Friday, March 22, 2013

No rebirth in the Rg-Veda


  

            In my article about Sati, I had written that Sati dates back to the time when the Hindu people did not yet believe in reincarnation, and that it was also known among other people who didn’t have the doctrine of reincarnation, such as the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. Predictably, some Hindus reacted furiously, stating that Hindus had always believed in reincarnation and quoting chapter and verse from the Vedas to prove it. Here is my answer: the Rg-Veda, at least, does not contain the doctrine of reincarnation at all, and it is a post-Rg-Vedic text that explicitly introduces it. So, this is not a foreigner’s answer, it is the answer of one of India’s own great seers.

The concept of reincarnation is first explained in the Chandogya Upanishad. The Brahmin young man Shvetaketu returns home from his studies, where he supposedly has learned all Vedic knowledge including the core doctrine of the Upanishads (the Self, Atmavada), and meets his childhood friend from the Kshatriya caste, who quizzes him about the knowledge he has gained. Has he learned what happens to us after death? No, admits Shvetaketu, that wasn’t part of my curriculum. So we can already conclude that the core doctrine of the Upanishads is not dependent on a theory of the afterlife, such as the theory of reincarnation.

In Buddhism and Jainism, reincarnation is absolutely central, and it is fair to laugh at Western converts who insist on declaring themselves Buddhists but refuse to accept reincarnation. In Hinduism, by contrast, it is merely the factual situation that most people believe in reincarnation, but the core doctrine in its original form is not dependent on it. The goal of Buddhist meditation may be conceived as stopping the wheel of reincarnations, but the goal of Hindu meditation is not so defined. Check Patanjali, who mentions knowledge of past lives in passing, but doesn’t define the goal of yoga in terms of the reincarnation cycle. It is simply, technically, the isolation (Kaivalya) of consciousness from its field of objects in which it is mostly entangled, egardless of what happens to the conscuious subject before birth or after death. Buddhism in its Zen form has rediscovered this view, where the here and now is all-important and beliefs about past lives or the afterlife don’t matter. Hindus, by contrast, have become crypto-Buddhists and have come to believe that liberation means stopping the wheel of reincarnation. Not so Shvetaketu.

Now, when even Shvetaketu’s father Uddalaka doesn’t know the answer to this question, they go and ask the king. He turns out to know, and to have known all along. So he teaches them the doctrine of reincarnation for the very first time in Vedic literature and in all the writings of mankind. He also says that this doctrine is commonly believed in among Kshatriyas. No wonder the doctrine is so central in the traditions of Mahavira Jina and the Buddha, both Kshatriyas. He finally reveals that this belief is the secret of the Kshatriyas’ power. Indeed, those who consider their bodies as merely clothes they can take off and replace with new ones, are not afraid to kill or to die, they are fearless and win the battles, and hence they enjoy the power.

The Upanishadic account is confirmed by the reincarnation doctrine’s absence in the Rg-Veda. Yet, my reader claims: “Contrary to mischievous propaganda taking prominence in last few months, Vedas have their foundations in theory of rebirth.” Note first of all the immature debater’s assumption that a statement with which he disagrees must necessarily be born from “mischievous” motives. In reality, a statement may be right or may be wrong regardless of the speaker’s motives; but let that pass.

The reader claims: “Almost all mantras of Vedas implicitly assume that rebirth happens across various species and situations as per Karma or actions of the soul.” This is definitely untrue. He may project his own beliefs onto the  Vedic mantras, but most of these can be read without evoking in the reader’s mind the notion of reincarnation or any other doctrine of a life after death. For instance, the two most famous mantras, Vishvamitra’s Gayatri Mantra and Vasishtha’s Mrtyunjaya Mantra, are unrelated to reincarnation or to the afterlife. The first one is a hymn to the rising sun and asks it to enlighten the worshipper’s mind. The second one is a hymn to Shiva and asks him to deliver the worshipper from mortality. Come to think of it, this presupposes exactly that death is considered the problem, unlike in the doctrine of reincarnation, where rebirth (i.e. non-death) is an automatic given, and completely unlike the Buddhist and generalized Hindu belief that continuous rebirth is the problem and that liberation consists in getting rid of these repeated rebirths.

            The reader them claims to “provide some mantras from [the] Vedas that specifically talk of rebirth”, and starts with RV 10.59.6-7: “O Blissful Ishwar, Please provide us again healthy eyes and other sense organs in next birth. Please provide us powerful vitality, mind, intellect, valor again and again in next births. We achieve bliss in this life and future lives. May we keep looking up to your glory always. Keep us in peace with your blessings. O Ishwar, you provide us space, earth and other elements again and again so that our sense organs function. You provide us the ability to have good health and enjoy life in every birth. You make us strong again and again in various births.” But in fact, the Sankrit original doesn’t mention rebirth (punarjanma), it merely asks the god to give this vitality etc. “again”, i.e. after having lost it. The hymn is about “quickened vigour” and “health-giving medicine”, i.e. about health and longevity, about non-death. It requires very special pleading to read multiple lives into this.

The source quoted is 19th-century reformer Dayananda Saraswati’s notoriously fanciful translation, in which e.g. the names of the different gods are rendered as “God”, making the Vedic seers into quasi-Christians. Like many modern Hindus, he projected his own Christian-influenced beliefs onto the Vedic text. Most Hindus read the Vedas, to the extent that they read them at all, through Puranic lenses, applying the post-Vedic Hinduism which Dayanand Saraswati claimed to despise but which still determined his interpretation to a large extent. What he added and what set him apart from mainstream Hinduism in his day, was that he also tried to bring in quasi-Protestant monotheism and anti-idolatry which he had interiorized from his colonial masters. But in this case, it is not a Christian but a post-Vedic Hindu notion of reincarnation that he projects onto the Rg-Vedic verses.

