Ganesh, by Stephen Knapp

The principal scriptures dedicated to Ganesha are the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana, and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa. Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana are other two Puranic texts that deal with Ganesha.

Lord Ganesh is known as the son of the Shiva and Parvati, and is the god of luck and of “opening the way.” That is why many people pray to Ganesh before starting a new project, in order to proceed with as few obstacles as possible.

Ganesha became the Lord (Isha) of all existing beings (Ganas) after winning a contest from his brother Kartikaya. When given the task to race around the universe, Ganesha did not start the race like Kartikeya did, but Ganesh simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother, as the source of all existence, and, thus, showed his intelligence.

The most prominent characteristic of Lord Ganesh is that he has the head of an elephant. How Lord Ganesh got an elephant’s head is related in several places in the Vedic texts. There may be a few different versions, but the general way in which it is accepted relates as follows: One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt. Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s Bull carrier, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body(some say it was sandalwood paste) and mixing it and fashioning it into her son, she breathed life into it and she created Ganesha who manifested from this form, declaring him to be her own loyal son.

Then when Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, was going to bathe in the forest, she wanted someone to guard the area. Some references say she was going to bathe in her house. So she ordered Ganesh to let no one into the area while she was bathing. However, Lord Shiva came after a long absence and wanted in, but was blocked by Ganesh. Lord Shiva did not recognize the boy as his son, nor did Ganesh realize Shiva was his father, and enraged, Shiva and Ganesh began to fight. Ganesh lost the battle with his head being cut off. When Parvati entered the scene and saw what had happened, she was so upset that she was thrown into despair and threatened to destroy the entire universe. Shiva, after understanding the situation, devised the means to revive his son. Desperate to pacify her, Shiva promised to take the head of the first creature he came upon in order to give their son a new head and bring him back to life, and that first being was an elephant. So Ganesh got the head of an elephant and with Lord Shiva’s power, came back to life.

Part of the meaning behind this symbolism of the man with an elephant’s head is to represent the unity between the small entity, or man, and the large universe, the elephant. In the word “gaja”, which means elephant, “ga” means the goal, and “ja” means the origin. In the form of Ganesh, the elephant-headed man represents the culmination of the man, the origin, on the path toward universal consciousness, the goal. Ganesh, therefore, is the representation of man who understands the foundation of the reality upon which the universe rests, as is summarized in the Vedic term, “Thou art That,” tat tvam asi. (Taittiriya Aranyaka 8.1.1)

THE SYMBOLOGY OF GANESH

Ganesh is also called Ganapati. This means lord of the Ganas who are the attendants who control the function of the sense organs. According to Karapatri’s Sri Bhagavat-tattva (p. 638), the word gana means a collection of something that can be counted or comprehended. In this way, Ganapati is also the lord or ruler of categories.

He is also known as the Lord of thresholds or entrances into new dimensions. He is the remover of obstacles or obstructions. That is why students pray to Ganesh before taking a major test, to remove the obstacles. That is also why it is not unusual, especially in India, that as we enter a new space or house we may see an image of Ganesh above the door or nearby to give blessings to those who enter. Thus, he is also the guardian of the doorways. This is the case in many Vedic temples. As we enter the temple, we first see a deity of Ganesh to whom we pray for blessings and the removal of obstacles in our devotion or the rituals that we do inside the temple. That way the obstacles to our worship and further spiritual progress can be removed, in which case our spiritual development can be made more rapidly and easily.

Ganesh is also considered the Lord of astrology. He is said to know the language of the stars and the destinies of every living being. Thus, astrologers also petition Ganesh to pen such knowledge to them.

Ganesh is also said to be the writer of the scriptures. (Mahabharata 1.1.77) He accepted the position of being Vyasadeva’s scribe and wrote the Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam as it was dictated by Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the major portions of the Vedic texts. You can see the cave where this is said to have happened at Mana, near the holy place of Badrinatha (Badarikashrama). For this reason the ancient Brahmana texts also describe him as the god of learning.

His other names include Ganesh (related to the word gana), Vinayaka (a name familiar in South India, meaning great leader), Vighneshvara (the remover of obstacles), Gajanana (elephant-faced), Gajadhipa (lord of elephants), and Jyeshtha-raja (King of the elders).

Ganesh is said to have two wives, Siddhi (success) and Riddhi (prosperity). Thus, if anyone pleases Lord Ganesh with nice prayers or worship, the person also attains the company or blessings of the wives of Lord Ganesh. However, if used improperly, success and prosperity can be distractions on the path toward the goal of spiritual wisdom.

Ganesh is also shown in particular ways with certain symbols, which is described in the Ganapati Upanishad (11-14). He is seen with one tusk and four hands, two of which hold a noose and a hook. The noose that he holds is to catch delusion, to free one from its affects. The noose also represents attachment that can lead to anger, which hurts us like the goad. The noose or rope is also used to pull his devotees nearer to the Truth and to tie them to the Highest God. The hook or goad indicates his power and helps motivate one towards the goal. Sometimes he is also shown holding an axe, which he uses to cut off the worldly attachments of His devotees, which can thus end the cause of their sorrow.

Of the other two hands, one is positioned in the gestures for giving blessings and assuring fearlessness, and the other is often holding a rice ball. Ganesh’s hand that gives blessings shows that he can grant one’s desires and assures freedom from fear, and that he is beyond the influence of time and space wherein fear exists. In this way, he blesses all and offers protection from all obstacles on their spiritual path in seeking the Supreme. The rice ball he is often seen holding indicates the reward of the sadhana or spiritual practice for his devotees. Ganesh also has a big stomach and large ears. The fat belly of Ganesh indicates that the influence of the material manifestation is within him. His big ears represent that he accepts the truthful and positive vibrations, while throwing out the false and non-virtuous words that men may present to him. On his flag is a mouse, which is also his carrier.

Deities of Ganesh are often covered with red vermillion. The significance of the vermillion is that it represents the reddened complexion of one who is absorbed in work, which causes the intensified circulation of blood to all parts of the body. This also produces the skin’s red glow. Ganesh is also the lord of action, so he is often seen smeared with red vermillion. He is also worshiped with red flowers. Since Ganesh works wholeheartedly, he has a strong appetite and is thus offered and enjoys a steady supply of sweets and delicacies.

As Vighneshvara, Lord Ganesh also gives us the gifts that destroy obstacles, restrictions, or hindrances. All obstacles exist in the arena of time and space. Through the access of immortality, or the realization of such, we can overcome the fear that is intrinsic in the arena of temporary time and matter. Thus, Lord Ganesh gives and takes away. He gives us what can take away the hindrances and obstacles that keep us from realizing our true potential. Because of this, Lord Ganesh is often worshiped before starting any new project, or before entering a house or building. This is why he is often placed above doorways through which people enter, or is recognized and afforded respect and worship before accepting a new position, starting a new undertaking, or before beginning a new challenge, like taking a difficult test, so we can reach its completion without hindrance.

In worshiping Ganesh, there are several different mantras from which one can choose that help invoke the energy or mercy of Ganesh. There is also a specific graphic design called a yantra that is also a symbol for Ganesh. The swastika is another graphic design that can be used in representing Ganesh and the good fortune that he can provide. This is also why the swastika is a sign for good fortune.

Locally, you often see Ganesh deities as either individual images or as a bas relief carved from stone or boulders. His trunk is also curved to the right and sometimes to the left. This indicates the ways to get around obstacles to reach the goal. This is an indicator of Ganesh’s ability to master adversities, and is also a symbol for the Om mantra. His trunk also often holds a modaka, a type of sweet. The single tusk he has represents the one Truth, while the broken tusk indicates the imperfections of the ever-changing material world. He lost the broken tusk when Parashurama once arrived at Mount Kailash to see Lord Shiva. However, Shiva was sleeping, so Ganesh did not allow Parashurama to get in. When they started fighting, Ganesh lost one tusk. (Padma Purana)

The broken piece of the tusk was later used as a pen to write the Mahabharata when it had been dictated by Srila Vyasadeva to Ganesh. How Ganesh wrote the Mahabharata from the dictates of Srila Vyasadeva is described as follows: Vyasadeva entered into a state of meditation after the death of the Kaurava and Pandava clans, and after the disappearance of Lord Krishna. While the great story of events between the tribes, along with the episodes of the Kuruksetra war, was still in his mind, he wanted to write the epic in the form of a great poem. He went to Brahma for advice regarding a qualified person who could accept his dictation to write the story, and Brahma mentioned Ganesh. When Vyasa thought about Ganesh, he appeared before the sage. However, Ganesh was not so receptive to the idea, so he stipulated that Vyasa dictate it in such a way that Ganesh would never have to put down his pen before it was completed. Vyasadeva countered with the requirement that Ganesh not write down anything before he completely understood the meaning of it. Ganesh was not meant to write anything he did not understand in order that he realize the depths of the meaning, and how to write it in a way that would make the meaning accessible to all humanity. This was agreed, and the Mahabharata was completed within three years. (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 1, verses 74-80)

Sometimes Ganesh is shown as Balaganapati in his child form, or Tarunaganapati as a young man. During the popular Ganesh Chaturthi festival, Ganesh is worshiped as Varasiddhi Vinayaka. At other times Ganesh is portrayed as Herambaganapati, with a third eye in between his eyebrows, along with five heads and ten arms. These show an extended view of his various powers, which are represented by what he holds in his hands, which include a lotus, pomegranate, water-pot, an axe, a lute, a sugarcane, ears of paddy, a bow and arrow, a thunderbolt, prayer beads, and a book.

The mouse that accompanies Ganesh is his carrier. The mouse is often seen in pictures eating or stealing the sweets that are piled near Ganesh. The mouse is the desire to enjoy material pleasures and the dangers of the ego. Though the mouse is small, this desire for material happiness, and the driver that motivates one into actions to acquire such pleasure, is like a thief that takes away all that people possess. It steals away one’s life that could be used to acquire the goal of spiritual perfection toward true happiness and liberation. The mouse also represents the mind, which is always active. It takes much weight to keep the mind from going astray. The weight of an elephant, Ganesh, on the mouse represents controlling the mind. Thus, Ganesh rides on this mouse as the controller of material desire and the effects of illusion.

GANESH MANTRAS

To Ganesh, for removing obstacles:

Aum Eikdantaya vidmahe

Vakratunaye Dhimahi

Tanno Buddhih Pracodayat

Translation: “Om. Let us meditate on Sri Ganesh, the lord with one tusk. May that great lord with curved elephant trunk inspire and illumine our mind and understanding.”

Invocation to Ganesh:

Gajananam Bhutganadisevitam

Kapittha Jamboo Phalcharu Bhakshanam

Umasutam Shokvinashkarakam

Namami Vighneshwar Padpankajam

Translation: “Oh Elephant-faced, worshiped by the existing beings, of all living beings, tasting the elephant apple (kaith) and jambolana (jamun), the Son of Uma, destroyer of grief, I bow to the lotus feet of Ganesh who is lord of all.”

Ganesh Gayatri Mantras for increasing intellect:

Om Lambhodaraya vidmahe

Mahodaraya deemahi

Tanno danthi prachodayath

Om. Let me meditate on that god with broad paunch. Oh, God with a big belly, give me higher intellect, And let the elephant faced one illuminate my mind.

Om Thatpurashaya vidhmahe

Vakrathundaya dheemahi

Tanno danthi prachodayath

“Om. Let me meditate on that great male, Oh, God with broken tusk, give me higher intellect, And let the elephant faced one illuminate my mind.”

To Ganesh for removing obstacles, a good way to start any projects, studies or rituals:

Ganapati Bappa Morya

Pudhachya Varshi Lovkar Yaa

Use this to Ganesh prayer before beginning any new project so impediments may be removed and your endeavor may be crowned with success: Om gam ganapataye namaha.

The Ganesh Mula Mantra:

Om srim hrim klim glaum gam ganapataye svaha

Om shanti shanti shantihi

Also:

Om gam-gau-ganapataye

Bighna-binashi ne-svaha

For one who wants wealth and prosperity, meditate on the golden color of Ganesh and say this prayer:

Om Lakshmi Ganapataye namaha

Another to Ganesh, Japa is 5,000 times a day for 25 days:

Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha, Om

Also to Ganesh:

Om gam ganeshaya namaha

Om klim gam gam gam mahaganapataye namaha

To Ganesh for blessings for spiritual success:

Om gananam tva ganapatigm havamahe kavim kavinamupamashravastamam

Jyeshtharajam brahmanam brahmanaspata snah shrinvanutibhissida sadanam

Mahaganapataye namaha

Translation: Om. Oh lord of speech, we worship you, the lord of the gods, the wisest among the wise, the one having incomparable fame, the best among the praiseworthy, and the lord of the Vedic hymns. While listening to our praises, come with your protecting powers and be rested in our yajnashala (temple). Obeisances to Mahaganapati.

Agajananapadmarkam gajananamaharnisham

Anekadantam bhaktanamekadantamupasmahe

Translation: We meditate, day and night, on the one-tusked one (Ganesh) who is the sun for the lotus in the form of the face of Parvati, the one with the elephant face and the one who is the giver of plenty to his devotees.

