the former case, if we call universe as finite, then obvious questions would be
– Where is the boundary of the universe?
– What is its weight?
– Is the universe itself rotating like earth?
– What shape does it have?
– Is universe itself revolving around something higher? What is outside this universe, beyond its boundary?
From these questions one would again conclude to the latter case where the questioning itself would cease to exist and one would realize that universe is infinite. Even today what modern science explores is within what it calls as “observable universe”. An infinite doesn’t have a centre nor does it have any form. Thus the relativity cease to exist when the relation itself is done to universe and not to any object within the universe. But the question is how did this universe itself come to existence?
RigVedic hymn of creation :
There was neither non-existence nor existence then.
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.
In whose protection?
Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?
There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse.
Other than that there was nothing beyond.
Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning,
with no distinguishing sign, all this was water.
The life force that was covered with emptiness,
that One arose through the power of heat.
Desire came upon that One in the beginning,
that was the first seed of mind.
Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom
found the bond of existence and non-existence.
Their cord was extended across.
Was there below?
Was there above?
There were seed-placers, there were powers.
There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.
Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced?
Whence is this creation?
The gods came after-wards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Whence this creation has arisen
– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not –
the One who looks down on it,
in the highest heaven, only He knows
or perhaps even He does not know.
Therefore, the ultimate reality is said to be unborn, infinite, formless and un-manifested.
That is one and only one, Sustains entire universe, Omnipresent, Formless, All-Powerful, Perfect, Omniscient, Unborn, Eternal and supports us always. That alone should be worshiped.
(Yajur Veda 40:8.)
Thus, the Vedic conception of ultimate reality, which can be arrived at by questioning and experience, is different from monotheistic concept of western faiths. The various elements of the nature like agni-dev (fire element), vayu-dev (air elements) etc are a part of Brahman. It is Brahman who manifests itself to various energies and forms like science calls itself as physics, chemistry, biology etc to deal with different branches. Whereas in western beliefs, humans and everything else is “apart” from God or separate entities.
“They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutman.
To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan.” RV (Book 1, Hymn 164.46)
The nearest English translation for “Deva” is god. All the devas are the manifestation of the supreme reality. The manifestation of the divine, i.e supreme reality, into various forms and energies is miscomprehended by the missionaries of western faiths as polytheism. They think that Indians follow 33 crore gods. But they cannot tell the names of the 33 crore gods that they assume. Thus, calling Hinduism as polytheistic on the basis of the various devas is conceptually and logically incorrect and so is stating that Hinduism is monotheistic on the basis of ultimate reality.
Further, in western faiths the god has a gender and a particular name. The followers of abrahamic faiths cannot worship any other name than that given in their holy book. Their subjective opinions and understanding is not their own but conditioned and outsourced from a holy book. Whereas, in India people worship the ultimate reality with different names. In Mahabharata, Eklavya trained himself in the art of warfare by concentrating in front of the idol of Dronacharya. Indians can worship the names given in western faiths, but the followers of abrahamic faiths cannot chant the names given to the divine concepts and elements given in Vedas as they are conditioned by their “holy book” that the monotheistic god as per their book would punish them. Gitopanishad states,
Gita Verse 7.20
Those deprived of discrimination by various desires impelled by their particular natures worship the lesser demigods adapting to the applicable rites and rituals.
Gita Verse 7.21
Whichever demigod a particular devotee desires with faith to worship, I surely sustain firmly that faith in him.
Gita Verse 9.23
O Arjuna, those who worship devotedly different demigods, although faithfully; they also worship me only; but in an unauthorized manner.
Thus there are scriptural evidences of the tolerance to the worship of other names or demi-gods in the Indian scriptures. One may ask what “unauthorized manner” verse 9.23 speaks about. To know the ultimate reality we cannot rely only on spirituality alone or on materialism alone. We have to know the ultimate reality by meditating upon it as a whole. We cannot pollute the air i.e insult wind-god, deforest i.e insult the prakriti just to generate wealth i.e worship Laxmi. Thus ultimate reality has to be known as a whole. One should not be attached to its individual manifestations.
Gita Verses 15.3, 4
Within this world the inverted form of this tree cannot be perceived, nor its beginning, nor its foundation; severing this strongly rooted in attachment banyan tree with the sharp weapon of detachment; thereafter go to the place where there is no return again by approaching the exclusive shelter, surrendering at the feet of the Supreme Lord; verily to the original, Ultimate Personality from whom the perpetual process emanates.
