Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Vedas- Sound and Creation

Sound and Creation
What is sound? According to modern science, it is vibration. "If you examine the core of an atom you will realise that all matter is one.” This Advaitic conclusion is arrived at according to nuclear science and the concepts of Einstein. All this world is one flood of energy (sakti); everything is an electromagnetic flow. But how do we account for the manifestation of different objects? It is to be attributed to different type of vibrations.
Where there is vibration there is a sound. Conversely, to produce a sound the vibration corresponding to it must also be created. The scientific concept that the different vibrations of the same energy are the cause of creation is the same as the belief that world was created with the breath of the Paramatman manifesting itself as the sound of the Vedas.
Consider human beings and other creatures. What is it that determines their health and feelings? The breath that passes through our nadis, blood vessels, during respiration produces vibrations and on them depends the state of our health. Those who keep their breathing under control through the practice of yoga are healthy to an amazing degree. They do not bleed even if their veins are cut. They are able to remain buried in the earth in samadhi stopping their pulse and heartbeat. They are not poisoned even if they are bitten by a snake or stung by a scorpion. The reason is that they keep the vibrations of the nadis under control during breathing.
Breath is vital not only to the body but also to the mind. The mind which is the source of thought and the vital (pranik) energy that is the source of breath are the same. Healthy or unhealthy thoughts are to be attributed to different vibrations of the nadis. You may test this for yourself. See for yourself how you breathe when you are at peace before the sanctum of a deity or in the presence of a great and wise person and how you breathe when your mind is quickened by desire or anger. The happiness you experience when you take part in something divine, like a bhajan or a temple festival, must be different from the pleasure that sensual gratification gives you: the vibrations of the nadis concerned will also be correspondingly different.
When you experience joy of an elevated kind the passage of breath will be through the right nostril, but when you are enjoying sensual pleasure it will be through the left. When you meditate, with increasing concentration, on the Reality Serene which is the source of all your urges and feelings, the breath will pass through both nostrils slowly, evenly and rhythmically. When you are absorbed in the object of your meditation breathing itself will cease, but there will still be life. The great awareness called jnana will then be in bloom as it were.
The inert body of a man and the awareness that is the vital essence of his life are both dependent on the course of his breathing. They grow or decay according to it. The course of a man's breath keeps his inner vibrations in order.
Is it not from the Paramatman that so many countless inert objects and so many sentient beings have originated and grown? The movements appropriate to these should have also occurred in the Ultimate Object that is the Paramatman.
Even according to non-dualism, the Brahman that is utterly still and is unconditioned and has no attributes (nirguna) manifests itself in the countless disguises of this cosmos with the power of Maya, Maya that cannot be described. Disguises or no disguises, we have to concede the existence, in a mundane sense, of the inert world and of the sentient beings. But we must remember that even Maya has its source in Isvara who is "Mayin". But the power of Maya apart, all that we see have arisen from the vibrations in the Object called the Parabrahman. At the same time, with all these vibrations, this Object remains still and tranquil inwardly. This stillness not withstanding, there are movements that are apparent to our perception. They are not disorderly movements but constitute a system embracing vast heavenly bodies like the sun at one end and the tiniest of insects on the other or even something as humble as a blade of glass.
It is this orderliness that goes to make worldly life happy. The Paramatmam has created this by bringing all powers of nature within an orderly system. But if you sometimes see flaws in it and the natural forces going against us, it is because he likes to be playful now and then.
The human mind can go astray to any length. Indeed it keeps wandering aimlessly like a globin or an imp. Whatever the extent to which cosmic life is orderly, it (the human mind) breaks free from all control and runs about like a mad dog.
When the powers of nature are unfavourable to us, is there a way to change their behavior and make them favourable to us? Is there also a means by which our mind could be brought under control when it goes haywire? If everything is caused by vibration, by sound, there must be a way of making the forces of nature favourable to us and of purifying our mind and bringing it under control through this very sound. The Vedas constitute such sound.
By controlling our breath through the practice of yoga, it is possible to gain access to the breath of the Paramatman and by this means perform such actions as can uplift our own Self as well as mankind. Here the vibrations of the nadis do not produce the sound that is audible to us. Science tells us that there are sounds outside the range of human hearing in the same way as there is light that does not pass through the lens of the human eye.