The reader then quotes Rg-Veda 1.24.1-2: “Question: Whom do we consider the most pure? Who is the most enlightened one in entire world. Who provides us mother and father again in the world after gifting us ultimate bliss or Mukti? Answer: The self-enlightening, eternal, ever-free Ishwar alone is most pure. He alone provides us mother and father again in the world after gifting us ultimate bliss or Mukti.”

The word Mukti (freedom, liberation) and the concept of ultimate bliss are completely imaginary here, the special pleading that pervades later Hindu reading of the Vedic compositions. The original speaks of “seeing” father and mother, whom we shall indeed see in the hereafter. That is what the Rg-Vedic seers  believed in: the same story which we tell our children, viz. that our dead relatives are waiting for us in the hereafter. Sometimes we tell our children also that that particular star over there is where grandfather has gone to; and a Brahmanic funeral ritual (which, a Tamil Brahmin told me, is still performed) does indeed specify which part of the starry sky welcomes the deceased souls. This hereafter is incompatible with the notion of reincarnation. The verse contains the word “punah” (again), and this seems to be reason enough for our reader to believe that reincarnation is meant.  

That’s it for the Rg-Veda. The other quotes which the reader gives, are taken from the younger Yajur- and Atharva-Veda. They were partly contemporaneous with the older Upanishads, and it is not unreasonable if we come across reincarnation beliefs there. Yet, even here we find similar mistranslations. According to him, i.e. to Dayanada Saraswati of the Arya Samaj, this is what Yajurveda 4.15 says: “Whenever we take birth, may our deeds be such that we get a pure mind, long life, good health, vitality, intellect, strong sense organs and a powerful body. In next life also, keep us away from bad deeds and indulge us in noble actions.” But other translations, and indeed the Sanskrit original, don’t speak of reincarnation. They say that breath and life and consciousness have come “again”, but doesn’t imply that we first must have died. At least one translator even specifies that the hymn was said upon awakening.

            As for Atharvaveda 7.67.1, the reader or his source again indulges in misdirection. If that book contained the doctrine of reincarnation, it would still prove nothing about the Rg-Veda; but the verse quoted doesn’t even contain this doctrine: “May we get healthy sense and work organs in next life as well. May I [be] full of vitality. May I have spiritual wealth and knowledge of Ishwar and Vedic concepts again and again. May we be selfless for welfare of world in next lives again and again. May our deeds be noble so that we get human life and always get purity of mind and actions so that we can worship you and achieve salvation.” This translation is really very far from the original, which is another prayer for health and longevity, this time obtained from a specific medicinal herb. Many hymns of the Atharva-Veda are about health-restoration and medicine, i.e. about saving and prolonging life rather than counting on a next life.

            About Atharvaveda 5.1.2, he translates very freely: “One who conducts noble actions obtains noble lives in next births with strong body and sharp intellect. Those who conduct bad deeds get birth in lower species. To experience the fruits of past actions is natural trait of soul. After death, the soul resides in Vayu, Jala, Aushadhi etc. and again enters the womb to take next birth.” We don’t see these “next births” there, but maybe we should sit together and perform a word-by-word translation. This hymn is significantly called the Immortality Hymn, a name which we have already shown to be at odds with the reincarnation doctrine and certainly with the later quasi-Buddhist doctrine that we are tired of these endless rebirths in this Vale of Tears.

            In Yajurveda 19.47, however, the reincarnation doctrine may indeed be implied:

“There are two paths for the soul. One path Pitryana provides birth again and again through union of father and mother, good and bad deeds, happiness and sorrow. The other path of Devayana frees the soul from cycle of birth and death and provides bliss of salvation. The whole world reverberates with both these paths. And after both, the soul again takes birth as progeny of father and mother.” This is the same concept enunciated repeatedly in the older Upanishads: that either we can go to heaven (way of the gods) or we can come back here (way of the ancestors). This doctrine has the same origin as the doctrine of the old Upanishads, where indeed it is introduced as an innovation.

Our reader ends his letter with some lengthy quotations from “Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati`s masterpiece `Light of Truth’”, which only prove that he, like most 19th-century Hindus, believed in reincarnation and could not imagine life without it. The Swami’s organization, the Arya Samaj, claims to this day that he abhorred the decadence into which Puranic literature had thrown the Hindus and that he merely wanted to restore the Vedas to the pristine purity they once enjoyed. In fact, he too was a “Puranic Hindu” who read the Veda through Puranic eyes. He believed that the Veda was of supernatural origin, hence his attempt to translate all reference to mundane people and places out of it.

But in fact, we know the family relations of the Vedic seers, the places where they lived or travelled, the reasons why they waged war and the tribes against whom they did battle, even their fondness for the psychedelic Soma brew. Short, they and their books were human, all too human. Of course they changed their mind once in a while, and they learned from their surroundings or from their own discoveries. This way, they first believed in a hereafter where we would meet again, but later came to the notion that we returned from the hereafter to be born again. Since this belief is attested among many different tribes the world over, and since India knew many tribes of whom the Vedic (Paurava and esp. Bharata) tribe was only one, we opine that it existed among some Indian tribes too at the time when the Rg-Veda was composed. But it was new to the Vedic seers, who had cherished a different belief for long. Only when a successful class advertised the new and hitherto secret doctrine of reincarnation as its key to success, did the doctrine catch on. This way, Hindu history is also the history of progress.  