 

Lord Krishna Descends to Reestablish Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

Why the Lord descends into this world is for multiple purposes, but primarily for two reasons. One of which is that, since He originally enunciated the ancient religious path of the Vedas for the benefit of the whole universe, whenever that becomes obstructed by the demoniac or wicked atheists, He descends in one of His forms, which is in the transcendental mode of pure goodness. Thus, He again establishes the righteous Vedic path. It is explained that He is the same Supreme Person, and in His incarnation as Krishna appeared in the home of Vasudeva with His plenary portion, Balarama, who played the part of Krishna’s brother. This was for the second reason, which is to relieve the earth of the burden of the demoniac. As Krishna, He came to kill the hundreds of armies led by the kings who were but expansions of the enemies of the gods, and to spread the fame of the Yadu dynasty. (Bhagavata Purana 10.48.23-24)

Arjuna, after understanding the position of Lord Krishna, recognized His superior position and said, “Thus You descend as an incarnation to remove the burden of the world and to benefit Your friends, especially those who are Your exclusive devotees and are rapt in meditation upon You.” (Bhagavata Purana 1.7.25)

The sages at Kuruksetra, while addressing Lord Krishna, also summarized the reason for Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world. They explained that at suitable times He assumes the mode of pure goodness to protect His devotees and punish the wicked. Thus, the Supreme Personality descends to maintain the eternal path of the Vedas by enjoying His pleasure pastimes. (Bhagavata Purana 10.84.18)

It is also described that when the Lord assumes a human-like body, it is to show His mercy to His devotees. Then He engages in the sort of pastimes that will attract those who hear about them. Then they may become dedicated to Him. (Bhagavata Purana 10.33.36) These pastimes of the Lord are so powerful that they can remove the sins of the three planetary systems and deliver those who are trapped in the continuous cycle of birth and death. (Bhagavata Purana 10.86.34) Those who desire to serve the Lord should hear of these activities. Hearing such narrations of these pastimes destroy the reactions to fruitive work [karma]. (Bhagavata Purana.10.90.49)

It is by Lord Krishna’s pastimes that He calls all the conditioned souls to Him through love. Thus, by His wondrous activities He attracts all beings to return to their natural, spiritual position by reawakening their dormant love and service to Him. This is the purpose of human life, which provides the best facility and intellect for understanding our spiritual identity and connection with the Lord. As Sukadeva Gosvami explained to Maharaja Pariksit, “He, the Personality of Godhead, as the maintainer of all in the universe, appears in different incarnations after establishing the creation, and thus He reclaims all kinds of conditioned souls amongst the humans, nonhumans and gods.” (Bhagavata Purana 2.10.42)

“To show causeless mercy to the devotees who would take birth in the future of this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality, Krishna, acted in such a way that simply by remembering Him one will be freed from all the lamentation and unhappiness of material existence.” (Bhagavata Purana 9.24.61) However, Lord Krishna also explains that when He descends in His human form, the fools who are ignorant of His spiritual nature and supreme dominion over everything deride and criticize Him. (Bhagavad-gita 9.11)

Nonetheless, Lord Krishna Himself further explains the reasons for His appearance in this world to King Muchukunda: “My dear friend, I have taken thousands of births, lived thousands of lives and accepted thousands of names. In fact, My births, activities and names are limitless, and thus even I cannot count them. After many lifetimes someone might count the dust particles on the earth, but no one can ever finish counting My qualities, activities, names and births. O King, the greatest sages enumerate My births and activities, which take place throughout the three phases of time, but never do they reach the end of them. Nonetheless, O friend, I will tell you about My current birth, name and activities. Kindly hear. Some time ago, Lord Brahma requested Me to protect religious principles and destroy the demons who were burdening the earth. Thus I descended in the Yadu dynasty, in the home of Anakadundubhi. Indeed, because I am the son of Vasudeva, people call Me Vasudeva.” (Bhagavata Purana 10.51.36-40)

OUR MISSION TO DEFEND VEDIC DHARMA

By understanding the above paragraphs, we should know that Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish the Vedic tradition because it had become lost. I emphasize this point because, in spite of the many challenges or threats against Vedic culture that Hindus face from others in upholding their tradition, sometimes they still say there is nothing for us to worry about because it is Sanatana-dharma, eternal, that it will never disappear no matter what happens in this world. When I hear this, I ask them whether they have really understood what Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita. For therein we can understand that this Vedic spiritual knowledge does indeed disappear or decline from the face of the earth at times, and must be brought back, or defended in order to keep it prevalent amongst humanity.

In the beginning of Chapter Four of the Bhagavad-gita, we hear of one of the prime reasons why Lord Krishna descended into this world. He explains it this way in a conversation with Arjuna:

“The Supreme Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku. This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time, the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost. That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.”

Arjuna then said: “The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?”

Bhagavan Sri Krishna then continued: “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy! Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of dharma, I advent Myself millennium after millennium. One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.1-9)

So here we see very clearly that Vedic dharma and its spiritual processes may indeed by eternal, but it may also decline or even disappear from humanity from time to time. This means that if Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish this knowledge and tradition, we should be serious about defending it and making sure that it does not start to decline again. When it comes to defending Vedic dharma, we need to understand that it is not just up to Lord Krishna. It is also up to us. We cannot expect that Lord Krishna will appear again so easily when He was here only 5,000 years ago to do what we should now be doing. We should take it upon ourselves to assist in preserving, protecting, and promoting it for its perpetuation. This is for the benefit of all humanity. We should be willing to take up a bold stance to meet this responsibility, or it may again very well start to decline from the face of the earth like it did before.

This is also why there are various acharyas and devotees, representatives of the Supreme, who may be empowered to provide the guidance for humanity so people everywhere can know how to continue the ways of following Vedic dharma and apply it to their lives.

So to help in this way is not only a service to humanity, but also a service to dharma itself, and to the mission of Lord Krishna, and to all representatives of Vedic culture. What can be a higher cause for us than that?

Gotras: A Simple Explanation

Whenever you go to visit a temple in India, and participate in the doing pujas or rituals, the priest will often ask you to which gotra your family line belongs. Then you tell him your gotra, and usually the names of your father and mother, and he puts that into the recitation of prayers to offer to the deity you are worshiping, and to get blessings from that deity. In other cases, a person introduces himself to elders by stating one’s name and gotra. This is a form of acknowledging one’s ancestral ties and all that has been given by one’s ancestors.

How the system of gotra works can be explained like this. First of all, the original spiritual knowledge was given by the Supreme Being to Lord Brahma, the secondary creator of the universe. From Brahma came the powerful rishis who were capable of receiving this knowledge and preserving it, and then spreading it throughout the universe, and down through the generations of humanity.

So, after the universal creation under the guidance of Lord Brahma, it is recorded that he had 27 sons who were also progenitors for mankind, called Prajapatis, who were the seeds of humanity which spread throughout the world. The familial line from each of these Prajapatis is called a gotra. So the names of the gotra carries the name of each one of these sages. In this way, the 27 sons of Brahma were also the beginnings for the 27 gotras.

These sons of Brahma were also learned sages called rishis. These seers came to be known as the mantra-drishtaraha, seers of the Vedic mantras. The main seven sages, called the Saptarshis (Seven Rishis), are Kashyapa, Vashistha, Bharadwaj, Kapila, Atri, Vishvamitra, and Gautama. It is also these Saptarshis which help preserve and propagate spiritual knowledge to humanity for everyone’s benefit. Additional sons of Brahma include Svayambhuva Manu, Adharma, Praheti, Heti, Aristanemi, Bhrigu, Daksha, Pracetas, Sthanu, Samshraya, Sesha, Vikrita, Kardama, Kratu, Pulaha, Pulastya, and Agiras, along with Marichi, Bhrigu, and Agastya.

The gotra also helps establish your identity as part of the Vedic tradition, and that your family lineage can be traced back to one of the original great rishis or sages from whom the knowledge of Vedic culture has descended. We all belong to one of these gotras, whether we know them or not. But it is a great insight to know your gotra.

However, these gotras have since increased through time to include many others. There are now two hundred and forty-nine gotras, of which approximately forty are common today. Of these forty include: Vatula, Atreya, Garga, Kaundinnya, Kaushika, Gautama, Naidhruva-kashyapa, Harita, Bharadvaja, Shandilya, Maudgalya, and Shrivasta.

Gotras are further classified into five groups, depending upon the number of rishi descendants in a particular gotra. These groups are:

1. Ekarsheya-pravara-gotra, having one rishi descendant.

2. Dvayarsheya-pravara-gotra, having two rishi descendants.

3. Treyarsheya-pravara-gotra, having three rishi descendants.

4. Pancharisheya-pravara-gotra, having five rishi descendants.

5. Saptarisheya-pravara-gotra, having seven rishi descendants.

One example could be a Treyarsheya-pravara-gotra of Vatula, Atreya, and Kaushika gotras, or another line of three (treya) rishis.

Another point about this is that in India, one’s gotra is important because they help avoid what would be called inbreeding, or families marrying within their own gotra. In fact, sometimes they avoid four gotras, including your father’s gotra, your mother’s, your paternal grandmother’s, and your maternal grandmother’s. Marrying someone outside of these four mentioned gotras is said to help prevent birth defects or deformities in their children by keeping people from marrying within the same genetic roots.

In any case, this is a Vedic tradition that seems to be traced back to the beginning of time.

Reaching Our Fullest Potential with Vedic Spirituality, by Stephen Knapp

These days fewer people are interested in taking up anything that they cannot immediately apply to their lives. The common question is: “What is this going to do for me?” Or “What am I going to get out of this?” So if we cannot relate the purpose of Vedic culture or its spirituality to people today, especially to the youth, then it is not likely they will take an interest. Yet, everyone is interested in gaining more out of life, or reaching their higher potential, which, actually, has been the purpose of the Vedic system from time immemorial. Yet we have either forgotten that, or have failed to present that purpose properly. So this is one angle we can use to impress the importance of Vedic culture and its spiritual philosophy to people today.

Everyone should want to reach their highest potential. But to do this we also need to focus on our spiritual potential, which is actually a way to become much more refined, developed and useful than merely focusing on our material possibilities, or only developing marketable skills for earning a big paycheck.

The Sri Isha Upanishad, Mantra 11, explains: “Only one who can learn the process of nescience (or material knowledge) and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessing of immortality.”

One point here is that through the advancement of material knowledge we do not solve the problem of our reincarnation or being completely free from repeated birth and death through numerous situations in this material world. We have no idea how many lives we have lived, nor how many more we will go through unless we add the study and application of spiritual knowledge to our lives. What is the point of this human existence if all we do is find better ways to eat, sleep, have sex, produce children, and advance our economic development and living condition? And then we simply repeat this pattern life after life? For what? Animals work in the same way, and often times with fewer problems. So what is the difference?

The way to solve all of the problems of life and to perfect this existence is the prime opportunity of human life, which is to become advanced in spiritual knowledge as well as in our material occupation. One without the other is incomplete. This is the only way we can reach our highest potential and not merely work at attaining success in a temporary material profession.

Spiritual knowledge is also the means to attain real happiness, especially through realizing our true identity, and thus become fulfilled by our real mission in life. It is also the means to attain a permanent blissful life after we leave this body. If we forget our true identity as a spiritual being, we will think that this body and this life, and everything connected with it, is the all in all. We will think that the happiness of this mind, body and senses is the complete goal of everything we are meant to do here in this world. But this is like being caught in a dream, attached to clinging to a hologram, a false conception of life. No one is truly happy in such a fleeting situation since the happiness therein is always being interrupted by different forms of suffering, or stress, anxiety, worry, concern, and of course disease, old age and death. No one wants that because that is not our real nature, it is not our real identity, but it is forced on us from the beginning of simply having a material body. The human body is a wondrous machine, a means to accomplish the goal of life, but it is still a machine that we are situated inside. It is not who we really are, like a driver in a car. We may have a fabulous and beautiful car that we are proud of, or an old clunker we are ashamed to be seen in, but in either case we are only the driver. We are not the car itself. So we must realize who and what we are and regain our spiritual identity beyond the body we have, and also realize our connection with the Supreme.

Real happiness is possible to experience when we rise above the limitations of our material condition and misidentification as a temporary material being. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase our material pleasures, which has brought about the false aim of life and the goal to acquire more money, more facilities, more consumerism, more manipulation of nature, etc. Whatever it takes. This has also brought about more problems in politics, economics, international relations and intrigue, lack of cooperation, and increases in corruption, pollution, the constant threat of war, terrorism, new diseases, a decrease in natural foods, and so on. And people call this progress? Is this any way to live? Is this the trend into the future?

Therefore, it is best to use this body and mind to live simply with an honest career and then cultivate spiritual knowledge and help others do the same.

INDIVIDUAL BENEFITS

1. Everyone wants to find joy and happiness. For what other reason are you working or studying? We are working to acquire money, security, a better future for ourselves or our family, or to make improvements in our occupation. Yet, we need to clearly understand that spirituality is the key to real happiness. And by that I mean the happiness that reaches the soul, and not that which merely occupies the ever-changing demands of our mind and senses. It is through spiritualizing our lives that we can change our attitude to joy, and not look at things with the humdrum attitude of “Another day, another dollar” or something similar. This is not unusual because we often see that without spirituality life becomes empty and without real purpose or any deep meaning. By adding spirituality to our lives, it often improves our attitude and is reflected in every other area of our life, including job performance, relations with others, family cooperation, our flexibility, the way we handle problems or inconveniences, and the way we may even inspire others to do the same.

2. Spiritualizing our lives means to spiritualize our consciousness. It is through such spiritual awareness that we can recognize the transcendental essence of all beings. We are all spiritual in nature, but this remains invisible to us as long as we do not uplift the vibratory level of our consciousness. So if we want respect, and if we feel that people need to increase their appreciation and love for each other, this can easily be accomplished by recognizing the similarity we have with one another on the spiritual level. It is through spirituality that can most easily change the selfish interest we have toward ourselves and our clan to a broad or universal love.

Most problems between people or countries or ethnic groups reflect the lack of love, compassion and understanding we have for each other, which is the essence of the Dharmic principles we need to be follow.

3. Spirituality also offers an uplifting view of life. Once we are truly spiritualizing our lives, whatever troubles we have begin to appear as if they are only an interesting play of energy in which we are temporarily involved. We can see that such difficulties are not actually part of our real identity. They are only going on around us and we take them seriously only to the degree that we feel they are affecting us and our bodily or mental happiness. In other words, they affect us to the degree in which we are in the illusion.

Spirituality gives us the courage and lightheartedness to face the difficult situations in life, or the drama around us, and to realize we are different from such externals. By this I mean that we can perceive that we are spiritual beings that are interacting on the temporary material platform. Therein whatever joy or sorrow we experience comes and goes like the winter and summer seasons. It is temporary and that is all we can expect from it because that is all it can offer. But without spiritual understanding, we take these temporary ups and downs and the pursuit for material happiness very seriously. So if we want more than this, or something deeper, we need to reach our real identity through the spiritual path.

4. Spirituality teaches us the art of living, but also the art of dying. This is the means by which we recognize the temporary nature of life and that we must always be prepared for death and for attaining the best position in our next existence. It is considered that without such preparation our life is not complete and we have not used it properly, regardless of whatever else we may accomplish.

