Vedic Philosophy and Holistic Human Development
Dr. Satyapal Singh
According to millions of years old and most ancient Vedic lore, the structure of the universe is perfect, from the human body to the revolving planets. Modern science has also come to the same conclusion that the universe is orderly, beautiful, purposeful and purely scientific. No scientist can ever improve the constitution of human body. This is why scientists are engaged in unfolding the mysteries (intrinsic laws) of nature.
What is the purpose of creation? For what is the human created? The Vedic philosophy states that the world was created for the manifestation of not only God's powers but also of nature, in an artistic, myriad way as well as for rendering the justice of one's actions and the realization of the ultimate goal i.e. (salvation) of souls. There can not be any other purpose of the world being created.
To undergo the consequences of our own acts honorably without any tension and moving forward to our well-cherished aim of getting liberated, we - the human beings - require guidance and the lessons in true knowledge. This true knowledge, a divine revelation is called 'Veda'.
It has been the unanimous opinion of all the seers and sages of India that the Vedas were revealed by the Omniscient, Almighty and Almerciful God in the beginning of the universe, for guiding mankind. It is like a manual of knowledge, variantly called the Noor of Allah (Quran), the first word of God (Bible) and the beacon of light. Not accepting it is akin to a foolish father/mother with a large business empire sending their young child into the jungle to live with the beasts till he attains adulthood and comes back to take care of business. Our Vedic seers have traditionally maintained that the Vedas are the source of all knowledge, all religions and the past, present and future all are illuminated through the Vedas. Vedas form the bed rock of culture. Their authority is supreme, self-evident and final.
In recent times Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati had emphatically echoed, among the Ten Commandments of Arya Samaj, that God is the source of all true knowledge and all the material known through different sciences. And Vedas are the revealed books of all true sciences. There have been many scholars who have been unbiased in their approach like Prof. Heeren who said "the Vedas stand alone in their solitary splendor standing as beacons of divine light for onward march of humanity".
Therefore, every minute and meaningful knowledge of the Universe, guidance or instructions for individuals, domestic, social, national or international harmonious, sustainable and holistic development is provided in the Vedas in seed forms. No aspect of human activity and no sphere of world knowledge (Apara and Para vidyas – material and spiritual knowledge) are beyond the confines of the Vedas. The holy books of four Vedas( Rigved, Yajurved, Samved, Atharvaved), four Up-Vedas (Ayurved, Dhanurved, Gandharvaved and Arthaved), six Vedangs (Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chhanda, Jyotisha), six Shastras (Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Mimansa and Vedanta) and many other Brahamans, Aryanyakas, Upnishadas have detailed knowledge about education; arts and crafts (Dance, Drama, Music, Paintings) health and humanities, agriculture, science, technology, aeroplanes and satellites etc. Vedas are encoded with scientific and technological insights, experiments and riddles.
As Veda is eternal and true, its religion, its philosophy is also true. The foundation of man's true happiness is Dharma. Vedic Philosophy defines Dharma (religion) as the means and measures which provide man an all round development in this world and ensures his salvation thereafter. Vedic Philosophy underscores the importance of simultaneous worldly and spiritual development of man.
The holistic development of man starts from even before its birth. What precautions and rules the parents must observe to have the best progeny is detailed in Vedic scriptures. The vitality and wisdom of scrupulously following the sixteen sacraments (Samskaars) from conception to cremation, for macro and micro development of man and his environs cannot be over emphasized. The four Ashrams (Phases of life) –Bramhacharya (studenthood), grihastha (married life), Vaanprastha (retired life) and Sanyas (life of renunciation) – is not only for individual betterment and contentment but for the larger social benefits.
Student phase is the formative stage to acquire the capacity and build capabilities for physical and intellectual well being to successfully face the world. The Vedic education has four pillars in Gyan (knowledge), Sabhyata (civilization), Dharmikata (righteousness) and Jitendriyata (self-restraint and control of mind).
The householder phase is to repay the three debts (social obligations), every human being is born with. Marriage is not only for recreation and procreation but for the ultimate satiation of all desires for material pleasures and progress so that one advances spiritually in later life and secures the break from the endless cycle of birth and death. Earning wealth and its enjoyment and charity for good cause is also a part of married life.
Vaanprastha is retired life for guiding the family and society with one's knowledge and experience and slowly moving away from the bonding of familial ties and attachment to the material world. The last and the optional phase of life – Sanyas – is to work for the society without any prejudice of any caste, class, creed, community or country and also to focus on one's inner illumination.