However, it is possible to bring within us (within our reach) that which is without. When a musician sings on the radio, the sound of his music is converted into electromagnetic waves which travel through space. But how do we hear music? The receiving set captures the electromagnetic waves and reconverts them into sound waves.
(Science is not opposed to religion. It seems to me that it even helps in the growth of religion. A century ago, before the radio and the telephone were invented, it would not have been easy to counter the arguments of an atheist who dismisses claims made on behalf of the sound of the Vedas as absurd. Now the discoveries of science have come to our rescue. )
It is possible for humans to earn the power of energy possessed by such an inert object as the radio set. Indeed we can earn much more, do much more. It is tapas, ascetic endeavour that will give us such energy. What is tapas? It is the determination to find the truth: it is keeping the mind one-pointed in this search, forsaking food, sleep, home, everything. But when you are a seeker like this, you must remain humble and erase the least trace of egoism in you. You must realise that the truth you seek will be revealed to you only with the grace of Isvara. The sages performed austerities in this manner and attained to the highest plane of yoga. They could perceive the vibrations in creation that is the course taken by the breath of the Supreme Godhead. Besides, they also knew them as sound capable of being heard by the human ear in the same manner as electric waves converted into sound waves. It is these sounds that they have passed on to us the mantras of the Vedas.
The Vedas are called "Sruti.” That which is heard is Sruti. "Srotra" means the "ear". The Vedas have been handed down orally from generation to generation and have not been taught or learned from any written text. That is how they got the name of "Sruti". Why were these scriptures not permitted to be written down? Because the sound of the Vedas cannot be properly transcribed. There are sounds or phonemes that cannot be accurately represented in any script. For instance, the one between "zha" and "la". Such sounds have to be learned by listening. Besides there are svaras for Vedic mantras (tonal variations, proper accentuation):"udatta" (raised syllable), "anudatta"(lowered syllable) and "svarita"(falling syllable). Mistakes in enunciation are likely even if diacritical or some other marks are used in the printed text. Wrong chanting will not bring the desired results. There is much difference in the vibrations caused by pronouncing a syllable laying stress on it and pronouncing it without any stress. Correspondingly, there will be changes in our feelings and urges and the divine forces that rule nature. There is a story in the Taittiriya Samhita of the Vedas which illustrates how wrong chanting can produce results contrary to what is intended. Tvasta, the divine carpenter, chanted a mantra with the object of begetting a son who would be the slayer of Indra. But he went wrong in the intonation of some syllables. So, unwittingly, he prayed for a son who would be slain by Indra instead of one who would slay that celestial. And his prayer (that had gone wrong in the intonation) was answered. When the wavelength shifts even minutely on our radio we receive the broadcast of a different transmitting station. Fine-tuning has to be done to get the required station. So is the case with the intonation of Vedic mantras. There should not be the slightest mistake in the svaras. Just as we receive a different station on our radio when the wavelength is changed, so the result is different when we go wrong in the intonation.
This is the reason why it is of the utmost importance to learn the Vedas by listening - hence the name "Sruti", in Tamil "Ezhutakkilavi" (unwritten old text). Another explanation occurs to me for the name "Sruti". The sages heard, did they not, the sound of the divine vibrations that cannot be perceived by the common people? Did they read the Vedas in any book or did they compose them themselves? Sruti is an apt name for the Vedas since they were made known to the world after they had been first heard by the sages.
The Vedic seers have the name of "mantra-drastas" --a "drasta" is one who sees. In Tamil it is "parppavan". "Parppan" also means the same thing. If the sages "saw" the mantras it would mean that they did not "hear" them. Which of the two versions is correct? Did the sages see the mantras or did they hear them? If they saw them, in what script did they appear? There was no script at the time, neither Devanagari nor Grantha nor Brahmi, the basis of all. But, then, the sound of Vedas, their svaras, cannot be truly written down in any script.
The answer to this problem is that when the sages were meditating the mantras of the Vedas appeared to them in a flash in their hearts. It may be that in this state of theirs they could neither see nor hear anything. The mantras must have appeared in a flash in the inner recesses of their minds.
"Seeing" or "looking" does not denote merely what is perceived by the eye. It is a term that covers a variety of perceptions and experiences. When we say that a man has "seen" all sorrows in his life, does the term "seen" imply only what he "saw" with his eyes? Does it not mean what he has "experienced"? The term "mantra-drasta" also could be taken in a similar manner as referring to what is perceived through experience. It is further believed that the sages were able to hear the Vedas with their divine ears.