5. Spirituality means that you see the big picture. And what is the big picture? It is that this life is but a moment on our great path toward self-realization. That great path encompasses many lifetimes. Each one is like a flash of lightning in the span of eternity. So our progress through the big picture evolves around and depends on our spiritual development. That is all we carry with us from one life to the next. Whatever material assets we attain in this life ripens in this one existence only, whereas spiritual progress is viewed over many, many lifetimes. Whatever spiritual benefits we are experiencing now may have been developed many lifetimes ago. Similarly, our spiritual practice today may provide us with benefits in this life as well as many lifetimes that may follow.

The big picture is that all you have ever been through, including so many lives before this one, has brought you to this very moment. You are the son or daughter of the past, the product of all your experiences and actions. But you are also the father of your future, starting from this particular point in time. It is up to you to decide what to do and where you will take yourself from this point onward. Your possibilities are endless, and spiritual development only increases the possibilities that you have.

6. Genuine spirituality also means that we accept responsibility for ourselves, what we do, how we affect others and our environment, and how we have the power to change our situation. So if we want to improve such things, then we can find that the basis of Dharma and genuine spirituality is also the foundation for the improvement of everything in this world, starting with our own sphere of influence, however big or small that may be. However, we need to emphasize that such spirituality is above the conventional form of religions, which are often dogmatic and based on the emphasis of local traditions and ethnic recognition. This means that their foundations are not the Universal Spiritual Truths that are found in Sanatana-dharma that can be applied to everyone, at anytime and anywhere in this universe. Real Dharma means those spiritual principles that can be applied directly to the soul or real identity of the living being regardless of the temporary material condition or status in which he or she is presently found.

GLOBAL BENEFITS

Just as there are individual benefits to the practice of spirituality in one’s life, naturally there are also blessings that will manifest on a global level.

First of all we have to understand that lust is public enemy number one. Most of the crimes that are committed in the world stems from individual or collective lust. We see around us that many advertising campaigns are based on invoking the desire to acquire something. This desire is based on satisfying the mind and senses for one’s own selfish happiness, and this pleasure is called lust. And we must look within ourselves to see how much lust is there and how to be free of it.

If it is allowed to grow, this lust can develop into a covetousness over land, possessions and power. If we want something, we may work for it honestly, or we may make schemes involving corrupt activities to acquire it. If this sort of lust increases amongst people, the whole planet becomes chaotic. And when the rulers of the planet exhibit such tendencies, then there is no chance for peace in the world, as we can plainly see. Therefore, the collective practice of spirituality can help rid the world of such lust and its various damaging effects.

We must also understand that the two prime factors that keep the world from being united is the presumption of racial superiority and the desire to conquer and convert. These are the antithesis of Dharmic principles. But how many religious paths do we see that incorporate the idea of conquering regions of the world through religious conversions, or that even rejoice in the number of converts they have established? This is not the way of true spirituality.

So it is time for a new breed of humanity, a new species of human beings. This doesn’t mean a new genetic code. It means the appearance of a new level of consciousness, a new level of awareness in which the principle of Dharma is a natural part of life and a natural part of our respect toward each other. And the freedom to pick one’s own level of spiritual development that one needs in this lifetime. This is the world of Vedic Dharma.

Vedic Dharma is full of possibilities. It is open for the individual to develop as he or she needs to. It allows for a person to start at whatever level is best for him or her, and set the goal of one’s spiritual development that they find most suitable. Dharma does not involve teaching a dogma that must be adhered to in order to be saved, or suffer the threat of going to hell and eternal damnation if you don’t fit the mold. That is too limited for the Universal Spiritual Truths found in Vedic Dharma. We have to keep in mind the “big picture,” as previously mentioned. This means that spiritual progress is usually made over many lifetimes, and that this one life is only a small portion of the path we are on.

We also have to be a clear channel through which the unconditional love from God flows through us toward everyone else. To do that we also have to recognize the Divine in all species of life. That can be done only through the serious application of spiritual principles.

The point is that the more spiritual you become, the more you can perceive what is spiritual, and the more the spiritual strata becomes a reality to enter or experience rather than a mystery to solve. Plus, the more you spiritualize your consciousness, the less confused you will be about what is your true identity and, thus, the true purpose of life. It is an automatic process that the more spiritual you are, the more clear is everything else. If society could increase in the number of people who are evolving in this way, naturally the whole world will improve accordingly.

HOW DO WE DO THIS

So how do we manage our time to include the necessary spiritual practice? Spiritual practice means two things, the sadhana and the study. The sadhana itself can mean your meditation, your chanting of japa such as the Hare Krishna mantra, reciting your prayers, or doing your puja or worship. The value of this is often underestimated. What it does is incorporate the spiritual vibration into your consciousness. It raises the frequency level in which you perceive and operate. The next part is to do the study, reading the spiritual books to educate yourself in the tradition and your understanding of spiritual knowledge and of the importance of your Dharmic practice. Such books may include the Bhagavad-gita, Upanishads, Puranas, etc.

So as we do this on a daily basis, we will naturally carry that spiritual consciousness with us wherever we go. For example, you may have a special room where you do your spiritual activities, and if you are burning incense, you might carry the scent with you in your clothes. Then wherever you go and whenever you smell the aroma, it makes you think of the atmosphere in your special room. When that happens you may feel the same uplifting mood that you felt when doing your spiritual practice in your room. So we have to learn how to carry that special atmosphere in our consciousness throughout the day.

So if you are convinced as to why we should spiritualize our lives, then we have to make spirituality as one of the main foundations of our life. It must be viewed as a corner stone upon which we build everything else. So it must be one of the main ingredients in our daily schedule.

You have a life with only so much time, which means you must be careful with how you spend it. An example is that your life can be represented by a glass of water. The glass can only hold so much, and once it is filled, that is it. You can’t put any more into it. So how will you fill it? If you have an assortment of stones, sand and water, what will you begin to put into it first? If you fill it with small stuff, then you will not have any room for the big things, the important items. So first you put in the rocks, or those things which are the most important. These may include school, work, family, but also your spiritual practice. These are four stones. So put those in the glass before you put in anything else. Then in between the stones will fit the sand, the small stuff. And even in between the sand will fit the water, the smaller and less important things. But first always include and make time for the important items, the rocks or foundation of your life, and spiritual practice must be one of them.

So you should set aside a couple hours or more in your daily schedule to do your spiritual practice. If you take an hour, then you can divide it into a half-hour for your sadhana or meditation, and another half-hour for your study. Then as you develop, increase that. Spiritual life is like a train that runs on two tracks, and your sadhana and study together provide the necessary tracks for smooth progress for that train to keep on a rolling. The early morning is always the best time to do this. But some time in the evening also may be suitable for you. However, whatever time you choose, it is necessary to continue with it. Like a daily shower, you can’t stay clean unless you do it everyday. Similarly, you can’t stay spiritually purified or uplifted and enthused unless you are steady at it in your daily schedule.

Furthermore, you may never know when you will need your spirituality. You may need it when dealing with others, settling disputes, carrying out your family duties, and so on. But most importantly, you will never know when you will meet with the final test when you die. That certainly separates those who are prepared from those who are not. I had a friend who spent all of his time on his college studies. Then with only six months left to go before qualifying for his Ph.D., he died in a car crash. Of course, it was completely unexpected. So you never know when death may strike. So the point is that you continue to make your plans for this life and take care of your responsibilities, but also make time for your spiritual development, which prepares you for everything else, this life and beyond.

The final point to remember is that any path of accomplishment requires self-sacrifice, no matter whether you are attempting to acquire material benefits or spiritual advancement. We are always looking to develop our future, no matter whether it is with a better job, a nicer home, or financial security for our family, or other things. But if you can reach that strata where there is no more sacrifice, no more war, no more difficulties, but instead find universal love and understanding and cooperation, don’t you think that is a sacrifice worth doing? Don’t you think that is an endeavor worthy of attempting? Don’t you think the knowledge of this is worth spreading to let the whole world know of it or how to reach it?

There is no reason why we cannot bring an increasing amount of the spiritual atmosphere to this earth planet. We can indeed change things here and bring improvements in so many ways. But we need to start with ourselves first, and that depends on our spiritual practice and the spiritual principles we incorporate into our own lives, which can bring about deep and personal spiritual realizations and insights. From there it can spread through our sphere of influence, however big or small that may be. We all want peace and cooperation, but you will never get that as long as we see and operate according to our differences, which will always be there on the material platform. So we must rise above that to a higher level of reality, the higher dimension. And this dimension is all around us. All we have to do is train our mind and consciousness to be able to tune into it so that it opens up to us. Then through our continued spiritual development we can enter into it. That is the ultimate advantage of spiritualizing our lives and making time for it. And to do that most effectively is why the process of yoga has been provided and described by the great rishis and Vedic literature.

Plus, the easiest yoga to perform, especially in this age of Kali-yuga, is bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotional love aimed at the Supreme Lord. This also includes the Yuga Dharma, which means the most effective path for this age, which is the chanting of the Lord’s holy names, especially as found in the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra. This is what should be studied, practiced and shared to provide the most practical level of spirituality for everyone. Then our higher potential in life can be attained and our superior purpose can be accomplished.

India’s Ancient and Great Maritime History, by Stephen Knapp

(An Excerpt from Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture)

We should first take into account that ancient India, which was centered around the Indus Valley years ago, and was already well developed before 3200 BCE, stretched from Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean and points farther east and north, the largest empire in the world at the time. But its influence spread much farther than that. During its peak developments, it had organized cities, multistory brick buildings, vast irrigation networks, sewer systems, the most advanced metalwork in the world, and a maritime trade network that incorporated the use of compasses, planked ships, and trained navigators that reached parts of western Asia, Mesopotamia, Africa, and other ports far beyond their borders. 1 So they were certainly capable of ocean-going trips that could have reached even to the Americas.

Prakash Charan Prasad explains in his book, Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India (p. 131): “Big ships were built. They could carry anywhere upwards from 500 men on the high seas. The Yuktialpataru classifies ships according to their sizes and shapes. The Rajavalliya says that the ship in which King Sinhaba of Bengal (ca. sixth century BCE] sent Prince Vijaya, accommodated full 700 passengers, and the ship in which Vijaya’s Pandyan bride was brought over to Lanka carried 800 passengers on board. The ship in which the Buddha in the Supparaka Bodhisat incarnation made his voyages from Bharukachha (Broach) to the ‘sea of the seven gems’ [Sri Lanka], carried 700 merchants besides himself. The Samuddha Vanija Jakarta mentions a ship that accommodated one thousand carpenters.”

Marco Polo also related how, “An Indian ship could carry crews between 100 and 300. Out of regard for passenger convenience and comfort, the ships were well furnished and decorated in gold, silver, copper, and compounds of all these substances were generally used for ornamentation and decoration.” 2

Because of the Vedic civilization’s great reach, Aurel Stein (1862-1943), a Hungarian researcher also related: “The vast extent of Indian cultural influences, from Central Asia in the North to tropical Indonesia in the South, and from the borderlands of Persia to China and Japan, has shown that ancient India was a radiating center of a civilization, which by its religious thought, its art and literature, was destined to leave its deep mark on the races wholly diverse and scattered over the greater part of Asia.” 3

In this regard, Philip Rawson, in The Art of Southeast Asia (1993, p. 7), further praises India’s gift of its civilizing affect on all other cultures. “The culture of India has been one of the world’s most powerful civilizing forces. Countries of the Far East, including China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia owe much of what is best in their own cultures to the inspiration of ideas imported from India. The West, too, has its own debts… No conquest or invasion, nor forced conversion [was ever] imposed.” And this is the basis for the mystery of the widespread nature of the ancient Vedic empire, which in many ways still exists today. It was this subtle spiritual dimension that spread all over the world.

ADVANCED EAST INDIAN SAILING IN THE EARLY VEDIC TEXTS

As Gunnar Thompson also explains, regarding the capability of Indian ships: “Extensive maritime trade between India and the islands of Indonesia is well documented and illustrated. A 1st century Hindu manuscript, the Periplus, mentions two-mates ships with dual rudders mounted on the sides in the fashion of ancient Mediterranean vessels. The ships are portrayed in 2nd century Indian murals. Chinese chronicles of the same era describe seven-masted Hindu vessels 160 feet in length carrying 700 passengers and 1000 metric tons of merchandise. Buddhist records of a 5th century pilgrimage from Ceylon to Java report vessels large enough to carry 200 passengers.” 4

India’s ancient maritime history is referenced as far back as the early Vedic texts. This is taken from my book, Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture (pp. 143-45). As we look at other cultures, what is often left out is the advanced nature of the ancient Indian civilization. As we look over this information, it becomes clear that ancient India had the means for sailing over great expanses of water, and also had a thriving trade industry based on shipping.

The fact is that the ancient Vedic texts, such as the Rig Veda, Shatapatha Brahmana, and others refer to the undertaking of naval expeditions and travel to distant places by sea-routes that were well-known at the time. For example, the Rig Veda (1.25.7) talks of how Varuna has full knowledge of all the sea routes that were followed by ships. Then (2.48.3) we find wherein merchants would also send out ships for foreign trade. 5

Another verse (1.56.2) speaks of merchants going everywhere and frequently to every part of the sea. Another verse (7.88.3-4) relates that there was a voyage by Vasistha and Varuna in a ship skillfully fitted for the trip. Then there is a verse (1.116.3) that tells of an expedition on which Tugra, the Rishi king, sent his son Bhujya against some of his enemies in the distant islands. However, Bhujya becomes ship wrecked by a storm, with all of his followers on the ocean, “Where there is no support, or rest for the foot or hand.” From this he is rescued by the twin Ashvins in their hundred oared galley. Similarly, the Atharva Veda mentions boats which are spacious, well constructed and comfortable.

We should keep in mind that the Rig Veda is said to go back to around 3000 BCE, which means the sailing capacity for the Vedic civilization of ancient India was well under way by that time.

An assortment of other books also referred to sea voyages of the ancient mariners. Of course, we know that the epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata referred to ships and sea travel, but the Puranas also had stories of sea voyages, such as in the Matsya, Varaha, and Markandeya Puranas. Other works of Classical Sanskrit included them as well, such as Raghuvamsha, Ratnavali, Dashakumaracharita, Kathasaritsagara, Panchatantra, Rajatarangini, etc.

