My good friend Shivangini Pathak has always been generous in sharing my works with her friends and young students (aged between 11-15 years). A few weeks back she forwarded me a few questions from her students. Since I was busy completing my latest book Kautilya: Understanding the Colossal Genius (Volume 1) I couldn’t find time go through them in detail. When I did, I was surprised by the depth of their thinking which lead them to some of these questions. Nevertheless, I am no oracle, and I claim no superior, or divine, intellect to answer them to the fullest. And yet, I have attempted to explain them to the best of my abilities. Hope you’ll find them satisfactory.
Sin and Pious are two words with no absolute meaning. They were invented by religious clergy to exert influence on their adherents (or followers) just by calling that which was counterproductive to their religion as Sin and that which added to its growth and control as Pious. In one religion it’s pious to give alms to the poor – but only to that poor who belongs to their faith. For most religious institutions it is a sin to commit a crime, but it’s ok to take the money from criminals to further their religious ideas. Such notions are not just unwise but also downright hypocritic.
Vedic rishis are often confused as some holy men. They were wise people who observed life in all its hues and colors. They propounded a simple theory of Karma or Law of Cause & Effect or Causation. In simple this theory suggests: you reap what you sow. If you help someone in need then, when the time comes, when you are in need someone else will come to help you (not necessarily the same person you supported). If you have hurt someone unjustly – you can rest assured that you’ll face its consequence. Science confirms the law of Karma or Causation to some extent. There’s no way to prove the same in life because our memory itself is limited. We often recollect our great deeds vivid details but, not those ill-conceived ones. We often tend to forget our ill-conceived actions. According to these rishis if you are enjoying prosperity it’s owing to your efforts in the past (Prarabdha Karma) – the same is true for your misery. Religions don’t accept this theory. For them, only god or prophet can bring pain or pleasantries in your life. So, according to them if you act against the doctrine of their religion, you are a Sinner – even if you are helping someone. Similarly, you are a saint – also if you have killed countless people in cold blood. As a result, we see people find it convenient to commit crimes in the name of God; not so much for their own sake.
One of the greatest rishis Vashistha said: Most pains and pleasure of the mind are results of perception. What you may assume to be pain may be a pleasure to others. What you may regard as pleasure, others may call it torture. Our mind is fragile; they are ever changing and never constant.
Brahmana (intellectual), Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishya (business) and Shudras (working class) were the four types of professions/vocations of Vedic times. Anyone could choose the Dharma or Profession of their choice and just by giving their best serve the more magnificent Dharma of sustaining peace and prosperity. Dharma was never a religion.
The Brahmana Dharma was necessary, although this profession never yielded much Wealth in a financial sense. That’s because according to Vedic seers – Rishis – the enormous wealth was that which always grew by sharing, gave peace and provide for sustenance to peace unto its possessor. This wealth, which none can steal, was Vidya – knowledge, and wisdom.
All major civilization are those who built some or the other kind of Wonders. For example, Pyramids of the old Egyptians. The Vedic people built nothing as such. And yet the Vedic civilization is revered owing to its knowledge like Yoga and Ayurveda continue to exist and practiced. All because of Brahmanas who protected and nurtured knowledge.
Having said that it’s important to note that Brahmins or Brahmans aren’t the castes. It was not by bloodline. Valmiki (author of Ramayana) and Vyasa of Mahabharata were not born to Brahmin parents, yet they were called Brahmanas. Valmiki’s parents were Shudra (working class people), and Vyasa’s mother was a fisherwoman.
The western sematic concepts influence Hindu idea of god, goddess, priest, and religion. Monogamy – one man and a woman in marriage – was an instrument of faith designed to keep people under the check of the clergy. Strange but true monogamy wasn’t of Vedic origin. For example, in Mahabharata, there’s a story of a fisherwoman named Matsyagandha who eventually married the Kuru king of Hastinapur named Shantanu, but before that, she was in a relationship with a sage named Parashara. Vyasa was the son of Parashara and Matsyagandha. So Draupadi wasn’t the only woman to have slept with multiple men. She was able to share and care with all five of her husbands, equally, in turn, and by being the very foundation of their unity. Since we do not understand the situation, context, and perspective of Vedic people – we are unable to comprehend Draupadi.
Failure or success is a matter of perception which changes from people to people and from time to time. For example, to dress shabbily and to reveal one’s body was shameful a few decades ago. Today this has become a hallmark of the fashion industry. The woman who sold her body to men was branded a prostitute and outcasted by the society almost everywhere in the world in the past – today people who reveal their private in public (movies and soaps) are not just accepted but also celebrated a revered. You cannot understand Ram by the prevailing perceptions and dogmas. You need to read Ramayana of Valmiki – mainly – to understand Ram better. It’s hard to explain otherwise.
We fear anything and everything that which we cannot see, understand or realize. Nobody has seen ghosts, and those who claim to have seen cannot introduce them to others in person. For thousands of years, people made stories world coming to an end by sky falling on earth. That’s because they thought the atmosphere was an object. But, today, we all know the truth, so won’t worry about it anymore.