Be an Enlightened Hindu

Keshav Shet

Long time ago I came to the conclusion that there is really no point in writing an article or a book if the reader could get the same information from other sources. So my work must be original in content. In this series of articles, I will share with our family members the story of Hinduism, which they have never heard or read before, so that they could become enlightened Hindus.

Without exception the right wing Hindu goons who are fomenting hatred for non-Hindus in India today under communal-minded BJP rule are almost totally ignorant of what Hinduism is. What is the proof? Well, their hateful behavior is a clue par excellence to their monumental ignorance. In fact, most so-called Swamis and Gurus of Hinduism have no clue about the fundamental tenets of Hinduism. What little they know they gained from their ignorant Gurus who in turn were indoctrinated by their ignorant Gurus. Mostly they are into making money by means of mindless rituals. Such is the sad state of affairs with today’s Hinduism.

Around 1030 A.D., a great Islamic scholar, scientist, astronomer, author and philosopher by the name of Al Biruni came to India as part of Ghazni Mohamed’s raiding army. He was more or less Mohamed’s prisoner. He learned Sanskrit and thoroughly studied most of the available Sanskrit texts and sacred books. Being a great lover of India he authored a wonderful book by the title of Kitabu’l Hind. Every proud Hindu must read this book. Though he loved India and Hindus a great deal, his scientific temperament and objectivity did not prevent him from noticing behavior of Hindus a thousand years ago:

“In the fifth place, there are other causes, the meaning of which sounds like a satire – peculiarities of their national character, deeply rooted in them, but manifest to everybody. We can only say, folly is an illness for which there is no medicine, and the Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, and no science like theirs. They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. They are by nature niggardly in communicating that which they know, and they take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another caste among their own people, still much more, of course, from any foreigner. According to their belief, there is no other country on earth but theirs, no other race of man but theirs, and no created beings besides them have any knowledge of science whatsoever. Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khorasan and Persis, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar. If they travelled and mixed with other nations, they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as narrow-minded as the present generation is. Now such is the state of things in India.”

Seems like for one thousand years time has stood still in India!!!!

The Sacred Books

There is a saying, which goes as follows: Before you begin to do anything, there is always something else you need to do first. So, before I begin this series, I would like to discuss a few issues with the reader:

  • The Sacred books: Hinduism is based on three sacred books: The Vedas, the Vedānta (the end part of the Vedic knowledge, which contains the essence of the Upanishads) and the Bhagavad Gita.
  • Many authors: Hindu religious leaders have promoted the myth that one author (Vyāsa) created all these sacred books, and they were “written” over 5,000 years ago. The truth is innumerable authors, often opposing each other’s views, composed these sacred books several centuries apart between 2000 B.C. and 100 B.C.
  • Contradictions: This explains why in these texts one often finds one sentence or paragraph promoting one doctrine, and the very next sentence or paragraph contradicting that very doctrine. Not knowing the fact that over the centuries these texts were the battleground on which opposing factions fought each other for supremacy, even eminent scholars, such as Max Mueller – not to mention the great Shankarāchārya himself- were baffled by the glaring contradictions in the texts.
  • Indirect communication: Very often religious, social and political circumstances forced ancient authors to communicate indirectly or deviously with their audience for fear of reprisal by authorities of these entities, or for not wanting to offend their adversaries too much. This was especially the case with the later scriptures such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. These indirect means they used consisted of metaphors, double entendre, secret codes, Sūtra, enigmatic parables, and the like. To make sense of these, one must know their historical context. Here is an example of a metaphoric story that appears in several Upanishads: Two birds inseparable friends are sitting on a tree. One bird eats sweet fruits and the other watches not eating. On the same tree man overwhelmed by helplessness and bewilderment grieves. But when he sees the other worshipful Lord and His glory, his grief passes away.
  • Knowledge of history is essential: To make sense of this or any metaphor, one must know what was happening in ancient India when it was composed and what each of these objects -birds, sweet fruit, tree, man, the other Lord- represented when the poet composed it. One must also know the answer for the following questions:
  1. What was it that the man on the tree felt overwhelmingly helplessness about?
  2. What bewildered him?
  3. What was the loss he was grieving over? 4. Who was the Lord upon seeing whom his grief  passed away?

Not knowing the answer for any of the above questions, Shankarāchārya (788-820 A.D.) and many other Acharyas wrote mind-boggling and nonsensical commentaries giving full liberty to their fanciful imagination.

  • Manipulation: To complicate matters further, over the centuries a lot of mistakes (“typos” in modern lingo) crept into the copies of the texts due to utter carelessness of scribes leading to different meanings and outcomes. Besides, to buttress certain new ideologies in the later scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, they incongruously inserted materials into much earlier scriptures such as the Upanishads and the Vedas.
  • The bottom line is that Hinduism, as it is practiced today, is based on commentaries of various religious leaders who did not know the historical context of its highly corrupted sacred books. Our job is to reveal through methodical detective work their true intent and spirit.

History of Hinduism is hidden in the Sacred Books 

Our eyes cannot see what our mind does not know. That is why detectives with “trained eyes” (who know what to look for), see clues where others don’t while investigating a crime scene.

Eye of Knowledge: The history of ancient India as well as Hinduism beginning with migration of Ārya people from Central Asia around 2000 B.C. till 100 B.C. is hidden in Hinduism’s three sacred books. One endowed with “the eye of knowledge” –Jnānachakshusā as Lord Krishna put it in the Bhagavad Gita 13:34- could “see” that history hidden in cryptic metaphors and verses throughout these sacred books.