Actually, ships have been mentioned in numerous verses through the Vedic literature, such as in the Vedas, Brahmanas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and so on. For example, in the Ayodhya Kand of Valmiki’s Ramayana, you can find the description of such big ships that could hold hundreds of warriors: “Hundreds of oarsmen inspire five hundred ships carrying hundreds of ready warriors.” The conclusion is that ships have been in use since the Vedic age.

In the Ramayana, in the Kishkindha Kand, Sugriva gives directions to the Vanar leaders for going to the cities and mountains in the islands of the sea, mainly Yavadvipa (Java) and Suvarna Dvipa (Sumatra) in the quest to find Sita. The Ramayana also talks of how merchants traveled beyond the sea and would bring presents to the kings.

In the Mahabharata (Sabha Parva), Sahadeva is mentioned as going to several islands in the sea to defeat the kings. In the Karna Parva, the soldiers of the Kauravas are described as merchants, “whose ships have come to grief in the midst of the unfathomable deep.” And in the same Parva, a verse describes how the sons of Draupadi rescued their maternal uncles by supplying them with chariots, “As ship wrecked merchants are rescued by means of boats.” However, another verse therein relates how the Pandavas escaped from the destruction planned for them with the help of a ship that was secretly and especially constructed for the purpose under the orders of the kind hearted Vidura. The ship was large, and provided machinery and all kinds of weapons of war, and able to defy storms and waves.

Also, in Kautilya’s Arthashastra we find information of the complete arrangements of boats maintained by the navy and the state. It also contains information on the duties of the various personnel on a ship. For example, the Navadhyaksha is the superintendent of the ship, Niyamaka is the steerman, and Datragrahaka is the holder of the needle, or the compass. Differences in ships are also described regarding the location of the cabins and the purpose of the ship itself. 6

In the Brihat Samhita by Varahamihir of the 5th century, and in the Sanskrit text Yukti Kalpataru by Narapati Raja Bhoj of the 11th century, you can find information about an assortment of ships, sizes, and materials with which they were built, and the process of manufacturing them. For example, one quote explains, “Ships made of timbers of different classes possess different properties. Ships built of inferior wood do not last long and rot quickly. Such ships are liable to split with a slight shock.” 7 It also gives further details on how to furnish a ship for accommodating the comfort of passengers, or for transporting goods, animals, or royal artifacts. The ships of three different sizes were the Sarvamandira, Madhyamarmandira, and the Agramandira.

The Shangam works of the South Indian Tamils have numerous references to the shipping activities that went on in that region, along with the ports, articles of trade, etc. Such texts included Shilappadikaram Manimekalai, Pattinappalai, Maduraikhanji, Ahananuru, Purananuru, etc. 8

Ancient Indians traveled to various parts of the world not only for purposes of trade, but to also propagate their culture. This is how the Vedic influence spread around the world. For example, Kaundinya crossed the ocean and reached south-east Asia. From there, evidence shows that rock inscriptions in the Sun Temple at Jawayuko in the Yukatan province of Mexico mentions the arrival of the great sailor Vusulin in Shaka Samvat 854, or the year 932. In the excavations in Lothal in Gujarat, it seems that trade with countries like Egypt was carried out from that port around 2540 BCE. Then from 2350 BCE, small boats docked here, which necessitated the construction of the harbor for big ships, which was followed by the city that was built around it. 9

In the period of 984-1042 CE, the Chola kings dispatched great naval expeditions which occupied parts of Burma, Malaya and Sumatra, while suppressing the piratical activities of the Sumatra warlords.

In 1292 CE, when Marco Polo came to India, he described Indian ships as “built of fir timber, having a sheath of boards laid over the planking in every part, caulked with iron nails. The bottoms were smeared with a preparation of quicklime and hemp, pounded together and mixed with oil from a certain tree which is a better material than pitch.” He further writes: “Ships had double boards which were joined together. They were made strong with iron nails and the crevices were filled with a special kind of gum. These ships were so huge that about 300 boatmen were needed to row them. About 3000-4000 gunny bags could be loaded in each ship. They had many small rooms for people to live in. These rooms had arrangements for all kinds of comfort. Then when the bottom or the base started to get spoiled, a new layer would be added on. Sometimes, a boat would have even six layers, one on top of another.”

A fourteenth century description of an Indian ship credits it with a carrying capacity of over 700 people giving a fair idea of both ship building skills and maritime ability of seamen who could successfully man such large vessels.

Another account of the early fifteenth century describes Indian ships as being built in compartments so that even if one part was shattered, the next remained intact, thus enabling the ship to complete her voyage. This was perhaps a forerunner of the modern day subdivision of ships into watertight compartments, a concept then totally alien to the Europeans.

Another traveler named Nicolo Conti came to India in the 15th century. He wrote: “The Indian ships are much bigger than our ships. Their bases are made of three boards in such a way that they can face formidable storms. Some ships are made in such a way that if one part becomes useless, the rest of the parts can do the work.”

Another visitor to India named Bertham writes: “The wooden boards are joined in such a way that not even a drop of water can go through it. Sometimes, the masts of cotton are placed in such a way that a lot of air can be filled in. The anchors were sometimes made of heavy stones. It would take a ship eight days to come from Iran to Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari).” 10

The famous archeologist Padmashri Dr. Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar says, “I had gone to England for studies, I was told about Vasco da Gama’s diary available in a museum in which he has described how he came to India.” He writes that when his ship came near Zanzibar in Africa, he saw a ship three times bigger than the size of his ship. He took an African interpreter to meet the owner of that ship who was a Gujarati trader named Chandan who used to bring pine wood and teak from India along with spices and take back diamonds to the port of Cochin. When Vasco da Gama went to meet him, Chandan was sitting in ordinary attire, on a cot. When the trader asked Vasco where he was going, the latter said that he was going to visit India. At this, the trader said that he was going back to India the very next day and if he wanted, he could follow him. So, Vasco da Gama came to India following him. 11

Sir William Jones, in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society–1901, relates how the Hindus, “must have been navigators in the age of Manu, because bottomry is mentioned in it. In the Ramayana, practice of bottomry is distinctly noticed.” Bottomry is the lending of insurance money for marine activities. 12

In this way, Indians excelled in the art of ship-building, and even the English found Indian models of ships far superior of their own and worth copying. The Indian vessels united elegance and utility and fine workmanship. Sir John Malcom observed: “Indian vessels are so admirably adapted to the purpose for which they are required that, notwithstanding their superior stance, Europeans were unable during an intercourse with India for two centuries, to suggest or to bring into successful practice one improvement.” 13

Mexican archeologist Rama Mena points out in his book, Mexican Archeology, that Mayan physical features are like those of India. He also mentions how Nahuatl, Zapotecan, and Mayan languages had Hindu-European affinities.

In this line of thinking, some American tribes have traditions of having ancestral homelands across the Pacific. A legend of Guatemala speaks of an ancient migration from across the Pacific to the city of Tulan. A tribe from Peru and Tucano of Columbia also relate in their traditions how ancestors sailed across the Pacific to South America. Tales of trade over the Pacific were also related to the earliest of Spanish explorers in Central America. 14

Georgia anthropologist Joseph Mahan, author of The Secret (1983), has identified intriguing similarities between the Yueh-chic tribes of India-Pakistan and the Yuchi tribe of North America’s Eastern Woodlands. The Yuchi tradition also tells of a foreign homeland from across the sea–presumably in India. 15

This information makes it clear that ancient India had the means to reach and in fact did sail to many parts of the world, including the ancient Americas, long before most countries. This is further corroborated by information in the chapter of Vedic culture in America in Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence, for those of you who would like more information on this.

ANCIENT INDIA’S MARITIME TRADE

Further evidence shows that shipping from Bharatvarsha was a national enterprise and the country was a leader in world trade relations amongst such people as the Phoenicians, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans in ancient times, and more recently with Egyptians, Romans, Turks, Portuguese, Dutch, and English.

The simple fact is that India’s maritime history predates the birth of Western civilization. The world’s first tidal dock is believed to have been built at Lothal around 2300 BCE during the Harappan civilization, near the present day Mangrol harbor on the Gujarat coast.

The earliest portrayal of an Indian ship is found on an Indus Valley seal from about 3000 BCE. The ship is shown being elevated at both bow and stern, with a cabin in the center. It is likely to have been a simple river boat since it is lacking a mast. Another drawing found at Mohendjodaro on a potsherd shows a boat with a single mast and two men sitting at the far end away from the mast. Another painting of the landing of Vijaya Simha in Ceylon (543 BCE) with many ships is found amongst the Ajanta caves.

That India had a vast maritime trade, even with Greece, is shown by the coins of the Trojans (98-117 CE) and Hadrians (117-138 CE) found on the eastern coast of India, near Pondicherry. This is evidence that Greek traders had to have visited and traded in the port cities of that area.

Kamlesh Kapur explains more about this in Portraits of a Nation: History of India: “Recent archeological excavations at Pattanam in Ernakulum district of Kerala by the Kerala council for Historical Research (KCHR) indicate that there was thriving naval trade around 500 B.C. According to the Director of KCHR, ‘The artifacts recovered from the excavation site suggest that Pattanam, with a hinterland port and a multicultural settlement, may have had links with the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the South China Sea rims since the Early Historic Period of South India.’ KCHR has been getting charcoal samples examined through C-14 and other modern methods to determine the age of these relics. These artifacts were from the Iron Age layer. The archeologists also recovered some parts of a wooden canoe and bollards (stakes used to secure canoes and boats) from a waterlogged area at the site.

“The radiocarbon dating from Pattanam will aid in understanding the Iron Age chronology of Kerala. So far, testing done by C-14 method to determine the ages of the charcoal samples from the lowermost sand deposits in the trenches at Pattanam suggests that their calibrated dates range from 1300 B.C. to 200 B.C. and 2500 B.C. to 100 A.D. Thus there is strong evidence that Kerala had sea trade with several countries in Western Asia and Eastern Europe from the second millennia B.C. onwards.” 16

The influence of the sea on Indian Kingdoms continued to grow with the passage of time. North-west India came under the influence of Alexander the great, who built a harbor at Patala where the Indus branches into two, just before entering the Arabian sea. His army returned to Mesopotamia in ships built in Sindh. Records show that in the period after his conquest, Chandragupta Maurya established an admiralty division under a Superintendent of ships as part of his war office, with a charter including responsibility for navigation on the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers. History records that Indian ships traded with countries as far as Java and Sumatra, and available evidence indicates that they were also trading with other countries in the Pacific, and Indian Ocean. Even before Alexander, there were references to India in Greek works and India had a flourishing trade with Rome. Roman writer Pliny speaks of Indian traders carrying away large quantity of gold from Rome, in payment for much sought exports such as precious stones, skins, clothes, spices, sandalwood, perfumes, herbs, and indigo.

The port cities included such places as Nagapattinam, Arikamedu (near Pondicherry), Udipi, Kollam, Tuticorin, Mamallapuram, Mangalore, Kannur, Thane, and others, which facilitated trade with many foreign areas, such as Indonesia, China, Arabia, Rome, and countries in Africa. Many other inland towns and cities contributed to this trade, such as Madurai, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Ellora, Melkote, Nasik, and so on, which became large centers of trade. Silk, cotton, sandalwood, woodwork, and various types of produce were the main items of trade.

Trades of this volume could not have been conducted over the countries without appropriate navigational skills. Two Indian astronomers of repute, Aryabhatta and Varahamihira, having accurately mapped the positions of celestial bodies, developed a method of computing a ship’s position from the stars. A crude forerunner of the modern magnetic compass called Matsyayantra was being used around the fourth or fifth century CE. Between the fifth and tenth centuries CE, the Vijayanagara and Kalinga kingdoms of southern and eastern India had established their rules over Malaya, Sumatra and Western Java. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands then served as an important midway for trade between the Indian peninsula and these kingdoms, as also with China. The daily revenue from the western regions in the period 844-848 CE was estimated to be 200 maunds (eight tons) of gold.

Not only was there trade from ancient times, going to many areas of the globe, but other countries may have also been going to India. It is reported that marine archaeologists have found a stone anchor in the Gulf of Khambhat with a design similar to the ones used by Chinese and Japanese ships in the 12th-14th century CE, giving the first offshore evidence indicating India’s trade relations with the two Asian countries. The stone anchor was found during an exploration headed by two marine archaeologists, A. S. Gaur and B. K. Bhatt, from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). “Though there are a lot of references and Chinese pottery (found from coastal sites) indicating trade relations between the two Asian nations (China and Japan) in the past, but this anchor from the offshore region is the first evidence from Indian waters. Similar type of anchors have been found from Chinese and Japanese waters,” stated Mr. Gaur. 17

Furthermore, another recent finding that shows the ancient advancement of Indian maritime capabilities is the evidence that Indian traders may have gone to South America long before Columbus discovered America. Investigation of botanical remains from an ancient site, Tokwa at the confluence of Belan and Adwa rivers, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh (UP), has brought to light the agriculture-based subsistence economy during the Neolithic culture (3rd-2nd millennium BCE). They subsisted on various cereals, supplemented by leguminous seeds. Evidence of oil-yielding crops has been documented by recovery of seeds of Linum usitatissimum and Brassica juncea. Fortuitously, an important find among the botanical remains is the seeds of South American custard apple, regarded to have been introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The remains of custard apple as fruit coat and seeds have also been recorded from other sites in the Indian archaeological context, during the Kushana Period (CE 100-300) in Punjab and Early Iron Age (1300-700 BCE) in UP. The factual remains of custard apple, along with other stray finds, favor a group of specialists to support with diverse arguments the reasoning of Asian-American contacts way before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1498. 18

THE INDIAN NAVY AND SEA POWER

In the south especially there was an established navy in many coastal areas. The long coastline with many ports for trade for sending out ships and receiving traders from foreign countries necessitated a navy to protect the ships and ports from enemies. According to records, the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, and the Cheras had large naval fleets of ocean bound ships because these rulers also led expeditions against other places, such as Malayasia, Bali, and Ceylon.

The decline of Indian maritime power commenced in the thirteenth century, and Indian sea power had almost disappeared when the Portuguese arrived in India. They later imposed a system of license for trade, and set upon all Asian vessels not holding permits from them.