All the problems in the world can only be because of four reasons either in their individual capacity or the combination of them. They are Agyaan (ignorance), Anyay(injustice), Abhava (deprivation) and Aalasya (lethargy). To challenge and redress these problems, the Vedic philosophy classified the society into 4 Varnas (classes) – Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra – for it could be the best division of labour. The varnas are classified on the basis of one's ability, nature, profession and deeds and not based on the house of their birth. Varnas are changeable and they provide scope for social mobility. Shudras are not untouchable or a despicable class as depicted in medieval and modern India. They were an integral part of society in ancient time just like the legs in human body.
Simultaneously, the Vedic philosophy states that there are 4 ingredients of Dharma viz. (truth, compassion, charity and dignity of labour). And to protect these pillars, the concept of 4 Varnas was divinely ordained. The Brahman (intellectual) will protect the 'truth' through his study; Kshatriya (warrior) will ensure 'compassion' through fairness and justice; Vaishya (businessman) will keep the tradition of 'charity' alive through earning wealth and Shudra will provide sustenance to the dignity of labour.
The acceptance of Vedic version of Classes would have ended the fragmentation and fracture of society and the world at large in the name of thousands of castes, sub-castes and scores of religious beliefs. Vedic wisdom believes in only one religion and one caste of humanity.
The five Yamas (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness) and five Niyamas (cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study and surrender to God) of 8 fold path of Yogic system are the moral codes of conduct for social harmony, well being and individual spiritual upliftment ( macrocosm and microcosm development).
Fourfold goals of life (Purusharth) – Dharma( Righteousness), Artha (Wealth, acquiring material goods), Kaam (Desires, Pleasures, Enjoyment etc.) and Moksha (Liberation) are also aimed to inspire and drive the man to make the fullest use of this life, enjoy without attachment, achieve an internal state of balance and harmony and earn an almost permanent bliss here and after. Sometimes it is also called a Pancha koshi Yatra (5 miles spiritual journey) from Annamaya kosha to Anandmaya kosha.
Vedic philosophy propounds the principle of Karma (action) and its inevitable consequences based on Cause and Effect law and conservation of energy. Man is free to act the way one likes but is bound to face the result of its actions without any option. Therefore it puts a deterrence on wrong doings. A dip in holy river or pond, the worship of any god or goddess or a faith in any lord or prophet can't absolve a person from the fruits of its deeds.
Vedic philosophy, though universal in teaching, has also emphasized on nationalistic spirit and patriotism. Vayam Rashtre ... let us be vigilant about our nation. We should conduct ourselves in nation's interests. Satyam Brihat Ritam Ugram--- to build a strong nation through quality education, military prowess, righteous judicial system, commitment and sacrifices, science, technology and experiments and common well being.
For keeping the environment (air, water and soil) clean and pure vedic philosophy preached the preservation of eco-system through vegetarianism, tree plantations (raising the status of trees to sacred levels) and daily mandatory individual and periodic community Yagnyas. The problems of pollution and global warming would never occur in such a culture. The Vedic philosophy does not subscribe to the dictum of Darwin that the fittest and strongest only has the right to survive. It believes in the spirit of cooperation, co-existence and ensures the protection to the weakest. It is firmly for the sustainable development without harming the environment.
Vedic being a divine philosophy – (it cannot be improved but expanded with human efforts) – has to be universal in its applications. It cannot be confined to any caste, colour, creed or country. It always emphasized on one earth and one humanity. In this age of one chemistry, one physics one maths, one architecture, one medicine – how can we have more than one Dharma or philosophy of life? Vedic philosophy believes in one omniscient supreme power (God) as the parent of all beings and therefore inspires universal brotherhood.Vedas preach "matrah bhoomi putroaham prathivya"– "earth is my mother and I am her son; the whole world is like a nest (which is better than the modern global village concept); the whole earth is my family and let us see every being (not just human) with the eyes of a friend."
At last, I would like to quote and appreciate what even a highly distinguished but biased scholar, one of the best European indologists, Professor Max Mueller had to write in his famous book "India, What can it teach us that " in order to make our (inner) life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life—again I should point to India…"
The Vedic seers thus proclaim "Pashya Devashya ….---" see and follow the sweet poetry (Veda) of God which neither dies or decays". There is no philosophy even worth the comparison. All streams of thoughts in the world started from this but with the passage of time got polluted on their journeys. Let us give a clarion call to all the people to learn from the time tested, divine and universal wisdom if we want to have an all round development from individual to society level; from family to global community and get rid of all the simmering discontent, discords, tension, criminal acts, communal riots and the depredations of terrorism in the world.
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