The fundamental differences between monotheism as originated in west and the concept of ultimate reality from Vedas are as follows -:
1) In Monotheism every thing is God’s i.e “apart” from God, whereas with ultimate reality, everything is a “part” of ultimate reality.
2) In monotheism only the god as mentioned in the holy book is to be worshipped, whereas with respect to Ultimate reality, “everything that upholds life” is considered as divine. E.g air, water, sun, fire, intellect, universe etc.
3) Monotheism forbids the chanting the “name” of some other god other than the one mentioned in their “holy book”, whereas the same ultimate reality is called by different names which concludes ultimate reality is nameless.
4) Monotheism “preaches attachment” to a particular name, a belief system, a set of DO-s and DONT-s which a person has to follow blindly. Whereas, Vedas and Upanishads speak of detachment to think objectively and gain complete knowledge.
5) Monotheistic god is “personal and the belief is subjective”. He belongs to the followers of the “book”. Whereas, the ultimate reality is impersonal, formless, umanifested and unborn. It is to be known through detachment via an objective frame of mind.
6) Monotheistic god in western faiths has “a gender” and is a male. Whereas, the ultimate reality is has both male and female names according to its various manifestations.
7) Monotheism lacks “spirit of questioning”, whereas Vedas and Upanishads speak of dharma and karma where spirit of inquiry and questioning are the basic aspects.
8 ) The “science of consciousness” originated from the Vedas which the modern science is researching now. Whereas, it is absent in the western faiths.
9) Friendship with the non-believer i.e one who doesn’t believe in the holy book, is considered as inferior, whereas friendship itself is considered as divine as per Vedas and Upanishads.
10)Monotheism that originated in the west often finds itself in contradiction to modern science, whereas the ideas from Vedas and Upanishads are revolutionizing the modern science.
Nikola Tesla used ancient Sanskrit terminology in his descriptions of natural phenomena. As early as 1891 Tesla described the universe as a kinetic system filled with energy which could be harnessed at any location. His concepts during the following years were greatly influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
Schrodinger wrote in his book Meine Weltansicht:
“This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear; tat tvam asi, this is you. Or, again, in such words as “I am in the east and the west, I am above and below, I am this entire world.”
[This is a reference to the Mundaka Upanishad mantra 2.2.11 ]
“All this that is in front is but Brahman, the immortal. Brahman is at the back, as also on the right and the left. It is extended above and below, too. This world is nothing but Brahman, the highest.”
Schrodinger’s influential ‘What is life? The physical aspect of the living cell & Mind and matter (1944)’ also used Vedic ideas. The book became instantly famous although it was criticized by some of its emphasis on Indian ideas. Francis Clark, the co-discoverer of the DNA code, credited this book for key insights that led him to his revolutionary discovery.
According to his biographer Walter Moore, there is a clear continuity between Schrodinger’s understanding of Vedanta and his research:
“The unity and continuity of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of wave mechanics. In 1925, the world view of physics was a model of a great machine composed of separable interacting material particles. During the next few years, Schrodinger and Heisenberg and their followers created a universe based on super-imposed inseparable waves of probability amplitudes. This new view would be entirely consistent with the Vedantic concept of All in One.”
He became a Vedantist, a Hindu, as a result of his studies in search for truth. Schrodinger kept a copy of the Hindu scriptures at his bedside. He read books on Vedas, yoga and Sankhya philosophy and he reworked them into his own words, and ultimately came to believe them. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad gita, were his favorite scriptures.
According to his biographer Moore, “His system – or that of the Upanishads – is delightful and consistent: the self and the world are one and they are all. He rejected traditional western religious beliefs (Jewish, Christian, and Islamic) not on the basis of any reasoned argument, nor even with an expression of emotional antipathy, for he loved to use religious expressions and metaphors, but simply by saying that they are naïve.
Apart of Nicolas Tesla and Scroedinger, various other scientists and philosophers have testified about the greatness of Vedas and the Upanishads.
11) The western faiths “preach conversion” of the mankind to follow the belief as prescribed in the “book”, whereas Vedas and Upanishands promote questioning (e.g “neti neti”) to experience the truth.
http://www.hinduwisdom.info/quotes21_40.htm Kenopanishad, translations by AurobindoThe Secret of Vedas by Aurobindo