The piratical activities of the Portuguese were challenged by the Zamorins of Calicut when Vasco da Gama, after obtaining permission to trade, refused to pay the customs levy. Two major engagements were fought during this period. First, the battle of Cochin in 1503, clearly revealed the weakness of Indian navies and indicated to the Europeans an opportunity for building a naval empire. The second engagement off Diu in 1509 gave the Portuguese mastery over Indian seas and laid the foundation of European control over Indian waters for the next 400 years.

Indian maritime interests witnessed a remarkable resurgence in the late seventeenth century, when the Siddhis of Janjira allied with the Moghuls to become a major power on the West Coast. This led the Maratha King Shivaji to create his own fleet, which was commanded by able admirals like Sidhoji Gujar and Kanhoji Angre. The Maratha Fleet along with the legendary Kanhoji Angre held sway over the entire Konkan Coast keeping the English, Dutch and Portuguese at bay. The death of Angre in 1729 left a vacuum and resulted in the decline of Maratha sea power. Despite the eclipse of Indian kingdoms with the advent of western domination, Indian shipbuilders continued to hold their own well into the nineteenth century. The Bombay Dock completed in July 1735 is in use even today. Ships displacing 800 to 1000 tons were built of teak at Daman and were superior to their British counterparts both in design and durability. This so agitated British shipbuilders on the River Thames that they protested against the use of Indian built ships to carry trade from England. Consequently, active measures were adopted to cripple the Indian shipbuilding industries. Nevertheless, many Indian ships were inducted into the Royal Navy, such as HMS Hindostan in 1795, the frigate Cornwallis in 1800, HMS Camel in 1801, and HMS Ceylon in 1808. HMS Asia carried the flag of Admiral Codrington at the battle of Navarino in 1827, the last major sea battle to be fought entirely under sail.

Two Indian built ships witnessed history in the making. The Treaty of Nanking, ceding Hong Kong to the British, was signed onboard HMS Cornwallis in 1842. The “Star Spangled Banner” national anthem of the USA was composed by Francis Scott Key onboard HMS Minden when the ship was on a visit to Baltimore. Numerous other ships were also constructed, the most famous being HMS Trincomalee, which was launched on 19 October, 1817, carrying 86 guns and displacing 1065 tons. This ship was latter renamed Foudroyant.

The period of 4000 years between Lothal and Bombay Dock, therefore, offers tangible evidence of seafaring skills the nation possessed in the days of sail. In the early seventeenth century, when British naval ships came to India, they discovered the existence of considerable shipbuilding and repair skills, as well as seafaring people. An ideal combination was thus available for supporting a fighting force in India. 19

HOW THE BRITISH KILLED THE MARINE INDUSTRY OF INDIA

When the westerners made contact with India, they were amazed to see their ships. Until the 17th century, European ships were a maximum of 600 tonnes. But in India, they saw such big ships as the Gogha, which was more than 1500 tonnes. The European companies started using these ships and opened many new factories to make Indian artisans manufacture ships. In 1811, Lt. Walker writes, “The ships in the British fleet had to be repaired every 12th year. But the Indian ships made of teak would function for more than 50 years without any repair.” The East India Company had a ship called Dariya Daulat which worked for 87 years without any repairs. Durable woods like rosewood, sal and teak were used for this purpose.

The French traveler Waltzer Salvins writes in his book Le Hindu, in 1811, “Hindus were in the forefront of ship-building and even today they can teach a lesson or two to the Europeans. The British, who were very apt at learning the arts, learnt a lot of things about ship building from the Hindus. There is a very good blend of beauty and utility in Indian ships and they are examples of Indian handicrafts and their patience.” Between 1736 and 1863, 300 ships were built at factories in Mumbai. Many of them were included in the Royal Fleet. Of these, the ship called Asia was 2289 tonnes and had 84 cannons. Ship building factories were set up in Hoogly, Sihat, Chittagong, Dacca, etc. In the period between 1781 to 1821, in Hoogly alone 272 ships were manufactured which together weighed 122,693 tonnes.

In this connection, Suresh Soni, in his book India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, explains how India was deprived of its marine industry, but also from any notation in its ancient history of its ship-building ability. He writes:

“The shipping magnates of Britain could not tolerate the Indian art of ship manufacturing and they started compelling the East India Company not to use Indian ships. Investigations were frequently carried out in this regard. In 1811, Col. Walker gave statistics to prove that it was much cheaper to make Indian ships and that they were very sturdy. If only Indian ships were included in the British fleet, it would lead to great savings. This pinched the British shipbuilders and the traders. Dr. Taylor writes, ‘When the Indian ships laden with Indian goods reached the port of London, it created such a panic amongst the British traders as would not have been created, had they seen the enemy fleet of ships on the River Thames, ready for attack.’

“The workers at the London Port were among the first to make hue and cry and said that ‘all our work will be ruined and families will starve to death.’ The Board of Directors of East India Company wrote that ‘all the fear and respect that the Indian seamen had towards European behavior was lost when they saw our social life once they came here. When they return to their country, they will propagate bad things about us amongst the Asians and we will lose our superiority and the effect will be harmful.’ At this, the British Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Peel.

“Despite disagreement amongst the members of the committee on the basis of this report, a law was passed in 1814 according to which the Indians lost the right to become British sailors and it became compulsory to employ at least three-fourth British sailors on British ships. No ship which did not have a British master was allowed to enter London Port and a rule was made that only ships made by the British in England could bring goods to England. For many reasons, there was laxity in enforcing these rules, but from 1863 they were observed strictly. Such rules which would end the ancient art of ship-building, were formulated in India also. Tax on goods brought in Indian ships was raised and efforts were made to isolate them from trade. Sir William Digby has rightly written, ‘This way, the Queen of the western world killed the Queen of the eastern oceans.’ In short, this is the story about the destruction of the Indian art of ship-building.” 20

Of course, let us not forget that not only was commerce between ancient India and other countries made through maritime capabilities, but also through land routes that extended to China, Turkistan, Persia, Babylon, and also to Egypt, Greece, and Rome, which continued to prosper.

These days, India is still very much in the ship building business, mostly in small and medium size ships. As of 2009 there were 27 major shipyards, primarily in Mumbai, Goa, Vishakhapatnam, and Cochin.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the fact is that the ancient Vedic civilization had a strong connection with the sea, and maritime abilities. Even in their language of Vedic Sanskrit, words such as samudra, salil, sagar, and sindhu indicated the sea or large rivers. The word sindhuka also meant sailor, which became the name Sindbad for the sailor in Arabian Nights. Also, the English word navigation actually originates from the Sanskrit word Navagati.

Further evidence has been shown, such as that presented at a 1994 conference on seafaring in Delhi where papers had been presented that shows how Indian cotton was exported to South and Central America back in 2500 BCE. Another report suggested Indian cotton reached Mexico as far back as 4000 BCE, back to the Rig Vedic period. According to Sean McGrail, a marine archeologist at Oxford University, seagoing ships called ‘clinkers’ that were thought to be of Viking origin, were known in India a good deal earlier. Thus, India’s maritime trade actually flourished many years ago, along with many other of its advancements that are hardly recognized or accounted for today. 21

This helps reveal that India’s maritime trade actually flourished more and far earlier than most people realize. This was one of the ways Vedic culture had spread to so many areas around the world. Though the talents and capabilities that came out of ancient India’s Vedic civilization have often remained unrecognized or even demeaned when discussed, nonetheless, the Vedic people were far more advanced in culture and developments then many people seem to care to admit, and it is time to recognize it for what it was.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Lehrburger, Carl, Secrets of Ancient America: Archaeoastronomy and the Legacy of the Phoenicians, Celts, and Other Forgotten Explorers, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2015, p.209.

2. Kuppuram, G., India Through the Ages, pp 65..527-31.

3. Ibid., pp.527-31.

4. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.216.

5. Rao, S. R., Shipping in Ancient India, in India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 1970, p. 83.

6. Science and Technology in Ancient India, by Editorial Board of Vijnan Bharati, Mumbai, August, 2002, p. 105.

7. Ibid., pp. 108-09.

8. Ramachandran, K. S., Ancient Indian Maritime Adventures, in India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 1970, p. 74.

9. Soni, Suresh, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 68.

10. Ibid., p. 72.

11. Ibid., p. 73.

12. Shah, Niranjan, Little Known Facts About Shipping Activity in Ancient India, in India Tribune, January 8, 2006.

13. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 1) (Singhal, D. P., Red Indians or Asiomericans–Indian Settlers in Middle and South America, India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan Trust, Chennai, India 1970, p.644.

14. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.223.

15. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.235.

16. Kapur, Kamlesh, Portraits of a Nation: History of India, Sterling Publishers, Private Limited, 2010, pp. 414-15.

17. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/000200903151560.htm.

18. http://www.ias. ac.in/currsci/ jan252008/ 248.pdf.

19. http://indiannavy.nic.in/maritime_history.htm.

20. Soni, Suresh, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 74-75.

21. Frawley, Dr. David, and Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram, Hidden Horizons, Unearthing 10,000 Years of Indian Culture, Swaminarayan Aksharpith, Ahmedabad, India, 2006, p. 79.

How the Essence of Religion Came From Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

(An Excerpt from the book Mysteries of the Ancient Vedic Empire, by Stephen Knapp)

As we look over the various cultures and religions of the world, we may ask if all religious systems are divine. Though they seem to conflict with each other on various points, still there are many areas of truth in which they all agree. Or you could say that some of the same essential truths can be found within each of them. And by a careful comparison, we can trace the essence of that truth back to what was originally explained in the Vedas, the oldest of all written texts, and, more importantly, what was the most developed of all cultures and philosophies.

In this way, we can also trace these essential truths back from one religion to another, and how the Vedic culture influenced Zoroastrianism, which influenced Judaism, which influenced Christianity, which influenced Islam. However, each succeeding religion became more distant from the original spiritual teachings and understanding, until each one thought that, rather than offering truths and processes to be followed, they promoted the idea that they were also the only way, superior to all else. When, actually, they were becoming increasingly narrow in their views, and less able to give people true enlightenment by showing how to uplift their consciousness to perceive the spiritual dimension, but demanding merely blind faith to follow it or go to hell, or some other such thing. This strategy hardly offers any real improvement or social upliftment, other than offering what may be a few moral principles, but little of any genuine spiritual development. And this is the loss, and what becomes a complete misdirection of the actual purpose of a spiritual path.

One of the early religions that others are traced back to is Zoroastrianism. But even this can be traced further back to the Vedic culture and the Rig Veda. To help explain some of this, we will reference Suhotra Swami’s book Dimensions of Good and Evil, where he describes what he calls the “Zoroastrian Nexus.”

It starts with a person named Jarutha described in the Rig Veda in less than complimentary terms, wherein he is against the sage Vasistha. It is also said (RV 7.9.6) that Vasistha had later killed Jarutha, possibly with Agni, fire. In the Rig Veda (7.13.1) Agni is also called the demon (asura) slayer.

In the Vedic texts, Jarutha is also called Jarasabdha. The Bhavishya Purana (Chapters 139-140) describes the history of the Maga Jarasabdha. The word maga refers to a dynasty of priests whom Jarasabdha was a progenitor, born in the family line of vira aditya, the powerful Aditya, meaning the sun god. So worship of the sun was important in their line.

Mandala Seven of the Rig Veda talks about Vasistha’s devotion to Varuna. Varuna was a great god of the rivers and seas, and was also called Asura-maya in the Rig Veda. Asura-maya means lord of the demons, the non-Vedics, because Varuna had power over the demonic undersea creatures. (Asura comes from the Sanskrit asun-rati, meaning he who gives life or rejuvenates, and maya because he measured out the sky. The word asura later became connected with those who were against the Vedic standards.)

Vasistha was fathered by the demigods Varuna and Mitra. It seems that both Jarutha and Vasistha were priests of Varuna, but a rivalry broke out between the two. Because of this rivalry, Jarutha left the Vedic culture and preached something different. He did not accept the Vedic standards and began to promote a different view, which was not accepted by Varuna. Due to this disagreement, Varuna cursed Jarutha and rejected him from Brahminical culture. So Jarutha was expelled from the region of Bharatvarsha, and he went to Persia. There he was able to propagate his own religion and philosophy.

In the region of Persia, Jarutha became known as Zarathustra, and began what became known as Zoroastrianism, called after his other name Zoroaster, which is a Greek derivative from the name Zarathustra. But even historically it is known that his early teachings aroused great hostility towards him.

In ancient Iran, the hereditary priestly caste was called the Magi. So it appears that the lineage of Maga Jarasabdha (Jarutha, Zarathustra) began from Varuna, the chief of the solar deities. In the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta, the name of God is Ahura-mazda, which matches Varuna’s Vedic title of Asura-maya. So, Zarathustra changed what had been the Vedic view into a different philosophy. Ahura Mazda, which means Wise Lord, became the name of the Zoroastrian God.

Furthermore, the Vedic demigods are headed by Brihaspati, whose other name is Angirasa, from where we get the name of Angra Mainyu in Zoroastrianism, who is depicted as the devil or Satan. So the Satan of Zoroastrianism is the Vedic spiritual master of the demigods.

In this way, Jarutha took the side of the demons and, though accepting Varuna as the main god, he promoted the idea that the non-Vedics were superior in their position. Basically, his philosophy was a rejection of the Vedic view, and he refashioned it in his own way. So there were still many Vedic aspects that remained. Even the language in the Zend Avesta is very similar to Sanskrit, and contains much pre-Zoroastrian material that can be related to the Rig Veda.

Nonetheless, Jarutha/Zarathustra called the demons Ahuras, or the pious ones, opposite of the Vedic view of them being called asuras, the demons. He also called them the daivas, similar to the Sanskrit name devas for demigods. In this way, the whole philosophy of Zoroastrianism was to take the Vedic philosophy and turn it upside down. So in Zoroastrianism the power of darkness became the power of light because he agreed with the non-Vedic point of view.