 

44 comments:

Shravan Tanjore said...

Not mentioning something is taken too seriously. There were Kshatriya e.g Vishwamitra; who composed verses in Rk Veda, so he too did not know about reincarnation?

In fact one makes things too complex by asking questions like who invented the idea of reincarnation? Who is the original and who copied from who? It is all unnecessary.

I read in one of your previous articles about your personal experience of near death experience this got me interested in the current efforts being made to explore this field by people in the mainstream scientific community, I came across some writings and video documentaries of Dr. Ian Stevenson and this is what I learnt:

Experiences of Past Life / Past Life memories (i.e according to the people having them) are quiet common across cultures. Tribes in Alaska, Africa also believe in it. In fact some believe that violent deaths lead to the person having birth defects in the next life at exactly the location where the injury happened in the past life leading to death. These cultures are widely separated and keeping in mind your very recent article about 'Gondwana Myths' etc. I will say this, experiences of past life are very common all over the world across all cultures. It must have been this way since ancient times no reason to believe otherwise. It does not take a lot of effort then to imagine a solution or answer to these experiences, aha you were somebody else before you were born!!

Nobody needs to copy anything from anyone.

Now you mentioned that death was considered a problem and not reincarnation. Therefore people prayed for immortality. Well did anyone achieve it then? were they not intelligent enough to see all were dying? what then did they mean by immortality?

I have a question for you why is it believed that the purana are latter to the veda? what stories were told to children when they were young in VEDIC times then?

I believe Purana and Itihaas contain very ancient stories transmitted from teacher to student or from parent to child and these two works do contain lots of talk about reincarnation.

Shravan Tanjore said...
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Shravan Tanjore said...

Why you may ask is the language different in the Purana than in the Veda? The Purana and Itihaas are ancient stories (Mahabharata contains stories of kings and queens and kingdoms much older than the Pandava) which need not depend on any particular language, they can be transmitted through classical sanskrit or ancient sanskrit.

Shravan Tanjore said...
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Shravan Tanjore said...

“There are two paths for the soul. One path Pitryana provides birth again and again through union of father and mother, good and bad deeds, happiness and sorrow. The other path of Devayana frees the soul from cycle of birth and death and provides bliss of salvation. The whole world reverberates with both these paths. And after both, the soul again takes birth as progeny of father and mother.”


Does it not mean you either take birth after birth immediately or you go to heaven and are AGAIN born to a father and mother? The word punarjanma may not be mentioned but it is talking about reincarnation or something similar.

Also does the Rk veda believe in the immortality of the soul? if yes then why ASK for it from someone else? or the idea of immortality of self is later to RK veda?

Shravan Tanjore said...

I am interested in knowing your opinion on Rk Veda 4.26.1 also mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Up. 1.4.10.

'Aham Manur bhavam Surya cha aham'.

Many translations say "I WAS Manu, I WAS Surya". Should it be was or am? if was then is he talking about past births?

ysv_rao said...

@Shravan Tanjore

Please note that I find supremely irritating when people provide a quote and incomplete one in your case dont even provide the context. I don't know if it was oversight on your part or deliberate as the complete quote would contradict your pro reincarnation leaning.

Anyway here is the complete quote from Satyavidya.com

I am Manu and I became the Sun. I am the Poet-Seer, Rishi Kakshivan!- RV.IV.26.1.

Manu was the first mortal of the human race. He is son of Surya, the inner-Sun or the Self. Kakshivan is not only a great Seer, but also the great Divine Medic, Dhanvantri. This brahmastra, which basically means and is cognate to 'Aham brahmasmi' (as per Brihadaranyaka), connects us to the Divine powers of the Self.


Leaving aside the gobbldygook of the inner Sun or Self-whatever the heck that means, I think it is on the mark. The sage is associated with Ayurveda and his diety of Dhanvantri and for his being the Sun , he seemed to have acquired boons from the solar dieties of Ashwins which compelled him to create Ayurveda.

Shravan Tanjore said...

@ysv_rao: who are you exactly? Why should I care what irritates you? My question was not even a question, I wanted to know the Dr Elst's opinion on the quote also I asked quiet a clear question which makes it very clear I am here to know what he has to say about it, I do not care for your opinion.

Also easy with the finger pointing, I am not obsessed or looking to support preconceived notions like you are about reincarnation or the lack of it and I do not believe you are some great scholar who has done enormous research. You are just a guy picking from other's research just like I am.

I see you are connecting the stated Verse to Ayurveda, Brihadaranyaka upanishad disagrees, it does not make any mention of Ayurveda when it mentions Vamadeva and the verse in question.

Besides did you actually understand what you wrote?

ysv_rao said...


@ysv_rao: who are you exactly?

You already have my name.Ysvrao, that is good enough for you. I am not about to you give you my biography if thats you anticipate.


Why should I care what irritates you? "

I really dont care whether you care or not.I was simply expressing my views on your either sloppy or dishonest quotation.


My question was not even a question,"


Really?! Have you read your own posts?
Should it be was or am? if was then is he talking about past births?

If those are not questions, then you dont know the meaning of the word question.
Here's a tip Panini- if there is a question at the end of a sentence, then it is considered a question!
You see ,its not that complicated.




I wanted to know the Dr Elst's opinion on the quote also I asked quiet a clear question which makes it very clear I am here to know what he has to say about it, I do not care for your opinion."