Encrypted information: Ancient sages had amazing capacity to convey a large amount of information in very few words, as metaphors or Sūtras (aphorisms). Ancient people caught on to the messages hidden in them without much difficulty. However, none of the commentators of these sacred books knew the history of ancient India, and so none was ever able to decipher them. The result is that you will read a lot of cooked-up nonsense in their commentaries.

Before we reveal the hidden history of Hinduism in the metaphor of two birds on a tree, we need to know a little bit about Sanātana Dharma.

Sanātana (Ancient) Dharma: Between 1500 and 1000 B.C. the supreme deity of Sanātana Dharma was Brahma the Creator also known as Prajāpati (lord of beings) and Prakriti. Loyalists of this Dharma believed that Brahma created Nature gods (Indra, Agni, Vayu, Varuna, etc.) in heaven as well as people here on earth. Brahma controlled these gods as well as people by means of three ropes, Gunas of Prakriti –Sattva, Rajas and Tamas (GuNa means rope). All Karma (Action) came from the Gunas of Prakriti.

Yajna Chakra (Wheel of Yajna): Brahma set up the quid pro quo system known as Yajna Chakra by means of which the gods gave people natural bounties such as rains, and people thanked them with Yajna. (BG: 3:10-12). There was no selfish motive in these Yajnas.

Bhagavat Gita: 3:10-12, 14-15: Having created mankind in the beginning together with Yajna, Prajapati said, “By this you shall propagate; this shall be the milch cow of your desires. Cherish the Devas with this, and may the Devas cherish you in return. Thus cherishing each other you shall reap the supreme good. Cherished by Yajna the Devas shall bestow on you the enjoyment you desire. From food beings become; from rain food produced; from Yajna rain proceeds; Yajna is born of Karma (action arising from the Gunas), and Karma arose from Brahma.

Ancients called this Veda-based Dharma as Brahmavāda.

Hidden in the Sacred Books 

Let us now reveal a part of Hinduism’s ancient history hidden in the 34 Sanskrit-words-long metaphoric stories:

Mundaka Upanishad: 3:1:1-2: Two birds inseparable friends are sitting on a tree. One bird eats sweet fruits and the other watches not eating. On the same tree man overwhelmed by helplessness and bewilderment grieves. But when he sees the other worshipful Lord and His glory, his grief passes away.

Decay of Sanātana Dharma: Gradually a section of the upper two classes (Brahmins and Kshatriya royals) began to abuse these Yajnas to gain Karmaphalam for themselves: Brahmins convinced Kings that they could earn good Karmaphalam (Punyam) to enjoy in their next life as per the Law of Karma, and in return officiating priests earned hefty Dakshina to enjoy in this life. They declared these selfish Yajnas as Sukrita (good deeds) as they allegedly earned kings Punyam (good Karmaphalam, sweet fruits). Soon animal sacrifice including horses and cows began in order to earn more Punyam for kings and more Dakshina for priests. This is how the noble Sanātana Dharma became decadent Brāhmanism. The tree in this metaphor represented the decadent Brāhmanism. The bird eating sweet fruits represented the group, which indulged in selfish Yajnas desiring good fruits of deeds.

People grieved over loss of innocence: By 900 B.C. a large number of people became bewildered by the state of affairs, felt totally helpless to do anything, and grieved over the loss of innocence of the once-noble Sanātana Dharma. The grieving man sitting on that tree represented these aggrieved people.

Abandonment: Disgusted by the fraud and violence in Brāhmanism, many people abandoned it, and started a non-violent Nāstik Dharma, which four centuries later became Jainism under the leadership of Mahāvīra. They made Truth (Satya) and Nonviolence (Ahimsa) as their creed to counter Asatya (falsehood) and Himsa (Violence) of decadent Brāhmanism. 2800 years later Mahatma Gandhi based the nonviolent Satyāgraha on these two Jain principles in his struggle to gain independence for India from the British.

Rebellion within: Around 800 B.C., as more people began to abandon Brāhmanism, a group of Kshatriya intellectuals within the fold of Brāhmanism (“inseparable friends”) finally decided to do something: Reform Brāhmanism from within, and if that was not possible, overthrow it and replace it with Upanishadism, which they believed represented the true spirit of Sanātana Dharma. They condemned all Yajnas as well as Karmaphalam as evil. The bird not eating fruits represented these Upanishadic rebels within the fold of Brāhmanism who rejected all fruits of deeds.

Worshipful Super God: Upanishadists created a Super God known as Brahman the Supreme and appointed it over Brahma and all Nature gods (Indra, Agni, etc.) of Brāhmanism. They declared Brahma (Prakriti) as Asat (False) as it was destructible, and Brahman as Sat (Real) as It was indestructible and immortal. “The other worshipful Lord” upon seeing whose glory man’s grief passes away represented immortal Brahman the Supreme.

Revolution: Puritanical Upanishadists appointed themselves as protectors of the Sanātana Dharma. They condemned all Yajna as evil and replaced it with Yoga of renunciation, the goal of which was to gain knowledge of Brahman and end of Samsāra as per the Law of Karma. They condemned selfish Brahmins as conceited fools and liars, and told them to become selfless Yogis. They invited all disaffected and aggrieved people to join Upanishadism, which promised them freedom from helplessness, delusion and grief caused by Brāhmanism.

Commentaries: I will not waste the precious space by quoting longwinded and utterly nonsensical commentaries on this metaphor by various Acharyas who did not know the ancient history of Hinduism. Unfortunately, Hinduism is based on these absurd commentaries!

 To be continued….