The point is that now we had Angra Mainyu as the name of the devil and Ahura Mazda as the name of God in this new faith. This idea of a God and a counterpart known as the devil, who could threaten the plans of God and divert the good intentions of the pious, now appeared for the first time, and is what filtered down through other religions of that region, including Judaism, Christianity and then Islam. The basis of this whole idea was pure concoction. And this idea and lack of higher spiritual knowledge is what has negatively affected any of the philosophies that followed this premise. This was because Zoroaster had accepted one demigod in contrast to another, rather than accepting the purer form of Lord Vishnu or Krishna as the Supreme, who has no rival. However, even in the Vedic system there may be evil spirits, subtle beings who are misguided and malevolent, and who cause trouble, but they are not beings who can threaten the will of the Supreme Lord.

As Suhotra Swami explains further: “It is curious how Zoroastrianism amplified this dualism [of a devil against God]. In the Vedic version, Asura-maya, Varuna, lord of the waters, dwells in the depths of the cosmic Garbhodaka Ocean, far below the earth. Yama’s [Yamaraja, the lord of death] underworld heaven and hell are very near that ocean; in the matter of chastising the sinful, Yama and Varuna are closely allied. In the Zoroastrian version, Ahura-mazda (Varuna) is the lord of light who gave his servant Yima an underworld kingdom called Vara, a realm that, while dark to human eyes, is mystically illuminated. In the Vedic version, Mitra and Varuna are a pair of demigods who in ancient times served the Supreme Lord as a team by supervising the realms of light and darkness. In the Zoroastrian version, Varuna is the supreme lord. Mitra is his light. The mantle of darkness (evil) is worn by an unceasing enemy of Ahura-mazda named Angra Mainyu or Ahriman. It appears that Angra Mainyu is the Vedic Angirasa (Brihaspati), spiritual master of the devas and a great foe of Shukracharya, the spiritual master of the asuras. From Mahabharata 1.66.54-55 we learn that Varuna took the daughter of Shukracharya, named Varuni, as his first wife.

“In the Vedic version, the powers of light and darkness or good and evil are not ultimate. By taking them to be ultimate, and moreover by reversing them (portraying the asuras as good and the devas as evil), Zarathustra twisted the Supreme Lord’s purpose for the cosmos that is administered on His behalf by such agents as Varuna, Yama and Brihaspati. Zoroastrianism was a revolutionary departure from Vedic philosophy.” (Suhotra Swami, Dimensions of Good and Evil, pp. 120-121)

Professor Norman Cohn, who heads an influential school of thought among religious historians, feels that the teachings of Zarathustra are the source of the philosophy of the apocalypse, the end of times–the belief in a final war between God’s army of angels and the devil’s army of demons. It is this idea that has continued down through various religions today.

In Zoroastrianism, this apocalyptic war was expected to start with the appearance of a messiah or savior, named Saoshyant, who would prevail against the forces of evil, at which time the dead would be resurrected from their graves. Then there would be a great assembly which would be a final judgment of all souls, the wicked ones would be destroyed and the righteous would become immortal, and the kingdom of God would be established on earth, wherein the righteous would enjoy life forever. It was the first time this sort of idea was promoted.

This has paved the way for many believers who are waiting for the end of times, the end of days, and they see signs of its approach in every evil thing that happens around them, expecting that they will be delivered to eternity in a resurrected but purified material body on a new earth. All of this shows a lack of deeper spiritual understanding, which has also paved the way for what can be seen as a sense of religious superiority, the feeling that my religion is better than yours and is the only way to salvation in the eyes of God. And from this has spread humongous quarrels, torture, hatred, and war, from nothing more than what has been traced back to a product of someone’s imagination simply because he rejected the Vedic system.

This borrowing from one religion to another can be recognized in many other ways as well. So let us look at a few more. For example, the idea that Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden that we find in the Bible, and where they are tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit by Satan, is almost entirely taken from the Jewish scriptures. Also the description of angels, such as Gabriel, Michael, Azrael, and Israfil, who have particular positions and purposes as we find in the Jewish tradition, which took these from the Persians, was also borrowed by Mohammed, who was said to have been given what became the Islamic teachings from the angel Gabriel.

Another example is the bridge to heaven. This is called Al Sirat by Mohammed. This is said to go over the abyss of hell, and is said to be finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword. Being led by Mohammed, Muslims are supposed to easily cross over it, whereas the wicked will lose their footing and fall into hell beneath them. However, the Jews had previously spoken of the bridge of hell, which is also no wider than a thread. But going further back, both the Muslims and the Jews are equally indebted to the Zoroastrians who had taught that on the last day, all men will be forced to pass over such a bridge, in their language called Pul Chinavad. 1

Even the concept of heaven and hell can be traced back to Zoroastrianism. Of course, there were also descriptions of both the heavenly and hellish planets in the Puranic texts. This was adopted by Zarathushtra and explained in the Gathas that heaven, or Garo-de-mana (Garotman in Persian), is where the angels sing hymns to God. This is described in the Yas xxxviii, 10; xxxiv, 2, which agrees with a similar description in Isaiah VI and Revelation of St. John.

Another example is the idea of paradise. In the Islamic faith, after crossing the Al Sirat, the faithful will reach paradise, which is situated in the seventh heaven. In this paradise, there are beautiful gardens, furnished with springs, fountains, and rivers, along with milk, honey, and trees with trunks of gold which produce the most delicious fruits. And more attractive than that are the 70 or so ravishingly beautiful girls called hur-ul-ayun on account of their big black eyes. However, most of this description is indebted to the Jews, for which, unfortunately, many of the Muslims have a great dislike. In the Jewish texts, such as Gemar Tanith, f. 25; Biracoth, f.34; Nidrash Sabboth, f. 37, all relate the future mansion of heaven as being a delicious garden in the seventh heaven. And the Midrash, Yalkut Shewini also describes it as having three gates with four rivers flowing with milk, wine, balsam, and honey. Anyone can see the similarities, one religion inheriting or borrowing from the other.

However, the Zoroastrians also described paradise in a similar manner. Paradise was called Bihisht and Minum which indicates crystal, where the righteous will enjoy all manner of delights, especially the company of huran-i-Bihisht or black-eyed nymphs of paradise, the care of whom is under the angel Zamiyad. So this seems to be the roots of the nymphs of paradise that was borrowed by later religions. Also, in one of the later writings of the Parsis (a group of Zoroastrians), the Nama Mihabad (40 & 41) describes that the lowest order of heaven is where the residents will enjoy all the delights of this world; nymphs, male and female slaves, meat and drink, clothing and bedding, articles of furniture, and other things too many to describe. 2 Of course, this sounds like hardly anything spiritual, but merely a continuation of the comforts any materialist would dream of having. Surely an enticing picture for those who think they deserve it.

Even Satan or the principle of evil is often described as a serpent, first in the Zend Avesta in Zoroastrianism, which in turn gave this to Christianity, and then on to Islam. Thus, all these often depict the evil principle as a serpent. 3 The German philosopher Schopenhaur also recognized this, as he stated in his book Religion and Other Essays (p.III): “And this confirms the views which has been established on other grounds that Jehova is a transformation of Ormuzd [Ahura Mazda], and Satan of the Ahriman [Angra Mainyu] who must be taken in connection that Ormuzd himself is a transformation of Indra [the Vedic demigod of heaven].”

We must consider, in this example, that in the Vedic philosophy, heaven is still a part of the temporary material creation and is not a part of the spiritual world. Therefore, Indra is a demigod and not the Supreme Being of the spiritual domain, which is beyond and outside the material worlds.

Another idea was the resurrection of the body, which actually is not found in the Vedic principles, but started with the Zoroastrian doctrine. The whole idea that during the last judgment the body would be resurrected was then accepted by the Jews, who lent it further to the Christians, especially through the teachings of Paul who was previously a Jew anyway, and then it went to Islam. The seed of this idea can be found in the Zend Avesta where it states (Zamyad Yasht XIX, 89-90): “This splendour attaches itself to the hero (who is to rise out of the number) of prophets (called Saoshyant) and to his companions, in order to make life everlasting, undecaying, imperishable, imputriscible, incorruptible, for ever existing, for ever vigorous, full of power, (at the time) when the dead shall rise again, and imperishableness of life shall commence, making life lasting by itself (without further support). All the world will remain for eternity in a state of righteousness; the devil will disappear from all those places whence he used to attack the righteous man in order to kill (him), and all his brood and creatures will be doomed to destruction.”

Herein we can see the Vedic premise of the eternal nature of the soul within the body, which will continue after the death of the body, but it has been misinterpreted to be the idea that the body is what will rise again. That it will live without the influence of the illusory nature, which here is suggested as the freedom from the presence of the devil, the principle of evil or illusion. And once free in this way, the living being can reach his full potential, such as described here as being indestructible, vigorous, everlasting, etc. This is all but a misinterpretation of the Vedic spiritual concepts, but filtered through the idea that the body is still the permanent identity of the eternal soul. We could discuss this for a lengthy time, which I have already done in some of my other books, but here we will leave it at this.

Even the Islamic phrase from the Koran “La-Elah-illiullah” (there is no God but God) is nothing but a repeat of the Zoroastrian formula “Nest ezad Magar Yazdan.”

Also, as every chapter of the Koran (except the ninth) opens with the words “Bismillah uar Rahman er Rahim,” this merely corresponds to the same formula which begins the Zoroastrian books, namely “Banam Yazdan Bakhshish gar dadar,” both basically meaning “in the name of the most merciful God.” So one is not so unique from the other, though they do not realize this.

As the Vedic followers called themselves Aryas or Aryans, the Parsis also called themselves Aryas, as described in the Zend Avesta, in such places as, “To the glory of the Aryas,” (Sirozah I, 9); “We sacrifice unto the glory of the Aryas made by Mazda,” (Sirozah II, 9); “How shall the country of the Aryas grow fertile,” (VIII, Yast, 9); “Ahura Mazda said, If men sacrifice unto Vretreghna made by Ahura… never will a hostile horde enter the Aryan countries, nor any plague, nor leprosy, nor venomous plants, nor the chariot of a foe, nor the uplifted spear of a foe.” (Bahram Yast, 48)

The question should be: Is it not about time for the Muslims to realize how much of their doctrines, ideas and sayings were inherited from previous cultures and religions, like Judaism and also Zoroastrianism? It can hardly be called a new revelation or special message from God. Each religion professes that their God is merciful, kind and loving. Or that their prophet or savior is giving something new. But as we find by studying the Koran and the Old Testament of the Bible, the revengeful nature of the God of the Torah is very much the same as the threatening nature of Allah in the Koran, where there are certain passages that tell the followers to make war upon and slay the infidels. These are both far different than the love for your neighbor that was recommended by Jesus in the New Testament. 4

As explained by Ganga Prasad in his book The Fountain-Head of Religion: “As for Zoroastrianism, its theism is in no way inferior to that of either Judaism or Mohammedanism. ‘Ahurmazda’ says the Rev. L. H. Mills, ‘is one of the purest conceptions which had yet been produced, and–we might add–is undoubtedly the prototype of the God of the Koran as well as the God of the Bible… But however superior to the belief of his contemporaries, the theism of the Koran can hardly be said to be superior to that of Judaism. The claim of the Koran, therefore, to be an independent revelation of God, on the plea of teaching a better theism than Judaism and Zorastrianism, to which it can be traced, is untenable.’” 5 Plus, the conception of Ahura-mazda was but a carry-over from the basics of the Vedic understanding of God.

There are also many similarities between the parables of Buddhism and Christianity, and between the lives of Buddha and Christ. Both are said to have been miraculously born, at which time they were surrounded by great omens, with a star presiding over each, in which case for Buddha was the Pushya Nakshatra. Both were visited by wise men upon their birth, such as when the rishi Asita came to King Suddhodana to see the newborn Buddha, and wise men came to Jerusalem to worship Jesus, as explained in the book of Matthew. And as the evil spirit of Mara came to tempt Gautama before he became the Buddha, Satan also tempted Jesus. Furthermore, many of the teachings of Jesus in the area of compassion, mercy, kindness, and inward development were also the same as or similar to those of Buddha. We could go on with many more of these kinds of similarities, others of which I have described in my book Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence.

Furthermore, just as in the Vedic traditions there was the spiritual river of the Ganges (considered to be descending from the spiritual Karana Ocean) or the Yamuna (considered spiritually purified because Lord Krishna played in it), and wherein devotees would take a dip to be spiritually purified, the Hebrews also accepted the Jordan River whose waters were used for the same purpose, especially for baptizing to be free from one’s past sins.

In regard to the similarities between Sanskrit and the language of the Zend Avesta, even Max Muller recognized this very clearly. He went on to explain in his Chips From a German Workshop (Volume I, pp. 82-3): “It is clear from his (Eugene Burnouf’s) works and from Bopp’s valuable remarks in his ‘Comparative Grammar’ that Zend in its Grammar and Dictionary is nearer to Sanskrit than any other Indo-European language; many Zend words can be retranslated into Sanskrit simply by changing the Zend letters into their corresponding forms in Sanskrit… It differs from Sanskrit principally in its sibilants, nasals and aspirates. The Sanskrit s, for instance, is represented by the Zend h… Where Sanskrit differs in words or grammatical peculiarities from the northern members of the Aryan family, it frequently coincides with Zend. The numerals are the same up to 100. The name thousand, however, sahasra, is peculiar to Sanskrit and does not occur in any of the Indo-European dialects except in Zend, where it becomes hazanra.” 6

Even the biblical rendition of the universal creation, as described in Genesis, was adopted from that given in the Parsi scriptures, which is but a summary of that given in the Vedic literature, which is practically the most elaborate version of the process of the universal creation found anywhere in any religious text.

One last example of similarities that we will look at is the premise for the next appearance of a savior, or a second coming, after which everyone will rise again to live in a world of peace and God consciousness, without evil, or when their tribe will triumph over their enemies. This gives any believer a great deal of faith and hope in the future that they will be saved or delivered, if they continue to follow that particular religion. However, the idea that God or His prophet will appear again is not new, but was first related in regard to the avataras of God in the Vedic tradition.

As Lord Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita (4.7): “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself.”

However, unlike other religions, Lord Krishna descends in regularly scheduled appearances for specific purposes. It is not that He will descend one last time and that is the end. That is incomplete information. But He will continue to appear in the material creation as the need arises, throughout the various time periods known as yugas. These avataras are fully described in the Puranas so we can understand when and how often They will appear. Therein we see that God regularly descends into the material worlds in His different forms at different times to give society the spiritual knowledge they need to know in order to attain the purpose of life.