You are clearly an idiot as you dont seem to realize that you are posting on an open comments board.To assume that only Koenraad Elst deserves to answer your post and no one else betrays a sense of pompous self importance that bothers on the comical!

Also easy with the finger pointing, I am not obsessed or looking to support preconceived notions like you are about reincarnation or the lack of it"

You seem to be either a pathological liar or just plain stupid.
All of your statements are pro reincarnation and even your so called "questions" are framed ,loaded and structured in manner to goad the reader into pro reincarnation bias.



and I do not believe you are some great scholar who has done enormous research. "

I never claimed to be.


You are just a guy picking from other's research just like I am."

Ah yes, but the difference between you and me is that I have no illusion about being immune from criticism just because I was not addressing the critic.You seem to be new to this debating thing!
Haha , in the Vedic times even a mediocre scholar wouldve chewed you up and spit you out before you even realizing it!

I see you are connecting the stated Verse to Ayurveda, Brihadaranyaka upanishad disagrees, it does not make any mention of Ayurveda when it mentions Vamadeva and the verse in question."

You are clearly a fool, the sage is associated with Ayurveda even if it does not mention it explicitly.

Besides did you actually understand what you wrote?"

I perfectly do. But it is clear from hysterical, defensive and incoherent rant that you dont know what you wrote

Shravan Tanjore said...
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Shravan Tanjore said...

@ysv_rao

I don't need your name to note (I have noted as you previously requested) that you are a thoroughly accomplished idiot. It was you who crossed the line when you said in your very first post things like "I don't know if it was oversight on your part or deliberate as the complete quote would contradict your pro reincarnation leaning",
this is an example of a personal attack and normal human beings like me do not put up with it. Reincarnation or the lack of it is not my personal concern here.

Now if you cannot answer my question without resorting to a personal attack then please do not torture your own little brain, just get along with your life and you will do fine.

My question was not a question it was a suggestion and I wanted an educated person's reply but apparently it was your reply in my
prarabdha karma, I will endure it. I will tell you this, you are a fool because you make an issue out of a non issue.

If I had pompous self importance I would not have behaved politely which I did in reference to Dr. Elst's posts until you turned up.

Man you are SICK, when was the last time you smiled or felt happy about something? In mentioning Dr. Ian Stevenson's work I am merely introducing a valid and quality point but apparently you cannot tolerate different ideas. I feel so sad for you.

Quiet a seasoned debater you are to say things like this "Haha , in the Vedic times even a mediocre scholar wouldve chewed you up and spit you out before you even realizing it!", this is a classic example of insecure person ranting. what makes you think I want to debate with you? About a mediocre scholar's capability I do not know but as I said you need help with your mental issues as well as your English and quickly.

There are two prominent texts that I know of which mention the vedic verse in question, one is the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the other is the Brahmasutra and neither of them talks about this verse in relation to Ayurveda, I prefer these texts to your fake scholarship.

My final words to you will be these " Do not fear the idea of reincarnation, you have been taught to hate things that you do not believe in, it is wrong, rid yourself of this anger, do not begin any discussion by making aggressive personal statements, it is true I did not post the entire verse but it should not matter because neither did you, I mean why ignore the whole Hymn? Also I clearly mentioned the verse with it's number, it is the duty of the reader (if he or she is interested) to verify what it is, I do not have to post the whole thing. Stop behaving like a guard dog".

Rashid Moosa said...
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ysv_rao said...

@ Shravan tanjore

I will ignore most of your deranged nonsense. But i will say only this- you make the assumption that I am against reincarnation somehow- I am not. However I can easily believe that the Rg Veda doesnot contain this idea- the Vedas do not contain a lot of ideas and dieties associated with Puranic Hinduism.
However they may the genesis of those of ideas within their ideas.

I have made a very reasonable statement about your lack of proper authentication of the said quote. Rather than admit the error, you just erupted in a fury aghast that someone would criticize you in an open comments board!

I never said the quote explicitly mentioned the Ayurveda but the author of the quote is associated with Ayurveda,why is this so difficult to understand?

This statement is telling:
Also I clearly mentioned the verse with it's number, it is the duty of the reader (if he or she is interested) to verify what it is, I do not have to post the whole thing. Stop behaving like a guard dog".
This is good example of your mindset.Cut up a quote so that it would promote your view point and when you are called out on it you fume that it is not your work to put the whole quote.
Your excuses just keep getting stupider by every post.
Do us all a favor and just shoot yourself ....in the groin..so that the world will be spared of your offspring

अश्वमित्रः said...

Good lord, if this is what scholars of the dharma are like, then what on earth is the point?

Shravan Tanjore said...

for the moment if I was to assume that there is no rebirth in Rk Veda it seems the conclusion drawn will be originally there was no concept of reincarnation in the Brahmanic Vedic culture now this is based on an assumption that Rk Veda is the oldest recorded text and if something is not there in it then it must have been most likely unknown to the composers.

I do not see it that way, I truly believe that the belief in reincarnation is a much bigger phenomenon goes all the way to Alaska!! I believe it must be seen within the framework of Ian Stevenson's research.

Shravan Tanjore said...
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Shravan Tanjore said...

Also some people are so unreasonable.

ysv_rao said...

@friendofahorse said:
Good lord, if this is what scholars of the dharma are like, then what on earth is the point?"

Im really not interested in the opinion of a commentator who uses snark and saracasm in substitute of actual arguments.

Akshar said...

