Some five years ago there was a small news item in a national paper. At that time Jairam Ramesh was the minister of state for environment and forests and he had stated, “India is losing at least 2000 patents every year on traditional formulations as the knowledge on these has never been documented.” I wondered whether the politicians, administrators and academics actually knew where their ancient tradition is documented and what it contains. There is a big gap between the English speaking academics and the Vedic pandits. The former tend to think that they are superior and represent India’s intelligentsia. However there is great, often untapped knowledge in the other camp of Sanskrit pandits. Their knowledge might even be more crucial for a harmonious society. Sadly, both groups don’t meet because they don’t understand each other. If they would meet and exchange, India in all likelihood would be a frontrunner in scientific innovation, as well as in philosophy and consciousness research. For example, the statement of the Vedas that Parabrahman desired to transform itself into many, and that Brahman is awareness, could have let to the discovery that matter is basically energy (or rather awareness), long before Einstein.
Unfortunately the study of India’s tradition was gravely neglected in independent India. It was even demeaned by so called intellectuals whose intellect was obviously challenged or rather brainwashed by British education. With the new government, this pitiable situation might change, and the signals that come from the HRD ministry are encouraging.
Many of the leftist ‘intellectuals’, however, can be expected to shout “saffronisation”. And they usually shout loudly. Sure, everybody has the right to freely express his opinion, but the right to be heard all over the world is reserved for few individuals, and so far, those intellectuals enjoyed this privilege. The Vedic pandits on the other hand, who preserve the traditional knowledge, have been sidelined and even unfairly charged with being the main cause for the backwardness of India.
The bias against the Indian tradition is difficult to understand, except for a lack in self-confidence, because the knowledge that the Rishis uncovered is truly amazing. It is the heritage of all Indians. If any other country had such long history and such great achievements to show, they would stress it on every occasion. Yet in India, this knowledge has been ignored. Instead, academics were ever ready to take up any hypothesis provided it came from the West.
For example, Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Indians don’t realize that westerners have only Darwin or the Church to choose from, and Darwin looks more probable, though not really convincing. Indians have other options: they could consider the possibility that there are cycles from Satya Yuga to Kali Yuga. There is plenty of evidence in Indian scriptures that in ancient times, India was spiritually and technologically highly developed. Over the years, a few attempts were made to dig out India’s treasure. For example, in some universities, a course on Indian psychology is now on offer that has been sourced from ancient scriptures and Sri Aurobindo’s deliberations on the topic. This happened only after westerners had added a new stream to western psychology that is based on Vedic insights. Yet the Indian origin of ‘transpersonal psychology’ is not acknowledged.
In regard to psychology and philosophy, ancient India was far ahead of the modern West. Still, even today, Indian psychology students learn the simplistic theories of Pawlov and Skinner, whereas in the West, “consciousness studies” have taken off in many universities and institutes.
Ayurveda is finally appreciated in India again, mainly thanks to the efforts of Swami Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna. Yet here, too, it had made already an impact in the West. The Charaka Samhita, a comprehensive treatise about what constitutes health, how to remain healthy and how to regain health, is about 2500 years old. Shushruta Samhita is another treatise from that time. Many formulations in those treatises have not yet been tested in modern times. Some formulations have been tested and several greatly valued drugs were the result of taking ancient scriptures seriously.
Yet Ayurveda, psychology and of course Yoga are only some aspects of India’s ancient knowledge. There is much more, and so far it was left mainly to foreigners to exploit it for their own benefit. Important concepts that are uniquely found in the Vedas have meanwhile been proven correct by science. Some other concepts still need to be scrutinized, but never has any concept been proven wrong. Yet most educated Indians are ignorant about their great ancestors and don’t give them the respect they deserve.
For example the credit for the discovery of the earth going around the sun should be given to the Vedic Rishis and not to Copernicus, who lived only a few hundred years ago. Or the credit for the discovery of the solar spectrum of colors and the cosmic rays should be given to them and not to Newton and Hess respectively. Here are a few samples of what a Vedic Pandit had translated and written down for me:
Earth goes around the sun – Rg Veda 10. 22. 14. and Yajur Veda 3. 6.
Sun neither rises nor sets – Atraya Brahman 3’44 and Gopatha Brahman 2’4’10.
Sun and whole universe are round – Yajur Veda 20. 23
Moon is enlightened by the sun – Yajur Veda 18, 20.
There are many suns – Rg Veda 9. 114. 3.
Seven colours in the sun – Atharva Veda 7. 107. 1.
The electromagnetic field, conversion of mass and energy – Rg 10. 72.
As the ancient Rishis were on target on these issues, their other statements may well also be correct or at least worthy of being taken seriously. China is not hesitating to extract what it can from its ancient knowledge, and why not? A major part of the money that is worldwide generated through Feng Shui and Acupuncture flows back to China. In contrast, India is getting a measly 2 percent of the money from the huge yoga market in the West, a report stated. Is it not time that Indians wake up to the treasure hidden in their scriptures which are much older than what Western scholars estimated? Those scholars were influenced by the Christian belief that the world was created only some 6000 years back. The Rishis had always thought big and their estimate of the age of (this) universe is collaborated by astronomy. Further, their claim “the world is maya” was ridiculed, but nowadays nobody ridicules it unless he wants to make a fool of himself.
The greatest treasure of India’s wisdom, however, lies in the knowledge of what the human being truly is: he is not a separate person, the Vedas claim. He is one with Brahman. His essence is pure, infinite consciousness. And it is possible to realize this truth by living a dharmic life and doing sadhana. When the mind is stilled by dropping thoughts, the divine dimension of one’s being is accessed. True inspiration and intuition come from this level, and true happiness as well.
And how to drop thoughts? In the Vijnanabhairava, one of the texts of Kashmir Shaivism, 112 methods are described. Maybe they are already patented in the West and come to India in the form of seminars held by foreigners charging hefty fees? The participants from the wealthy elite would not notice. However, in spite of the lack of traditional knowledge in the English educated classes, Indian tradition is fortunately still alive among many who don’t speak English. They make India still positively stand out among other countries, in spite of the vigorous attempts by media to blacken her image.
These Indians were not brainwashed by the British education against everything “Hindu”. For them, saffron is an auspicious colour signifying that desires and attachment have been burnt in the fire of renunciation. They take the advice of Swamis and Saddhus to live a sattvic life to heart. They don’t need psychological workshops. They still have reverence for their ancestors, though they may not know what their legacy consists of in detail, yet they know the basics like: ‘Ishwar or Brahman is everywhere’ and ‘harming others will harm them in turn’. Many are grateful that especially Brahmins have taken great pains over the millennia and still take pains to preserve the Vedas for posterity by learning an incredibly huge number of shlokas by heart.
If the Indian establishment, too, honours the ancient Vedic Rishis and the modern Sanskrit pandits by discovering and spreading their insights, it would not only help character building in a big way, but also would instill pride in Indians to be the offspring of such great ancestors. The Vedic knowledge could again flow out all over, as it has done in earlier times and humanity as a whole would benefit. Read more posts…
(The writer is a German psychologist and author who writes in German and English. Her Book “Thank you India” has just been published )
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