The Vedic texts also describe the next appearance of God in the future, this time as Lord Kalki when He will appear at the end of Kali-yuga to bring in the next golden age known as Satya-yuga. Therein He will kill all the miscreant kings and rulers and relieve the world of this burden and bring back a time of peace, harmony, cooperation, and God-consciousness. And this schedule of avataras continues through Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga, and again into Kali-yuga, all of which continue to repeat as many as 1000 cycles, called a kalpa or day of Brahma. In any case, this is the basis of any religion’s idea for the next coming of God.

All of these various similarities would show that many of the world’s religions and their legends and traditions, and even their precepts are to a great extent derived from Vedic culture. They may not be directly the same, but it is easy to see upon careful study that Christianity owes much to Vedic Dharma. Or as Max Muller said in his book Chips From a German Workshop (Volume I, Introduction, p.11), “There has been no entirely new religion since the beginning of the world. If we once understand this clearly, the words of St. Augustine, which have seemed startling to many of his admirers, become perfectly clear and intelligible, when he says, ‘what is now called the Christian religion has existed among the ancients and was not absent from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, from which time the true religion, which existed already, began to be called Christian.’” 7

In this way, we can understand that the earliest of spiritual knowledge, which can be accepted as that found in the most elaborate Vedic texts, has but filtered down through generations, and that each successive religion did little but adopt in its own way or interpretation of what was already there, and that the essential spiritual truths found in all religions are but inheritances of the more elaborate teachings found in the Vedic texts and traditions. Thus, Vedic Sanatana-Dharma is like the roots and trunk of the tree of the various religions, which are like the branches of the tree. Just as rivers ultimately meet at the sea with a common goal, in spite of coming from different areas and conditions, as if coming to their ultimate unity, similarly Vedic Dharma is like the parent authority and root of all other religions.

Unfortunately, the Parsi, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions do not discuss in depth such things as the law of karma and reincarnation, even though these are mentioned in places or hinted at, but hardly described or analyzed very deeply. They do not discuss the nature or size of the soul, the soul’s transcendence beyond the body, nor do they mention the idea of a Supersoul. Nor do they describe much about the nature of God, His characteristics, personality, how He looks, or His numerous pastimes, except in only the briefest of ways. It seems, therefore, that the higher spiritual knowledge actually becomes reduced in succeeding religions as the information is passed down over the following generations of religious traditions. In Judaism, Christianity and then Islam, the true depth of spiritual knowledge was increasingly forgotten. Even the detailed descriptions of God and His real loving nature, as found in the Vedic literature, has similarly deteriorated in passing from the Vedas and Puranas into the Zend Avesta, the Old Testament, Bible, and further down the line. Therefore, to get back to the heart of the matter, we must get back to the roots, where it all began, with the Vedic tradition.

The evidence provided in this chapter concludes that at a very remote time, long before the dawn of history, the forefathers of all Aryan nations, such as India, Persia, Afghanistan, and even most if not all of Europe, lived under the banner of one common religion. Their common name was Arya, which they gave to Aryavarta (ancient India, the land of the Aryans), as well as to Iran (Persia), and other countries. In this way, Sanskrit was the mother of all Aryan languages, just as the Vedic religion is the parent of all religions which prevailed in all branches of the Aryan family, and we can recognize the remnants of this in many parts of the world today, if only we are educated in understanding what is the real Vedic Aryan culture.

It is this Vedic culture that gave humanity the deepest level of spirituality that has descended and circulated around the world in the various ways and into the religions that followed. The previous chapters of this book should have clearly illustrated this point.

Furthermore, there are three distinctions between any of the bone fide religions today, and that is: 1) The area in the world in which the religion was taught, 2) the time in history in which it appeared, and 3) the capacity of the people to understand it. In this way, only so much spiritual knowledge could be given if the people of the area were not able to comprehend deep spiritual knowledge. Saint Tukaram also saw these distinctions when he said, “the teaching is as per the capacity of the taught.” Because of this, in some cases the knowledge is given in a straightforward manner, such as we see in the Vedic literature in which so many questions are asked, and so many deep answers are provided, with the means by which the student can actually realize and perceive the spiritual truths that are described. In other religions we see the use of parables and stories, in which the followers can only understand the preliminary principles, which often go no farther than establishing the moral ethics by which to live. They often do not hold much in the way of higher spiritual principles. This means that to understand deeper spiritual truths, the person must go elsewhere.

This is like the difference between an abridged dictionary and an unabridged dictionary. They both hold the same knowledge, but one is more complete than the other. The unabridged dictionary will contain hundreds or thousands more words than the abridged dictionary. This is the same difference between the religions. The Vedic texts will contain much more spiritual knowledge and information on understanding God or the Absolute Truth. So the more complete religion or spiritual path will give you the deeper means of understanding who you are and your relationship with God and all other beings. It will also provide you the process by which you can spiritualize your consciousness to the degree in which you can begin to directly perceive this higher reality. It is much more mature and developed, over and above those that are simplified and elementary. A most developed religion will also facilitate one’s becoming free from attachment, selfishness, violence, malice and hatred, by which a person can more easily focus on the spiritual nature of oneself and God, and the unity we all share with each other in that light. Whereas a religion that is incomplete and allows followers to hold on to these negative characteristics, especially violence, hatred toward others, emphasis on our differences, etc., will keep one bound up to this earthly plane of duality, which is the exact opposite purpose of any genuine spiritual process.

Vedic Dharma, on the other hand, is defined as that which leads to glory, peace, prosperity, and elevates society to liberation from this earthly existence. It is the understanding that this world is not our real home, never was and never will be. But it is also the portal through which, by living the right way, can propel us into the spiritual dimension, far away from this temporary earthly existence. This is why Vedic Dharma is meant to help all of society, and not divide society into those who are “saved” and those who are not. It teaches society to discard hatred toward one another and attain mental peace and internal contentment. This is actually meant to be the fundamental principle of all religions, which then encourages right conduct for attaining realization of the Eternal Truth, the reality of who and what you really are, and your relation to the Supreme Lord.

However, the attainment of moksha or liberation from material existence is unique in Vedic culture because most religions proclaim the ideal of merely reaching heaven, which is still considered part of the material creation. Yes, moksha also means rising above material suffering, ignorance, and the attainment of the Eternal Truth and bliss, right here and right now, in this life. It is not necessarily something that only can be attained after death. Whereas the non-Vedic religions often put emphasis on moral conduct, social behavior, ethics, etc., for reaching heaven in the next life, mainly with the idea of continuing the enjoyment of material facilities, yet give little emphasis on deeper spiritual philosophy. So in such religions there remains many philosophical questions for which there are limited answers. But it is up to the individual to choose which process he or she wants to accept in reaching a natural level of spiritual realization. That is why no Vedic or Hindu sect has tried to propagate or increase their followers through the use of the sword or by force, or through fear of torture, intimidation, or other such means. There is no history that shows the use of brutality for the propagation of Vedic culture. It is spread only through the purity of its teachings and the means by which people can use it for their own enlightenment. It is that means alone which is meant to attract people to investigate and then follow this spiritual way of life. It is meant to be a natural process, not forced.

This is why Dharmists, Hindus or devotees do not interfere in the religion of others and expect the same respect in return. This is also why anyone of any religion can easily live amongst those who follow Vedic Dharma.

Vedic culture contains a philosophy that goes back to a time beyond history, and has developed over millenniums. Even Sanskrit is considered to have descended from the Shabda-brahman, or the spiritual vibration that exists outside of the material creation, beyond time and space. Furthermore, we find that the insights given by the great rishis and sages are coming from a spiritually realized level of consciousness that is beyond mere faith or cultivated knowledge. Such insights and revelations come from a level of direct spiritual perception and experience, with the means and directions given to others so we can follow them to attain our own realizations.

The completeness of the Vedic spiritual philosophy can be seen with but a small analysis. This does not mean there are not great amounts of wisdom in all religions, but where else are you going to go to understand the roots of the knowledge of karma, or reincarnation, or the science of the nature or size and location of the soul, or the understanding of the Paramatma or Supersoul, and the means to unite with the Supreme? Where else are you going to find such detailed descriptions about God, or our relationship with God, or so many instructions given by God, or the means to acquire a direct connection with God? What other religion has such clear descriptions about the spiritual realm and how to reach that level of existence? We need to recognize the unique nature of the Vedic tradition and its philosophy.

Furthermore, the Vedic spiritual path offers the view that every creature is sacred. Spiritually we are all of the same quality. As explained in the Sri Ishopanishad: ishavasyam idam sarvam, yat kincha jagatyam jagat, which means that everything in this creation, both animate and inanimate, is part of the Lord’s energy, and that God’s energy is within all beings. Therefore, every creature has a spiritual significance. Plus, through the Vedic system of spiritual development, everyone can access that spiritual perception. It is not a matter of faith, but a process of realization. The Vedic process begins with faith, as all spiritual paths do, but if the path is practiced properly, it is expected to bring you to the level of having your own spiritual realizations and perception. And to do this there are so many means of assistance, such as the instructions from the Vedic texts, guidance from the realized gurus, and the association of other sadhus or devotees, all meant to help inspire and propel you forward to higher and higher levels of spiritual perception, realization and experience.

However, in Western religions, it is often presented that a follower can only attain such access through the approval of or connection with the church or religious institution. Without that, then you are finished, sometimes to eternal damnation, depending on the religion. In this way, the religion creates an air of exclusiveness, that the only way you can understand anything spiritual or have a connection with God is by accepting that particular church or denomination, or their specific savior or prophet. And, of course, the only people that are privileged to being “saved” are those who follow that same religion. Quite honestly, this is a very shallow level of understanding, like showing your allegiance to your religion by disliking, demeaning or even hating all others.

The Vedic or Dharmic approach to spiritual development is the antithesis of this. There is no restriction to spiritual knowledge, and all questions can be asked. The avenues of spiritual discovery are the guru (spiritual teacher), shastra (spiritual texts) and sadhus (other devotees or sages). This leads to the freedom of choice in the ways of understanding and ultimately experiencing the Divine. This is the real goal of human life. Everyone is coming from different backgrounds, and everyone has different lessons to learn. So personal investigations to find spiritual truth should be allowed and provided for everyone. It should not be controlled or limited by any certain religious persuasion.

This should especially be the case when we realize the premise of this chapter, that the essence and heart of all spiritual knowledge is descending from Vedic culture, Sanatana-Dharma, and that to get to the deepest level of spiritual understanding would be to take a deeper look at what it has to offer all of humanity, socially and individualistically, not only for peace, compassion, cooperation, harmony, etc., but to attain a closer link with the Divine. Nothing else offers a higher level of happiness, completeness or fulfillment, which is ultimately for what everyone is searching. This is the purpose of life.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Prasad, Ganga, The Fountain-Head of Religion: A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin From the Vedas, The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, U.P., 1927, p.5.

2. Ibid., p.6.

3. Prasad, Ganga, The Fountain-Head of Religion: A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin From the Vedas, The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, U.P., 1927, p.59.

4. Ibid., pp.11-13.

5. Ibid., p.13.

6. Muller, Max, Chips From a German Workshop, Volume I, pp. 82-3.

7. Prasad, Ganga, The Fountain-Head of Religion: A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin From the Vedas, The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, U.P., 1927, p.26.

A Look at India From the Views of Other Scholars

(Excerpt from Mysteries of the Ancient Vedic Empire by Stephen Knapp)

First of all, why should we consider that Ancient India was so important? What did it have to offer anyone? And what did others have to say about Vedic India? And what difference does it make if it did spread over such a wide area and into so many different countries? And even if it did, why would this make a difference today?

If we have not studied the ancient Vedic culture, then there may be more about it that we should understand. After all, it is still the oldest living indigenous culture on the planet. It is not dead yet, and never will be. That alone says something of its universal nature. And if we have studied it, then we should review some of the impressions that India made in the minds of other people to better understand its importance.

THE WIDE INFLUENCE OF VEDIC INDIA

First of all, as explained in The Ancient World by John Haywood, “India is the birthplace of two of the world’s great religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, nearly half the world’s population live in countries whose cultural development has been influenced by one or both of these religions. Apart from India itself, these countries include China, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Indonesia. The influence of ancient India was not just limited to its religions. Indian mathematicians were the first in the Old World to discover the mathematical value of zero, and gave the world quadratic equations and the now universally used system of ‘Arabic’ numerals. The alphabets of Tibet, Mongolia and all of the Southeast Asian languages are of Indian origin. Yet despite their wide-ranging influence, the early civilizations of the Indian subcontinent are the least well known of any of the ancient civilizations.” 1

Let me add that how the influence of the Vedic culture of ancient India, Bharatvarsha, spread throughout the world is also hardly understood. This is why I have put together the present volume. And, as mentioned above, the advancements that were developed within and spread outside of India is also rarely recognized, which is why I have explained these ancient advancements, many of which the world now takes for granted, in my book Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture.

Many others also had complimentary things to say about the importance of India and its Vedic traditions, such as Mark Twain: “Let us remember,… That India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit, the mother of Europe’s languages; that she was the mother of our philosophy, mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics, mother, through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.” 2

Mark Twain went on to say: “This is India! Cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations,… one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects. India is the prime source of human development.” 3

William H Gilbert said in his Peoples of India: “In the history of human culture, the contribution of the Indian people in all fields has been of the greatest importance. From India we are said to have derived domestic poultry, shellac, lemons, cotton, jute, rice, sugar, indigo, the buffalo, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, sugar-cane, the games of chess, pachisi, and polo, the zero concept, the decimal system, the basis of certain philological concepts, a wealth of fables with moral import, an astonishing variety of artistic products, and innumerable ideas of philosophy and religion such as asceticism and monasticism.”

In this same regard, Rabindranatha Tagore also related, “I cannot but bring to your mind those days when the whole of Eastern Asia, from Burma to Japan was united with India in the closest ties of friendship.”