Arjuna wished to see the Lord's cosmic form (visvarupa). The Gita has it that Krishna Paramatman said to him: “You will not be able to see my cosmic form with this eyes of yours. I will give you a celestial eye. . . . . "
Just as Arjuna was endowed by the Lord with a divine eye, the sages must have been invested with celestial ears to grasp the sound emanating from the Paramatman and pervading the vast space.
The vibrations of the Vedas serve the purpose not only of creation and the conduct of life. There are indeed Vedic mantras that help us to transcend this life and become one with the Ultimate Truth. When a man returns by the same way as he comes, does he not arrive at the starting point? In the same way when we go seeking how creation came about, we are led to the point where there are no vibrations, no movements, where there is utter stillness. Some mantras that create vibrations in our nadis accomplish the same noble task of taking us to such a goal. Such are the Upanisadic mahavakyas and Pranava.
In sum, the Vedas are not anyone's compositions. The sages did not create them, nor were inscribed by the Paramatman on palm-leaves.
(courtesy Ref: Hindu Dharma,

The Vedas-Eternal

The Vedas- Eternal
It is not possible to tell the age of the Vedas. If we say that an object is "anadi" it means that nothing existed before it. Any book, it is reasonable to presume, must be the work of one or more people. The Old Testament contains the sayings of several Prophets. The New Testament contains the story of Jesus Christ as well as his sermons. The Qu'ran incorporates the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The founders of such religions are historical personalities and their teachings did not exist before then. Are the Vedas similarly the work of one or more teachers? And may we take it that these preceptors lived in different periods of history? Ten thousand years ago or a hundred thousand or a million years ago? If the Vedas were created during any of these periods they can not be claimed to be "anadi". Even if they were created a million years ago, it obviously means that there was a time when they did not exist.
Questions like the above are justified if the Vedas are regarded as the work of mortals. And, if they are, it is wrong to claim that they are "anadi". We think that the Vedas are the creation of the rsis, seers who were mortals. So it is said, at any rate, in the text book of history we are taught.
Also consider the fact that the Vedas consists of many "Suktas". Jnanasambandhar's Tevaram consists of number of patigams. And just as each patigam has ten stanzas, each sukta consists of a number of mantras. "Su+ukta"="sukta". The prefix "su" denotes "good" as in "suguna" or "sulocana". "Ukta" means "spoken" or "what is spoken". “Sukta" means "well spoken", a” good word" or a "good utterance" (or well uttered).
When we chant the Vedas in the manner prescribed by the Sastras, we mention the name of the seer connected with each sukta, its metre and the deity invoked. Since there are many mantras associated with various seers we think that they were composed by them. We also refer to the ancestry of the seer concerned, his gotra, etc. For instance, "Agastyo Maithravarunih", that is Agastya, son of Maithravaruna. Here is another: "Madhucchanda Vaisvamitrah", the sage Madhucchanda descended from the Visvamitra gotra. Like this there are mantras in the names of many sages. If the mantras connected with the name of Agastya were composed by him it could not have existed during the time of Mitravaruna; similarly that in the name of Madhucchandana could not have existed during the time of Visvamitra. If this is true, how can you claim that the Vedas are "anadi"?
Since the Mantras are associated with the names of sages, we make the wrong inference that they may have been composed by them. But it is not so as a matter of fact. "Apaurseya" means not the work of any man. Were the Vedas composed by one or more human beings, even if they were rsis, they would be called "pauruseya". But since they are called "Apauruseya" it follows that even the seers could not have created them. If they were composed by the seers they (the latter) would be called "Mantra-kartas" which means "those who 'created' the Mantras". But as a matter of fact, the rsis are called "Mantra-drastas", those who "saw " them.
When we say that Columbus discovered America, we do not mean that he created the continent: we mean that he merely made the continent known to the world. In the same way the laws attributed to Newton, Einstein and so on were not created by them. If an object thrown up falls to earth it is not because Newton said so. Scientists like Newton perceived the laws of Nature and revealed them to the world. Similarly, the seers discovered the Mantras and made a gift of them to the world. These Mantras had existed before the time of their fathers, grand fathers, great grand fathers . . . . But they had remained unknown to the world. The seers now made them known to the mankind. So it became customary to mention their names at the time of intoning them.
