Sunday, November 14, 2010

Knowledge, from a Vedic Perspective

This is from the book: "In search of the cradle of civilization" by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak and David Frawley. It is a good read, for people who are just beginning to learn about Hindu culture. I was expecting a lot more about certain details but the authors have only skimmed across several important topics. Perhaps, that was their intention. Anyway, I am paraphrasing from passages which explained what was knowledge according to my ancestors, which for people like me, who are in the field of creating knowledge might be irrelevant since we need to know things in its exactitude. The problem with knowing things from a materialist perspective is that the knowledge gets locked from the general public and they cannot grasp it without sufficient investment of time starting from the basics of that branch of knowledge. This is alleviated by the Vedic method of conveying knowledge and the subtle metaphorical ideas that are more generalized and easier to grasp for the laymen, provided he accepts a Guru and knows or is shown how to decode the metaphors. The following is how knowledge was expressed according to the Vedas: -

1) Vedic theory of knowledge is based on a belief in the interconnectedness and unity of the whole universe, primarily the three components - viz. the cosmos (adhideva), the individual living being (adhibhuta), and the Spirit (adhyatma). Thus, the Vedas are meant to be interpreted in three ways.

2) The Vedic rishis acknowledged that straight logic cannot answer all questions and that scientific knowledge included some paradoxes for e.g. Yajnavalkya when he says in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: "The Gods are fond of the invisible and dislike the visible." In this sense, the invisible is the vast realm of existence that is not perceptible to the senses.

3) The Vedic Rishis did not go into the details of any phenomenon, but communicated the essence of what they saw. And this was in the form of metaphors, which is why it is advisable not to read the Rig Veda superficially.

4) The Vedas are to be read with a questioning attitude and not with a closed sense of dogmatism. Asking questions are the first step towards acquiring knowledge, and in this the Vedic perspective mirrors functioning of today's science.

5) The Rishis proclaimed a unity that is inexplicable and can be seen only from an elevated state of mystical awareness. This is considered a creative reservoir or potentiality, also known as the Purusha and envisioned as a giant man.

6) The world was said to be created through the Purusha's self sacrifice. His mind was said to have given rise to the Moon, his eyes to the Sun, his breath to the air element, his navel to the midspace, his head to the sky and his feet to the earth.

7) The purpose of human creation was now to preserve the unity of the Purusha and all human activity including architecture, sculpture and literature was to be modeled on it. In fact, they set the goal of life to study the mystery of the Purusha.

We shall end this topic here, for as I said, the authors have only skimmed this important topic. I will revisit it when I get my copy of this great book by one of the best authors ever possible, on the topic.


Dirt Digger said...

The concept of the Supreme being and the individual soul has also been analyzed by the 2 major thinkers Shankara and Ramanuja in their various 'Bhashyams' of the Vedas and Gita.
The larger challenge posed by both is the ability of the Atman to realize the truth about the Brahman and there in lies the rub, since its not knowledge but rather realization which cannot be described completely but for the individual to find out.
You should check out Auroville near Pondicherry if you have a chance. Very beautiful place.

Karmasura said...

Thanks for the pointers, will get there eventually, but the Bhandarkar Research Institute is a more likely possibility. Is it possible to assess literature there very freely?