A. L. Basham also felt that India was extremely important, as he says in his Cultural History of India: “There are four main cradles of civilization, from which elements of culture have spread to other parts of the world. These are, moving from east to west, China, the Indian subcontinent, the ‘Fertile Crescent’, and the Mediterranean, especially Greece and Italy. Of these four areas, India deserves a larger share of the credit than she is usually given, because, on a minimum assessment, she has deeply affected the religious life of most of Asia, as well as extending her influence, directly or indirectly, to other parts of the world.”

Pierre Sonnerat also explained, “We find among the Indians the vestiges of the most remote antiquity… We know that all peoples came there to draw the elements of their knowledge… India, in her splendour, gave religions and laws to all the other peoples; Egypt and Greece owed to her both their fables and their wisdom.” 4

The German historian and novelist Friedrich Schlegel saw in Sanskrit the “original language,” or what is now called the Proto-Indo-European language, and declared in 1803 that, “Everything without exception is of Indian origin… ” 5 Also, “Whether directly or indirectly, all nations are originally nothing but Indian colonies… The oriental antiquity could, if we consented to deepen it, bring us back more safely towards the divine.” 6

Regardless of how much various religions in the past or even today have tried to wipe out or minimize the advanced nature of Vedic culture, they still could not do that, as explained as follows by Higgins: “The peninsula of India would be one of the first peopled countries, and its inhabitants would have all the habits of the progenitors of man before the flood in as much perfection or more than any other nation… In short, whatever learning man possessed before his dispersion may be expected to be found here, and of this, Hindustan affords innumerable traces… notwithstanding … the fruitless efforts of our priests to disguise it.” 7

Even Vedic culture’s deep spirituality is found to be the underlying basis of other religions, as explained by Maurice Maeterlinck: “Thanks to the labors of a science which is comparatively recent, and more especially to the researches of the students of Hindu and Egyptian antiquities, it is very much easier today than it was not so long ago to discover the source, to ascend the course and unravel the underground network of that great mysterious river which since the beginning of history has been flowing beneath all the religions, all the faiths, and all the philosophies: in a word, beneath all the visible and everyday manifestations of human thought. It is now hardly to be contested that this source is to be found in ancient India. Thence in all probability the sacred teaching spread into Egypt, found its way to ancient Persia and Chaldea, permeated the Hebrew race, and crept into Greece and the north of Europe, finally reaching China and even America.” 8

Professor James Traub, in India–The Challenge of Change, goes on to say: “Five thousand years ago, civilization of India was age-old. This civilization should be much older with many millennia of human endeavor behind it. Five thousand years ago, when the peoples of Europe were hauling stones across the face of the continent and grubbing out a meager existence, Indians throughout what is now western and southern Pakistan and Punjab, and even farther to the East, were living in elaborately designed cities, with sturdy houses, broad, straight roads, public baths, and drainage systems that were hardly equaled until the Roman era three thousand years later…. But five thousand years ago, according to archeologist John Marshal, the Indus Valley civilization was already age-old and stereotyped on Indian soil, with many millennia of human endeavor behind it. Usually we think of Mesopotamia as the cradle of civilization, but evidence suggests that the society of northwestern India, which has preserved its essential spirit over countless generations, deserve equal billing.”

Not only was the Vedic Indian influence recognized to the west of India, but also far to the east, as explained by Rene Grousset in Farther India and the Malay Archipelago (Volume II): “In the high plateau of eastern Iran, in the oases of Serindia, in the arid wastes of Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria, in the ancient civilized lands of China and Japan, in the lands of the primitive Mons and Khmers and other tribes of India-China, in the countries of the Malaya-Polynesians, in Indonesia and Malay, India left the indelible impress of her high culture, not only upon religion, but also upon art, and literature, in a word, all the higher things of spirit… There is an obstinate prejudice thanks to which India is constantly represented as having lived, as it were, hermetically sealed up in its age-old civilization, apart from the rest of Asia. Nothing could be more exaggerated. During the first eight centuries of our era, so far as religion and art are concerned, central Asia was a sort of Indian colony. It is often forgotten that in the early Middle Ages there existed a ‘Greater India,’ a vast Indian empire. A man coming from the Ganges or the Deccan to Southeast Asia felt as much at home there as in his own native land. In those days the Indian Ocean really deserved its name.”

Will Durant in his Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, goes on to say, “It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to us such questionable gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all, our numerals and our decimal system. But these are not the essence of her spirit; they are trifles compared to what we may learn from her in the future. As invention, industry and trade bind the continents together, or as they fling us into conflict with Asia, we shall study its civilization more closely, and shall absorb, even in enmity, some of its ways and thoughts. Perhaps, in return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the unacquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all living things.”

However, that may depend on how much the people of India retain their culture. Otherwise, the more Westernized they become in their thinking and values, the more the above statement may be called into question. Nonetheless, to remain aware of its possibilities, we should not forget the well-known and glowing words that Max Muller had for India and its culture: “If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow–in some parts a very paradise on earth–I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. If I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more universal, in fact more truly human, again I should point to India.” 9

Lord Curzon, while Viceroy of India, in his address at the Great Delhi Durbar in 1901, expressed, “Powerful empires existed and flourished here (in India) while Englishmen were still wandering, painted, in the woods, and while the British Colonies were still a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark upon the history, the philosophy, and the religion of mankind, than any other terrestrial unit in the universe.”

From a more political perspective, Lord Curzon, before he went to India as a Viceroy, two or three times emphasized the importance of India to the British Empire when he said: “India was the pivot of our Empire. If this Empire lost any other part of its dominion we could survive, but if we lost India, the sun of our Empire would be set.” (Times, 3/12/1898)

Lord Roberts, after retiring for good from India, also said a similar statement to the London Chamber of Commerce: “I rejoice to learn that you recognize how indissolubly the prosperity of the United Kingdom is bound with the retention of that vast Eastern Empire.” (Times, 25/5/1893)

“That retention of our Eastern Empire is essential to the greatness and prosperity of the United Kingdom.” (Times, 29/7/1893)

“However efficient and well-equipped the army of India may be, were it indeed absolute perfection, and were its numbers considerably more than they are at present, our greatest strength must ever rest on the firm base of a united and contented India.” 10

In this way, the Vedic empire was a different kind of empire and showed its influence by its qualities and beneficial nature to one and all, rather than by power and military dominance. In A History of India by Kulke and Rothermund (1986, p.152), they explain how the influence of ancient India traveled over many lands: “The transmission of Indian culture to distant parts of Central Asia, China, Japan, and especially Southeast Asia is certainly one of the greatest achievements of Indian history or even the history of mankind. None of the other great civilizations–not even Hellenic–had been able to achieve a similar success without military conquest.”

The attractive nature of the Vedic Aryan Culture is explained more completely by David Frawley: “In the beginning there was one culture–that of the Spirit–and one language–that of Truth. This culture was outwardly one of worship and inwardly one of meditation. The language was one of mantra and communication was from the heart. The outer life was simple. There were small cities and villages, mainly along the rivers. Agriculture was practiced with the use of domesticated animals. Boats and wagons were used for travel. The emphasis was on the inner life and the outer life was not considered important, nor was there any great effort or need to improve it. Nature was abundant. This culture did not come from the outside but came from within and was guided by the sages, who generally lived in retreat in the mountains, who visited the peoples periodically and gave them instruction. From it later cultures diversified, along with divisions of language and religion, as we gradually fell from truth and our connection to the Divine to pursue outward and sensate values.” 11

Some additional information of the peaceful and developed ways of the Harappan culture is described by Michel Danino in his book, The Invasion that Never Was. “Dancing, painting, sculpture and music (there is evidence of drums and stringed instruments) were part of Harappan culture. Probably drama and puppet shows too, as a number of masks were found. The Harappans may also have been the inventors of the game of chess, of which one terracotta set was found at Lothal. Other kinds of gaming board and pieces have come up at many sites, as well as cubical dice identical to those used today. Children do not seem to have been neglected, judging from the exquisite care with which craftsmen fashioned toy oxcarts and figurines, spinning tops, marbles, rattles and whistles. And they could also amuse themselves with pet dogs and monkeys, pet squirrels and birds, too.

“Naturally, with hundreds of rural settlements, agriculture was practiced on a wide scale, the result of a long tradition going back four millennia. There is evidence of networks of canals for irrigation, of carefully shaped ploughs and ingenious tilling methods: at Kalibangan, for instance, excavations revealed a field ploughed with two perpendicular networks of furrows, in which higher crops (such as mustard) were grown in spaced-out north-south furrows, thus casting shorter shadows, while shorter crops (such as gram) filled contiguous east-west furrows. In the Indus valley, wheat, barley, pulses, a number of vegetables, and cotton were some of the common crops, and were planted following the two-season pattern still in use today (rabi or winter, kharif or summer); in Gujarat, rice and various millets were grown, too.” 12

THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT–STILL ATTRACTIVE TODAY

One of the major factors of the Vedic society was their spiritual orientation, which many people seek out even today. Max Muller mentioned this in one of his books: “I wish to point out that there was another sphere of intellectual activity in which the Hindus excelled–the meditative and transcendent–and that here we might learn from them some lessons of life which we ourselves are but too apt to ignore or to despise.”13

It was the Vedic philosophy that charmed and attracted people. As the Britisher Sir Charles Elliot explains, more than military or economic power, Vedic India spread into the hearts of people because of her way of thinking, and through that process spread over the globe. “Scant justice is done to India’s position in the world by those European histories which recount the exploits of her invader and leave the impression that her own people were a feeble dreamy fold, sundered from the rest of mankind by their seas and mountain frontiers. Such a picture takes no account of the intellectual conquests of the Hindus. Even their political conquests were not contemptible, and are remarkable for the distance, if not the extent, of the territories occupied… But such military or commercial invasions are insignificant compared with the spread of Indian thought.”

Sir William Jones (1746-94) once said about his admiration for India: “I am in love with Gopia, charmed by Crishen (Krishna), an enthusiastic admirer of Ram and a devout adorer of Brihma (Brahma), Bishen (Vishnu), Mahisher (Maheshwara); not to mention that Judishteir, Arjen, Corno (Yudhishtira, Arjun and Karna) and the other warriors of the Mahabharata appear greater in my eyes than Agamemnon, Ajax and Achilles appeared when I first read the Iliad.” 14

Arthur Schopenhauer, the German scholar (1788-1860), as quoted by Nehru, 15 once said that he expected Vedic Dharma to become accepted by the majority of people: “From every sentence (of the Upanishads) deep, original and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole world is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit… In the whole world there is no study … so beneficial and as elevating as that of the Upanishads… (They) are products of the highest wisdom … It is destined sooner or later to become the faith of the people.”

It was also Schopenhauer who said, “The truth was recognized by the sages of India.” 16

GREATNESS OF VEDAS

Much of the reason for the qualities of ancient India and its great sages are held and can be seen by the greatness of the Vedic texts. This has been recognized by numerous scholars over the years. Here are a few, such as Professor Paul William Roberts in Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India: “The Vedas still represent eternal truth in the purest form ever written.”

Of course, we know that Henry David Thoreau greatly admired the Vedic literature, as mentioned in Quotes of Henry David Thoreau: “What extracts from the Vedas I have read fall on me like the light of a higher and purer luminary, which describes a loftier course through a purer stratum. It rises on me like the full moon after the stars have come out, wading through some far stratum in the sky.”

He also said in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions.”

Another famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is, “I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

Even Aldous Huxley once related, “The Bhagavad Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value of mankind. The Gita is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the spiritual thoughts ever to have been made.” 17

Annie Besant brings up another idea, that even westerners who are now drawn to the rare teachings of the Vedic philosophy are experiencing an attraction that was attained in a previous life. In India: Essays and Lectures she says: “Among the priceless teachings that may be found in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, there is none so rare and priceless as the Gita… This is the India of which I speak–the India which, as I said, is to me the Holy Land. For those who, though born for this life in a Western land, and clad in a Western body, can yet look back to earlier incarnations in which they drank the milk of spiritual wisdom from the breast of their true mother–they must feel ever the magic of her immemorial past; must dwell ever under the spell of her deathless fascination; for they are bound to India by all the sacred memories of their past and with her, too, are bound up all the radiant hopes of their future, a future which they know they will share with her who is their true mother in the soul-life.” 18

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Haywood, John, The Ancient World, New York, Metro Books, 2013, p.54.

2. Twain, Mark, Following the Equator, 1897, p. 347.

3. Ibid.

4. Sonnerat, P., Voyage aux Indes orientales et a la Chine, Paris, 1782.

5. Schlegel, Friedrich von, Letter to Ludwig Tieck of 15 December, 1803, quoted by Leon Poliakov in The Aryan Myth.

6. Schlegel, Friedrich von, Essay on the Language and Wisdom of the Indians, quoted by Roger-Pol Droit in L’Oubli de I’Inde, Paris Presses Universitaires de France, 1989, p. 129.

7. Higgins, The Celtic Druids) (Niranjan Shah, India: The Birthplace of Human Speech, International Vedic Vision, Sands Point, N.Y., 2013, p. 66.

8. Maeterlink, Maurice, in The Great Secret) (Niranjan Shah, Indian Origins of Ancient Civilizations, International Vedic Vision Foundation, New York, 2011, p.4.

9. Muller, F. Max, India, What can it teach us? Published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi, reprint in 2002.

10. Quoted in “Dadabhai Naoroji: Poverty and un-British Rule in India,” 1901, http://www.archive.org/details/povertyunbritish00naoruoft .

11. Frawley, David, Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization, Passage Press, Salt Lake City, 1991, p.239.

12. Danino, Michel, & Sujata Nahar, The Invasion That Never Was, The Mother’s Institute of Research, Delhi, 2000, p.91.

13. Muller, Max, India: What Can it Teach Us?, Longmans, Funk & Wagnalls Company, London, 1999, p.138.

14. Mukharji, S.N., Sir William Jones: A Study in Eighteenth Century British Attitudes to India, Orient Longman, 1987.

15. The Discovery of India, Calcutta, Signet Press, 1946, pp. 92-93.

16. Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1, trans. E. Payne, New York: Dover Publishing Inc., 1969, p.3.

17. Galav, T. C. Philosophy of Hinduism–An Introduction, p.65.

18. Besant, Annie, India: Essays and Lectures, Vol. IV, The Theosophical Publishing Company, London, 1895, p.11.