A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times shares the multiplicity of Hinduism—in conjunction with the myriad of Vedic texts—and how we can apply the knowledge of these sources of wisdom in our daily lives without becoming overly dogmatic.
“Taking Christianity as the exemplar of religion skews philosophical discussion towards attempts to solve, resolve or dissolve difficult philosophical puzzles inherent in monotheism: problems about God’s powers, goodness and knowledge; attempts to provide rational arguments for God’s existence; the problem of evil; and so on. Hindu philosophers have traditionally been far more interested in a quite different array of problems, especially questions about the nature of religious knowledge and religious language, initially arising from their concerns with the Veda as a sacred eternal text and as a source of ritual and moral law.”
This ability to use the Vedic texts as a guide for personal conduct and action, rather than literal, is one reason the Vedas can be used as a tool of self transformation and applied to the many challenges humans have faced throughout time, and why these texts are still relevant, if not more so, today.
The article reminds us that using the Vedic texts for guidance, as tools for self inquiry and self development, can be extremely applicable to the challenges we face in our own lives.
“One of the most important texts in the religious life of many Hindus is the Bhagavadgita, the Song of the Lord. The Gita is deeply philosophical, addressing in poetic, inspirational language a fundamental conundrum of human existence: What to do when one is pulled in different directions by different sorts of obligation, how to make hard choices. The hard choice faced by the protagonist Arjuna is whether to go to war against members of his own family, in violation of a universal duty not to kill; or to abstain, letting a wrong go unrighted and breaking a duty that is uniquely his. Lord Krishna counsels Arjuna with the philosophical advice that the moral motivation for action should never consist in expected outcomes, that one should act but not base one’s path of action on one’s wants or needs.”
The many different books of the Ved, “branches of the Banyan tree,” as the article suggests, are ultimately tools of understanding the Self, and awakening to the vastness that we are.
“Reading a religious text, taking it to heart, appreciating it, is a transformative experience, and in the transformed state one might well become aware that the claims of the text would, were they taken literally, be false. So religious texts are seen in Hinduism as “Trojan texts” (like the Trojan horse, but breaking through mental walls in disguise). Such texts enter the mind of the reader and help constitute the self.”
A timely piece I believe, as morals on the “battlefield of life” seem to be a heated and ferocious topic of debate in the international community right now.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Swati J.