The publisher of a book is not necessarily its author. The man who releases a film need not be its producer. The seers disclosed the mantras to the world but they did not create them. Though the mantras had existed before them they performed the noble service of revealing them to us. So it is appropriate on our part to pay them obeisance by mentioning their names while chanting the same.
Do we know anything about the existence of the mantras before they were "seen" by the rsis? If they are eternal does it mean that they manifested themselves at the time of creation? Were they present before man's appearance on earth? How did they come into being?
If we take it that the Vedas appeared with creation, it would mean that the Paramatman created them along with the world. Did he write them down and leave them somewhere to be discovered by the seers later? If so, they cannot be claimed to be anadi. We have an idea of when Brahma created the present world.
There are fixed periods for the four yugas or eons, Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. The four yugas together are called a caturuga. A thousand caturugas make one day time of Brahma and another equally long period is his night. According to this reckoning Bramha is now more than fifty years old. Any religious ceremony is to be commenced with a samkalpa("resolve") in which an account is given of the time and place of performance in such and such a year of Brahma, in such and such a month, in such and such a fortnight (waxing or waning moon), etc. From this account we know when the present Brahma came into being. Even if we concede that he made his appearance millions and millions of years ago, he can not be claimed to be anadi. How can then creation be said to have no beginning in time? When creation it self has an origin, how do we justify to the claim that the Vedas are anadi?
The Paramatman, being eternal, was present even before creation when there was no Brahma. The Paramatman, the Brahman are the Supreme Godhead, is eternal. The cosmos, all sentient beings and insentient objects, emerge from him. The Paramatman did not create them himself: he did so through the agency of Brahma. Through Vishnu he sustains them and through Rudra he destroys them. Later Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra are themselves destroyed by him. The present Brahma, when he became hundred years old, will unite with the Paramatman. Another Brahma will appear and he will start the work of creation all over again. The question arises: Does the Paramatman create the Vedas before he brings into being another Brahma?
We learn from the Sastras that the Vedas has existed even before creation. Infact, they say, Brahma performed his function of creation with the aid of Vedic mantras. I shall be speaking to you about this later, how he accomplished the creation with the mantras manifested as sound. In the passage dealing with creation the Bagavatha also says that Brahma created the world with the Vedas.
Is this the reason (that Brahma created the world with the Vedic mantras) why it is said that the Vedas are anadi? Is it right to take such a view on the basis that both the Vedas and Isvara are anadi? If we suggest that isvara had made this scriptures even before he created the world, it would mean that there was a time when the Vedas did not exist and that would contradict the claim that they are anadi.
If we believe that both Isvara and the Vedas are anadi it would mean that Isvara could not have created them. But if you believe that Isvara created them, they cannot be said to be without the origin. Everything has its origin in Isvara. It would be wrong to maintain [according to this logic] that both Isvara and the Vedas have no beginning in time. Well, it is all so confusing.
What is the basis of the belief that the Vedas are anadi and were not created by Isvara? An answer is contained in the Vedas themselves. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad(2. 4. 10) ---the Upanishads are all part of the Vedas---it is said that the Rg, Yajus and Sama Vedas are the very breath of Isarva. The word "nihsvasitam"is used here.
It goes without saying that we cannot live even a moment without breathing. The Vedas are the life-breath of the Paramatman who is an eternal living Reality. It follows that the Vedas exist together with him as his breath.
We must note here that it is not customary to say that the Vedas are the creation of Iswara. Do we create our own breath? Our breath exists from the very moment we are born. It is the same case with Iswara and the Vedas. We can not say that he created them.
When Vidyaranyaswamin wrote his commentary on the Vedas he prayed to his guru regarding him as Iswara. He used these words in his prayer: "Yasya nihsvasitam Vedah" (whose --that is Isvara's -- breath constitutes the Vedas). The word "nihsvasitam" occurs in the Upanishads also. Here too it is not stated that Iswara created the Vedas.
The Lord says in the Gita : "It is I who am known by all the Vedas "(Vedaisca sarvair aham eva vedyah).” Instead of describing himself as "Vedakrd" (creator of the Vedas), he calls himself "Vedantakrd" (creator of philosophical system that is the crown of the Vedas). He also refers to himself as "Vedavid" (he who knows the Vedas). Before Vedanta that enshrines great philosophical truths had been made know to mankind, the Vedas had existed in the form of sound, as the very breath of Isvara -- they were ( and are) indeed Isvara dwelling in Isvara.