Dear Dr. Elst,

I have couple of questions for you unrelated to the current post.

1. Islamic nation Pakistan has adopted moon-star as their flag which is known in hindi as "Chaand Taraa". What is the genesis of this symbol w.r.t. to Islam?

It is true that this symbol originally belonged to pre-islamic Turks because they worshiped Moon ?

Koenraad Elst said...

@Akshar:
I guess the crescent moon, which on the Paki flag is aptly symbolizing the Paki immigrants' specialization in night shops, dates back to before Islam. The Turks in Central Asia mainly worshipped the blue sky (hence the connection of the blue/turquoise colour with the Turks) but among the subordinate gods, they obviously included the moon. But so did many other peoples. The Greeks/Romans worshipped Artemis/Diana esp. in a Greek city now in Turkey. It became a symbol of Byzantium, which was subsequently conquered by the Ottomans. To my knowledge, this is when the crescent moon started to be identified with Islam. So I guess Mohammed had nothing to do with it. But he did succeed in wresting the Kaaba from its rightful owners, the Pagans of Arabia, who worshipped the moon god Hubal there.

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

To answer the question of rebirth one needs to understand (1) the concept of life and death (2) the concept of time (3) cyclic nature of the universe. Where are these first found?

As for Sati, where is the first available reference to the method/ritual/procedure of sati and not merely its mention?

Capt. Ajit Vadakayil said...

Hi mr EXPERT elst,

WILL YOU DELETE THIS TOO?

Are patriotic Indians aware of this VULGAR and VICIOUS attack on Indian Culture and Hinduism by JOSHUA PR0JECT TW0, using Wikipedia and main stream media ?

Punch into Google search --
IMMORAL ATTACK ON HINDUISM AND INDIAN CULTURE VADAKAYIL

It is better to know before your own children are poisoned .

India is being torn apart by such wedges deliberately driven by DESH DROHIS.

Capt ajit Vadakayil
..

sandalwood said...

"So we can already conclude that the core doctrine of the Upanishads is not dependent on a theory of the afterlife, such as the theory of reincarnation."

Absolutely correct.

Shravan Tanjore said...

I am pasting the first few verses of an episode mentioned by Dr Elst in his article.

1. Svetaketu Aruneya went to an assembly of the Pankalas. Pravahana Gaivali said to him: 'Boy, has your father instructed you?' Yes, Sir,' he replied.

2. 'Do you know to what place men go from here?' 'No Sir' he replied.

'Do you know how they return again? No Sir,' he replied.

'Do you know where the path of Devas and the path of the fathers diverge? No, Sir,' he replied.

3. 'Do you know why that world' never becomes full?' 'No, Sir,' he replied.

'Do you know why in the fifth libation water is called Man?' 'No, Sir,' he replied.

4. 'Then why did you say (you had been) instructed? How could anybody who did not know these things say that he had been instructed?' Then the boy went back sorrowful to the place of his father, and said: 'Though you had not instructed me, Sir, you said you had instructed me.

My question is;
Why did the King ask questions which he knew that a Brahmana cannot answer since he knew Brahmanas did not know about reincarnation? If he assumed that this is very important and must be known for completing education then it must have been tradition that Brahmins also learnt this.

'Did' the king have reincarnation on his mind when he was asking these questions?

Karthikrajan said...

Sir,
Nice nailing ! In the translation by H.H Wilson the word used is 'restore' for the sanskrit word 'punaha', and quite apt too. Going by the fact that the rig vedhic clans were a murderous lot, it is only logical that the seers were praying for the restoration of body parts lost/disfigured in those brutal fights, and not for rebirth. Maybe in frustration some seers could have taken refuge in consolatory statements to their masters like : May the gods help us in returning the thrashing to our enemies in the next fight. When the next war yielded the same result, these seers turned 'gnyaanis' and consoled themselves by thinking that their masters could win only in 'next birth'. Maybe this is how the idea of rebirth and reincarnation caught on, who knows !!!

webasura said...

Rubbish. Elst admits that the RgVeda doesn't speak of rebirth. Here is a small sample of mantras from the RgVeda that specifically talk of rebirth:

Rigveda 10.59.6-7:O Blissful Ishwar, Please provide us again healthy eyes and other sense organs in next birth. Please provide us powerful vitality, mind, intellect, valor again and again in next births. We achieve bliss in this life and future lives. May we keep looking up to your glory always. Keep us in peace with your blessings.O Ishwar, you provide us space, earth and other elements again and again so that our sense organs function. You provide us the ability to have good health and enjoy life in every birth. You make us strong again and again in various births.

Rigveda 1.24.1-2:Question: Whom do we consider the most pure? Who is the most enlightened one in entire world. Who provides us mother and father again in the world after gifting us ultimate bliss or Mukti?Answer: The self-enlightening, eternal, ever-free Ishwar alone is most pure. He alone provides us mother and father again in the world after gifting us ultimate bliss or Mukti.

Rig VIII. !. 23. 6 & 7."O God! Thou conductest ourpranas. We pray Thee that we may be happy whenever we may assume another body after death. Grant us, O God! The eyes and all the other senses, the pranas and the inner senses in our future birth when we may assume another body after forsaking the present. Do Thou grant us that when we are born again we may enjoy uninterruptedly all enjoyable thins. May we be able to see the luminous sun and the ingoing and outgoing pranas in all our rebirths. O God! Thou art the dispenser of honor and happiness, make us happy in all our rebirths, through Thy grace."[In this mantra, the eye (Chakshu) represents all the senses and prana the inner senses.] "Be gracious, O Lord! To grant that in our rebirths the earth may give us pranaborn of food and strength, the bright light of the sun may give us prana and middle region may give us life; the juices of medicines such as soma, may give us body (bodily health and vigor). O God! Thou art the giver of strength and nourishment, show us in our rebirths the path of virtue (dharma). We pray that happiness be our lit in all our births through Thy grace.

webasura said...

correction above - "Elst alleges that..."

