Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 29 Feb 2020


What is the connection between theism and the belief in the Veda?

Shri J. Prasad (Prof. Sanskrit, Central University) asked: The Veda is the authority for knowing the existence of God. So, it is said that those who do not believe in the Veda are atheists, while those who believe in it are theists. But some Vedic scholars believe that the sound and accents of Vedic recitation are the main soul of the Veda. They say that Indra defeated and killed the demon Vṛtra because sages uttered a certain Vedic accent in a different way. Of course, You have clarified that Vṛtra was killed due to the will of God and not due to the changed accent of recitation. However, the point is that such Vedic scholars do not believe in any God other than the sound of the Veda. Then, how can the belief in the Veda be the basis for differentiating between theists (āstikas) and atheists (nāstikas)?

Swami replied: O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! The Veda means the spiritual knowledge by which God is known and attained (Enaṃ vindanti Vedena, Vedaiśca sarvairahameva vedyaḥ, Tametaṃ Vedānuvacanena..., etc.). The greatness of the Veda is in that it is the knowledge of God. In other words, the greatness of the Veda is not independent, but dependent on the greatness of God. The temple is holy because of the presence of God in it. Without God, it is not at all holy. Similarly, the Veda is holy because it describes and praises God. Most of our ancestors have been greatly influenced by the path of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, which negates the existence of God. Keeping the Veda in the place of God, it only gives importance to rituals, which are done without understanding their meaning (Devo na kaścit bhuvanasya bhartā, Karmānurupāṇi puraḥ phalāni). These people give the topmost place to the sound of the Vedic verses recited with the proper accents. They treat that sound of the Veda itself as God (Śabdamātra Devatā) and they do not care for the meaning of the Veda, even though the word ‘Veda’ itself means knowledge! Even the word adhyayana also means studying the knowledge and not the blind recitation of the Veda. Knowing that people will continue to recite the Veda without understanding its meaning, the scriptures have given a clear instruction that the meaning of the Veda should be known (Vedo adhyetavyo jñeyaśca). People may misunderstand the Veda to be a text, instead of spiritual knowledge which is to be learnt. They may also misunderstand adhyayana to mean the blind recitation of the text, instead of the study of the Vedic knowledge. But they cannot neglect the third word ‘jñeyaśca’, which very clearly means ‘to be known’.

These blind people are effectively saying that the external temple itself is God and that there is no other God in the temple! The outer temple is just an inert building and has no trace of even the relative awareness that is present in an animal. How can it possess the absolute unimaginable awareness or the omniscient awareness of God? If you take the Veda as the mere inert sound, without its meaning, how can it be God? God is not at all inert, as per the Brahma Sūtra (Īkṣateḥ…). How can the inert sound, by itself, grant us any results? The inert wooden sandals (pādukās) of the divine preacher are worshiped, but only as symbols of the non-inert preacher, for whom we have great value. But if a person denies the very existence of the divine preacher and says that the wooden sandals themselves are the divine preacher, will we not say that such a fellow is a crack? In the Gita, Krishna scolded such mad fools who worship the inert sandals and deny the preacher. He called these people atheists (Vedavādaratāḥ pārtha, nānyadastīti vādina). Even ordinary atheists are better than these people, who not only have wrong knowledge, but are also mentally deranged! An ordinary atheist does not believe in the existence of God and hence, he criticizes the Veda, which establishes the existence of God (Nāstiko Vedanindaka). These atheists are people who are unable to catch the correct logic. But the Pūrva Mīmāṃsakas are not only incapable of catching the correct logic regarding the existence of God, but they are also mad in saying that the Veda itself is God! You go to the palace of a king and say that the palace itself is the king and that no king other than the palace exists! Will you not be branded as a mental patient, who has escaped from the mental hospital? These fools think that the sound of the Veda is God. As per science, sound is merely a form of inert energy. They further think that the inert rituals performed by them also give results by themselves! If you serve the king, the king, who is pleased with your service, can give you a reward. The inert service cannot bring a reward on its own! While walking past a temple, you touch the compound wall of the temple with devotion. You treat the entire temple to be holy due to the presence of God in it. God may be pleased with your devotion and He may protect you. But you cannot say that the compound wall or the inert action of touching the compound wall brings divine protection by itself. I am short of words to scold these blind mad people, who deny the existence of God in the temple and treat the inert temple-building itself as God!

Theists respect the holy Veda due to their understanding of the knowledge contained in it. The spiritual knowledge contained in the Veda establishes the existence of the unimaginable God (Parabrahman) who possesses unimaginable power. It also establishes the fact that the unimaginable God can be seen in mediated form, especially as the contemporary Human Incarnation. As per the Puruṣa Sūktam in the Veda, the world was created by the unimaginable God expressed in mediated form. This is evident from the fact that the Puruṣa Sūktam describes the mediated God as having a head, hands etc.

We respect theists who respect the Veda due to their devotion for God. They are like the devotees who salute to the temple because they believe in the existence of God inside the temple. The Veda is very holy, but it is holy only because it contains the spiritual knowledge revealed by God, who is very very holy. Without God, the recitation of the Veda by itself is a mere sound. It is like the inert temple-building without God in it. The Veda is certainly the final authority to know about God. We respect a book of science only due to the value of the scientific knowledge it contains. We do not respect it for the inert material of the book. Śaṅkara condemned these blind people and stressed on the importance of understanding the meaning (knowledge) of the Veda. Maṇḍana Miśra, the famous Pūrva Mīmāṃsaka, argued with Śaṅkara for about a month, got defeated and became the disciple of Śaṅkara.

The Veda simply means the knowledge of God. It is neither mere sound nor is it connected to any language like Sanskrit in which the Veda is written. Knowledge has no connection with any particular language. The knowledge of God in any language is the Veda. This is the real view of the Veda. Knowledge alone gives right direction and the right information about God. The right knowledge alone opens the door to right practice, which in turn leads to the right goal. This brings true benefit to a soul. Without understanding the knowledge of the Veda, simply believing the sound of the Veda to be God is not mere ignorance, but madness, to be precise. Indra killed Vṛtra because Vṛtra was a demon and Indra was an angel. An angel is always a good soul following the path of justice, whereas a demon is always a bad soul following the path of injustice. God always protects justice and hence, it was the will of God to destroy Vṛtra and protect Indra. Whatever happens, happens only by the will of God. God’s will cannot be changed by the inert sound of the Vedic hymns recited with certain accents.

The accents are mere musical notations to make sound of the Vedic recitation pleasant. We are not denying the pleasantness produced by the sound of Vedic recitation. But the importance of the accents is only that much. It should not be extended unnecessarily to the extent of treating the sound of the Veda as God. At the maximum, you can give secondary importance to the sound and the accents. The primary importance must be given only to God’s knowledge and devotion. Several devotees, who have not studied the Veda became the topmost devotees of God and got salvation.

| Shri Dattaswami | Enam vindanti Vedena, Vedaishcha sarvairahameva vedyah, Tametam Vedaanuvachanena Devo na kashchit bhuvanasya bhartaa, Karmaanurupaani purahphalaani Shabdamaatra Devataa Vedo adhyetavyo jneyashcha Jneyashcha Ekshateh Paadukas Vedavaadarataah Paartha naanyadastiiti vaadinah Naastiko Vedanindakah Brahma Sutra Ekshateh Vrutra puurvamiimaamsaa puurva poorva