Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Upanishads Happy Hunting Ground Of The One God-Ists

Updated: June 2, 2012 1:59 pm

Monotheist appropriators of Vedic Hinduism lift a few lines or verses from the Rig Veda to emphasise the similarity between their beliefs and those of the Vedas and Upanishads. They do not go anywhere near the other three Vedas (Yajur, Sama and Atharva) and stay as far as they can from the Brahmanas (the prose commentaries on the Vedic rituals) and the Aranyakas, which are basically a continuation of the same. On the other hand, the Upanishads are mined frequently.

The authentic Hindu tradition is the Vedic-Agamic tradition which was transmitted down the millennia and is currently what constitutes Hinduism as practised by millions of Hindus. This means the entire Vedic corpus including the Upanishads.

The attention paid to certain select passages from the Rig Veda and more especially the Upanishads is both a strategy and a lack of understanding of the sacred texts. The strategy clearly is to detach the Upanishads from the Vedic tradition, mangle them somewhat by forcing a monotheistic interpretation of them, after which the Vedas can be dealt with, or so they hope. In other words, they treat the Vedas as simply an early immature, undeveloped version of their monotheist faith.

The common theme is that the Vedic ‘Aryans’ in the Asian homeland had abandoned/forgotten the pre-Vedic monotheism and ‘fallen’ into polytheism. Subsequently, as they progressed into the age of the Upanishads, the search started for a single Creator, and they hit upon the idea of Brahman. Here too, according to the monotheists, the Vedic ‘Aryans’ were deficient because Brahman, who should be standing outside of his creation, is being identified with it. The moral of the story is: Brahman is not yet the Abrahamic god.

Why the mere words of prophets should be privileged over the vision of the Vedic seers is not explained. It is simply taken for granted. From a Hindu perspective, this approach, namely the worship of the word of prophets, is the worst form of idolatory, as Sita Ram Goel once observed.

The one god-ist views are based both on their political agenda and on their misperception of the Upanishadic self and Brahman and the presence of innumerable deities. The self and Brahman are not the same as the monotheist soul and god. The self (atman) is not a soul. It is a spiritual part of Brahman in its entirety. And neither are the deities of the Vedas left behind in the Upanishads, as the one god-ists try to make out.

A recent statement from them illustrates their incomplete understanding of the Hindu world view. They ‘admit’ that Hindus are not mere idol worshippers, nor are they polytheists (worshipping many gods and goddesses). They too worship the one Supreme being and the deities are simply manifestations of this being. This latter part is grudgingly and belatedly admitted. But, from the Hindu perspective, they have downgraded both the Vedas and the Agama tradition of Hinduism. They have, in a sense, squeezed the life blood out of Hinduism and Hindu religious practice.

Hindus are in fact polytheists (like it or not!) and they worship murtis in temples; this is a reality the monotheists either profess not to understand or misinterpret for political purposes. The Supreme Being envisaged by monotheists is an extension of their historical adherence to the words of a prophet and therefore brings with it an entire baggage. For both Christians and Muslims this means accepting their theology, or else!

The Infinite of the Upanishads is Satchidananda, that which exists, is conscious and is blissful (sat, chit, ananda). It manifests in the entire universe, both animate and inanimate. It manifests in the gods and goddesses that Hindus worship on a regular basis. Satchidananda automatically precludes any coercion or submission to itself and historically Hindus have not engaged in proselytising or coercion of other religionists.

 By Vijaya Rajiva

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