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

@webasura,

Good catch. 10.59.6 happens to be the prana pratistha mantra. 6 prays for life and 7 for body.

ysv_rao said...

@webasura Shankar

We need to see the actual translation and context. The Rg Veda is notoriously prone to multiple interpretations.

I am not saying your interpretation is inaccurate but we cant say for sure with finality

Also prana in prana pratistha mantra can mean life force or energy(chi) rather than life.

Seeing how the authors and beneficiaries of these prayers were warriors, it could very well imply a plea for reparing this life force and rejuvenating it and acquiring new ones.

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

@ysv_rao,

The reason why I even added a comment on top of what webasura already said is to explicitly note the difference. Mantra 6 can be read either way as life force, energy etc but mantra 7 is explicit about giving a body and cannot be interpreted as anything other than body. In fact Dayananda Saraswati quotes these two as indicative of the concept of rebirth, it is not my discovery.

As such, I would not be really interested in searching for concepts like rebirth in a Samhita which is meant to be explicitly adhi daivika. The text we look at should be reasonably appropriate and relevant to the concept we are looking for. But unfortunately these days the Hindu way of looking at Hindu texts has become "unscholarly".

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

Hello KE,

You can again restore vitality, intellect etc, but what is this restoring of body in RV 10.59.6-7 and how does it happen without a rebirth? The concept of "punarjanma" with all its constituent dynamics such as birth under specific conditions and its relation to previous lives etc does not have to be there at all when you say you are going to be born again!

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

The problem with general reading of RV mantras is also that it ignores the ritual aspect. The yajna is itself a model whose macro interpretation is cosmic and micro interpretation is individual/life. And yajnic ritual terminates with the invariable mention of cyclic concept. Like I mentioned earlier, the concept cannot be seen in isolation and is shaped with several related concepts. The challenge with RV unlike Yajurveda is that the hymn is clearly separated from the ritual application and people usually come back saying the sutras and brahmana are much later dated. In Yajurveda the samhita itself has enough ritual content to dispel this kind of objection. Never mind the fact that RV starts with invoking Agni as the Purohita and implying that that mantra is meant for ritual application. At the life "threat" level yes the Kshatriyas have more relevance with rebirth as a concept. But then, also as demonstrated in Shvetaketu's example, the notion was *pre-existent* at his time!

ysv_rao said...

@ShankaraBharadwaj

I realize what you noted the quote about the body as well. However even in that context, it could mean the rejuvenation of the body(possibly through prana) and/or bestowing eternal youth onto the body so that it is as good as new, rather than just new.

You are right that Rg Vedic verses are very tricky without the proper context and the ritual aspect. You also very astutely stated that they have a macro/cosmic and micro/individual earthly connotation.

I think a very good explanation was given by a knowledgable and heterodox Indian American Kunal Singh who used to share his knowledge on the various newsgroups many years ago. They are still on archive on deja.com

here are few of his observations


It turns out that what is commonly termed the Vedas is actually just the
ritualistic portion of the Vedas, with the Upanisads being parts of the
different Vedas. After I had put the Upanisads together with their
respective Vedas, the explanations of the oblations of the Vedas started to
make sense, as the Upanisads provided the explanation. And supposedly at
one time they were a part of the Vedas, which makes sense if one reads the
contents of the various Upanisads. But one thing is for sure, the contents
of the Vedas become very difficult to interpret without the Upanisads.

So to correct my own and possibly the shared misconceptions of other Hindus
and definitely quite a few misconceptions of so called Hindu scholars:

1) There is no separation of the Vedas, some earlier, some later, etc. The
Rg Veda provides the speech, the Sama Veda is the breath, the Yajur provides
the verses for those building the altar etc, and the Atharva Veda provides
some corrective actions in case the priests of the other Vedas make mistakes
during the performance. It is possible that some Upanisads may have been
later extended or added to, for the explanations of the "self" but the
rituals seem to mention the time of the king Yadu etc. Remember Nahusa of
the lunar race once overtook Indra and became Indra himself.

2) There is a time sequence to the oblations, the ritualistic oblations by
themselves are not intended to discuss philosophy which one may expect in
the contents of the Vedas. But the rituals begin during the darkness of
pre-dawn and progress throughout the day. The rituals definitely attempt to
take the participant to "heaven." But I shall deliberately not address that
on the net.

3) The Vedas do not provide a lot of political history, though some history
of the deities. Indra is always glorified as the defeater of Vrtra. But
contrary to what people currently believe when reading verses associated
with the "darkness" of Vrtra being pierced and conquered by Indra and the
riteless Dasyus being vanquished, it is not intended to represent any
aryan/dravidian divide as proposed by western scholars. The formless Vrtra
(thus the darkness) was said to cover creation at one point and Indra was
supposed to have defeated the "formless." Thus it represents more the
eulogizing of Indra (deity of the senses) for having created form out of
darkness, not really defeating dark-skinned people as some scholars have
proposed.