The Bhagavata too, like the Gita, does not state that the Lord created the Vedas. It declares that they occurred in a flash in his heart that they came to him in a blaze of light. The word used on this context is "Sphuranam", occuring in the mind in a flash. Now we can not apply this word to any thing that is created a new, any thing that did not exist before. Bramha is the primordial sage who saw all the mantras. But it was the Parmatman who revealed them to him. Did he transmit them orally? No, says the Bhagavatha. The paramatman imparted the Vedas to Bramha through his heart: Tene Bramha hrdaya Adikavaye" says the very first verse of that Purana. The Vedas were not created by the Parmatman. The truth is that they are always present in his heart. When he mearly resolved to pass on the Vedas to Bramha the latter instantly received them. And with their sound he began the work of creation.
The Tamil Tevaram describes Isvara as "Vediya Vedagita". It says that the Lord keeps singing the hymns of various sakas or recensions of the Vedas. How are we to understand the statement that the "Lord sees the Vedas"? Breathing itself is music. Our out-breath is called "hamsa-gita". Thus, the Vedas are the music of the Lord's breath. The Thevaran goes on: "Wearing the sacred thread and the holy ashes, and bathing all the time, Isvara keeps singing the Vedas". The impression one has from this description is that the Lord is a great "ghanapathin". Apparsvamigal refers to the ashes resembling milk applied to the body of Isvara which is like coral. He says that the Lord "chants" the Vedas, " sings” them, not that he creates (or created) them. In the Vaishnava Divya Prabandham too there are many references to Vedic sacrifices. But some how I do not remember any reference in it to the Lord chanting the Vedas.
In the story of Gajendramoksa told by the Puhazhendi Pulavar (a Tamil Vaishnava saint - poet), the elephant whose leg is caught in the jaws of the crocodile cries in anguish. "Adimulame" [vocative in Tamil of Adimula, the Primordial Lord]. The Lord thereupon appears, asking "What?” The poet says that Mahavishnu "stood before the Vedas" ("Vedattin mum ninran"). According to the poet the lord stood infront of the Vedas, not that he appeared at a time earlier than the scriptures. The Tamil for "A man stood at the door" is "Vittin mun ninran". So "Vedattin mun ninran" should be understood as "he stood at the commencement of all the Vedas". Another idea occurs to me. How is Perumal (Vishnu or any other Vaishnava deity) taken in procession? Preceding the utsava-murthy (processional deity) are the devotees reciting the Tiruvaymozhi. And behind the processional deity is the group reciting the Vedas. Here too we may say that the Lord stood before the Vedas ("Vedattin mun ninran").
In the vhishnava Agamas and puranas, Mahavishnu is referred to specially as "Yajnaswaroopin" (one personifying the sacrifice) and as "Vedaswaroopin" (one who personifies the Vedas). Garuda is also called "Vedaswarupa". But none of these texts is known to refer to Vishnu as the creator of the Vedas.
It is only in the "Purusasukta", occurring in the Vedas themselves, that the Vedas are said to have been "born" "(ajayatha)". However, this hymn is of symbolical and allegorical significance and not to be understood in a literal sense. It states that the Parama-purusa (the Supreme Being) for sacrifice as an animal and that it was in this sacrifice that creation itself was accomplished. It was at this time that the Vedas also made their appearance. How are we to understand the statement that the Parama-purusa was offered as a sacrificial animal? Not in a literal sense. In this sacrifice the season of spring was offered as an oblation (ahuthi) instead of ghee: summer served the purpose of samidhs (fire sticks); autumn havis (oblation). Only those who meditate on the mantras and become absorbed in them will know there meaning inwardly as a matter of experience. So we can not construe the statement literally that the Vedas were "born".
To the modern mind the claim that the breath of Isvara is manifested in the form of sound seems nonsensical, also that it was with this sound that Bramha performed his function of creation. But on careful reflection you will realise that the belief is based on a great scientific truth.
I do not mean to say that we must accept the Vedas only if they conform to present-day science. Nor do I think that our scripture, which proclaims the truth of the Paramatman and is beyond the reach of science and scientist, ought to be brought within the ken of science. Many matters pertaining to the Vedas may not seem to be in conformity with science and for that reason they are not to be treated as wrong. But our present subject -- how the breath of the Parmatman can become sound and how the function of creation can be carried out withit -- is in keeping with science
(courtesy Ref: Hindu Dharma,