4) Indra in Hinduism is still associated with both the senses and the
actions (gyana and karma) Indriyas. Thus Indra is praised often as
"piercing" and "cutting" the formless Vrtra into "pieces." The riteless
(formless worship) being defeated by Indra and his being the protector of
the "arya" or those believing in "rites" (ritualistic worship). The
understanding of the senses seems to provide the fundamental justification
in Hinduism for "form" both in the external world and in its rituals.

5) The reason why Agni is addressed so many times isn't because the Vedas
were primitive and in those days people were sitting around a camp fire.
The Vedas are set in a context of a "havan" thus the oblations and
significance of Agni.

ysv_rao said...

contd..

6) Indra is not eulogized many times because Visnu or Shiva have not been
defined yet. They have been defined, Shiva is typically addressed as Rudra
and the mantra of AUM is well understood in the related Upanisads. Indra is
eulogized because the participant wants to enter "heaven" he wants to
acquire to "Indraloka." To acquire to the Brahman, he has to first conquer
his senses.

7) Much of the discussions related to Indra freeing up dammed rivers does
not apply to dark races somehow blocking the invading Aryan's water supply
as some western scholars have suggested. Some of the Upanisads clearly
explain the varied use of the term river to be different things at different
times, those in the sky, those in the body etc. Thus sometimes the rivers
are said to run upward, as in the human body for example, quite unnatural
for "earthly" rivers. Sometimes they are associated with sweat or
perspiration.

8) The Vedas were not written up by a few Brahmins to define a caste
structure and there is no progression of any migration of aryan races coming
into conflict with dark races. There is some discussion of castes in the
Upanisads, but nothing really significant, as usual some fighting between
Brahmins and Kshatriyas. The Vedas were apparently defined in the courts of
kings and in one of the Upanisads a king warily explains to a Brahmin the
meaning of the fire and altar etc. worried that the Brahmin may some day use
the knowledge to harm his race. This is also the reason why we see so many
kings performing various sacrifices in the various epics. They were not
bound to perform them by the Brahmins, who at the time were too weak and
powerless, they expected to gain something from them and had entrusted the
Brahmins with the knowledge so that they could use them to achieve something
quite specific. The rites were quite complicated and required more than one
Brahmin and there was no way the king could perform the elaborate ceremony
by himself. Brahmins who were well versed in the rites were still quite
hard to find. The Sama Veda required knowledge of metres and singing in
addition to the understanding of yogic prana flow. And the Atharva Veda and
related Upanisads demonstrate knowledge of attempting to direct the
sacrificial smoke in particular directions and using multiple fires to
correct any errors. There are also some warnings against hiring Brahmin
priests who didn't have sufficient knowledge of the subject.

9) Lastly and most importantly, animal sacrifices were a routine affair, the
cutting of the animal, the eating of the animal etc. It is not just the
Yajur but the Rg as well which describes the Horse Sacrifice, probably the
Yajur priest then kicked in and said a lot more verses while the horse was
being led around etc.

10) The Vedas do provide a very good understanding of the significance of
the Sun and its treatment as the external Brahman united with the internal
Brahman. It explains the Moon and its relations with the vegetation of the
Earth as well as the body etc. Also one can obtain a better understanding
of related Hindu deities by examining probably the largest rituals ever
compiled in the courts of kings.

11) The Vedas were probably discussed and contributed to by many people in
royal courts. Thus it having no singular author is indeed quite a true
claim.

Karthikrajan said...

One thing I find very striking in the vedhic texts is that it is based on extensive observation of the nature: its configuration, its structure, the role played by various entities etc. One such observable phenomenon is the house hold lizard re-growing its lost tail. From this viewpoint the RV manthraas asking for ‘new bodies’ could mostly mean refurbishment of the body ravaged in the wars. Rebirth may be attributed to some verses depending on translation of the words, but we need to understand how the idea caught on. They were observant enough to catch the role played by the pancha-boothaas (earth – solid, water – liquid, air – gas, sun/fire – energy, & space ) in the human body [compare this with bible narrative that god made man from dust, which leaves out other constituents from the picture !]. Ideas like organ transplant, asexual reproduction, cloning etc can be found in the later stage hindu texts but not necessarily in the rig vedha. As KE rightly points out, rebirth may or may not be found in the RV , but that was not the central theme.

Skanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

@ysv_rao, karthikrajan,

See how "reincarnation is not there in RV" now comes down to saying the references "they may or may not" be talking of rebirth. If you want to look for what alternatives the mantra can suggest other than rebirth, you can find many - I can give you myself. Again as I said, if one wants to know about RV one has to understand the mantra sastra of RV, its ritual scheme.

Karthikrajan said...

@ ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli: OK, so what is this 'manthra shaasthra' all about, or, what is RV all about ? is it for the general public or for the intelligentsia?

ysv_rao said...

@Karthikarajan

Read my excerpts of Kunal Singhs observations- it would answer some of your queries

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

@Karthikrajan,

Obviously RV is a Veda samhita and meant for those who *learn* it - along with limbs and accessories. For that matter any sastra is to be learned "sa-anga-upanga". RV is explicit about its ritual nature and its mantra nature (from mantras like catvari vak, rco akshare parame vyoman etc). The vedangas etc are meant precisely to lead us to a proper understanding of the meaning. Mantra sastra deals with (sound+devata) and the constituent areas like dhvani, varna, swara, theology, consciousness etc.

The problem that I have is with seeing RV in isolation on the reason that you do not have equally ancient corollary texts.


Karthikrajan said...

@ysr_rao: yes, i've read them and some are interesting:
1)What is the meaning of nahusa ‘overtaking’ indra to become indra himself?
2)Rituals may be an attempt to take a participant to heaven, this idea was abandoned later as no such thing could be proved. What is the relevance of these rituals to present day hindus?
5) The importance of the role played by heat energy in sustenance of the universe was understood and hence the deifying of the sun and agni. [Eminent American astro-physicist Carl Sagan commented in the teleseries ‘cosmos’ : We are star (sun) stuff, harvesting star light]. Campfires may have inspired them, we can’t rule it out.
7) Freeing up dammed rivers ? That is interesting, did they know of blood clots leading to cardiac arrests?
8) Some hindus still maintain (‘thughlak’ Tamil magazine editor cho Ramasamy is one such guy) that braahmans who are ‘properly’ trained in vedhic rituals no longer exist, otherwise all miracles are possible like taking a participant to heaven, bringing rains and cheers, meeting the gods to take census or to conduct interview etc.
9) True, I had a doubt whether the sacrificed animals during RV period were eaten or just discarded. Most probably it was eaten. I am watching this teleseries ‘hannibal’ on AXN t.v. One psychopath character teaches his daughter to hunt and insists that the meat be eaten and other body parts be utilised in some way. When his daughter protests, he says : “eating and utilising the parts is like honouring the animal, otherwise it is simply a murder”. (the psychopath does the same with his human victims).Maybe the same logic governed the RV seers, which they later abandoned for humane reasons.
11) Precisely because a lot of seers from different schools of thought composed the RV, it becomes difficult to understand the purpose behind this text. However, the central theme is about invoking the gods to obtain riches and destruction of the enemy, since we find these verses from start to the end. Asking for riches may be for the entire society, but destruction of the enemy is definitely for their paymasters who happen to be warlords always in battle. Shrikant talageri points out to one seer who rats on them and hence the verse asking the gods to destroy the enemy even though the enemy happens to be thei kinsmen !! (later refined in the bhagawadh Geetha: krishna exhorting arjuna to kill his kinsmen without hesitation for the sake of truth and justice) These invocations did not always produce results. The dejection due to failure of their hymns coupled with tongue-lashing received from their paymasters manifests as lamentations like: why are u not helping us, you are our god, don’t help our enemies etc. Some became philosophical and pondered about life and death, some changed strategy and explored the possibility of sending their paymasters to heaven ( unable to rain hellfire on their enemies !!!) some quietly inserted history as they found this to be a foolproof method to transmit it from generation to generation (tape recorder !!) , some sought medicinal help from the god rudhra to repair their paymaster’s ravaged body, some give valuable tips like: don’t fight amongst yourselves, maintain peace, avoid sathi etc.

Karthikrajan said...

@ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli :I can understand your problem. But seeing it in isolation is the only way now and, as i see it i have mentioned in above post. And i understand that the meaning of the word 'vedh' is to-know or to-seek. Are the names of the vedhas found in the vedhic text itself? i am not sure about this. The seers seem to have done some experimentation and hence the sophistication found in it , like u mentioned, dhvani, varna, swara etc. And i am unable to say for sure what it is about.

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli said...

@Karthikrajan,

I do not understand why seeing it in isolation is the "only" way, much less a requirement to do so. The very name "Samhita" means a compilation. To understand why the mantras are grouped in a particular way, there is no alternative but to depend on the anukramanis and srauta sutras. To understand the meaning of mantras there is no alternative than to depend on mantra and ritual. Both the word veda and names of vedas can be found in the veda, but that is irrelevant when you say its reorganization happened multiple times in history. There would always be some meta/structuring content added with such reorganization.



Anirudh Kumar Satsangi said...

Unaccomplished activities of past lives are also one of the causes for reincarnation. Some of us reincarnate to complete the unfinished tasks of previous birth. This is evident from my own story of reincarnation:
“My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state of mine. This was sort of REVELATION.
HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith.
Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ (Agam Geet yeh gawan chahoon tumhri mauj nihara, mauj hoi to satguru soami karoon supanth vichara) but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.”
I am one the chief expounder and supporter of Gravitation Force Theory of God. This is most scientific and secular theory of God. This is the Theory of Universal Religion. I have given Higher Theory of Everything. Sometimes back I posted this as comments to a blog on:
‘Fighting of the Cause of Allah by Governing a Smart Mathematics Based on Islamic Teology’
By Rohedi of Rohedi Laboratories, Indonesia. Rohedi termed my higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Some details are quoted below:
rohedi
@anirudh kumar satsangi
Congratulation you have develop the higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Hopefully your some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory are recognized by International Science Community, hence I soon read the fundamental aspect proposed by you.
I have posted my comments to the Blog of Syed K. Mirza on Evolutionary Science vs. Creation Theory, and Intellectual Hypocrisy. Syed Mirza seems to be a very liberal muslim. He responded to my comments as mentioned below.
“Many thanks for your very high thought explanations of God.
You said:
“Hence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation. Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
(i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, Source of Gravitational Wave is God”
Whatever you call it, God is no living God of any religion. Yes, when I call it “Mother Nature” is the God generated from all Natural forces and Gravitational force is the nucleus of all forces or we can presume that Gravitation is the ultimate guiding principle of this Mother Nature we call it non-living God unlike living personal God of religions. I can not believe any personal God would do so much misery created for its creation. Hence, only non-living natural God can explain everything in the Universe. When we think of any living personal God, things do not ad up!”
I have also discovered the mathematical expression for emotional quotient (E.Q.) and for spiritual quotient (S.Q.).