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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Who is Aryan? Are Aryans(and Vedas) originally from Iran or Europe? Are Vedic Aryans different from original Indians?

Question: Could you explain what does Aryan mean and its origin? I came across a theory which states Aryans originally belong to Iran and the scriptures Zend Avesta and Vedas were composed in this region by Vedic Aryans. It also states that original culture of India is different from Vedic culture. What is the truth?

Answer: This is a complex question and can be answered in parts. First, let us see what does Aryan refer to and what it means.

Meaning And Origin of word 'Aryan'

Aryan comes from Sanskrit word arya, which means "noble". It does not refer to any particular geography, language or race in essence. Quoting the famous line from the Rig Veda, Krinvanto visvam aryam (Make the world aryam), eminent historian and archaeologist Shivaji Singh explains that aryam is that mindset, world view, attitude, which works for the spiritual and material welfare of humankind (Vedic Culture and its Continuity, 2010). 
The essence of Vedic culture lies in its perception of Aryattva, a virtue the achievement of which is considered to be necessary for civilised living. The slogan Krinvanto viswam aryam (Rig Veda 9.63.5) is an appeal to the divine almighty power to help achieve this ideal. Unfortunately, however, many historians have misunderstood this Aryattva.

Scholars have often confused the Vedic Aryans with Indo Aryans, forgetting that the two concepts are different. ‘Arya’ being the self-designation of the Vedic people, ‘Vedic Aryan’ represents a historical reality. As against this, the term ‘Indo-Aryan’ is a linguistic construct denoting speakers of a sub-group of languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family, and being a construct, its validity is subject to verification.

Although language and culture are intimately connected, Arya does not denote a speaker of a particular language. In the Vedic view, a person speaking a Dravidian language is Arya if he possesses the virtue called Aryattva… (p10). Arya is defined one who is noble and refined in ideas and action, and these depend on a “world view characterised by a belief in certain concepts like Rta, Satya, Tapas, Yajna, Brahma etc.” (p10)

Aryattva is a blending of virtues that lead to the highest material and spiritual achievement. Rta simply means the order and harmony of the universe which the Rig Vedic Rishis saw in their physical environment, Nature. Yajna, the ritual of the fire, homa, is not only a tribute to the fire Deva, Agni, but embodies the orderly working of the universe reflected in Vedic astronomy. The intricate celestial relationships that the Rishis actually observed with the naked eye are clearly explained by BN Narahari Achar in ‘Sarasvati River and Chronology: Simulations using Planetarium Software’ (cited in Vedic River Sarasvati and Hindu Civilisation, 2008, ed. S Kalyanaraman).

Satya (usually translated as Truth) represents the mirroring of the cosmic order in society and the individual’s alignment with this cosmic order. Likewise, Tapas or self-discipline (austerity) was practiced by the Rishis for the welfare of society and therefore the universal application of this to individuals who embody Aryam/Aryattva.

How was this turned into a racial theory to facilitate divide and rule policy of western invaders? This was grossly done by inventing a 'race'(that did not exist) and simultaneously re-defining 'Arya' giving it a new definition that adapts to the new racial theory. 

How Arya was made to represent a race

The development of aryanism as a theory of racial superiority is ascribed to Joseph Arthur, comte de Gobineau [Graf von Gobineau] (1816/07/14 - 1882/10/13), who argued the superiority of the nordic races in his work Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines (1853), using skull size as the basis of his argument that whites were superior. (Click here to see how this is now debunked by researchers).
Aryanism in Germany: It was German linguist Gustaf Kossinna who in his book German Prehistory: a Pre-eminently National Discipline introduced the idea that an Aryan race, superior to other peoples, could be equated with the ancient Germans, arguing that Germany was the key to the unwritten history of the ancient world. Adolf Hitler further twisted the theories of Gustaf Kossinna (1858-1931), to put forward the "Aryans" as a master race of Indo-Europeans, who were supposed to be Nordic in appearance and directly ancestral to the Germans.

Purpose and Origin of Aryan Invasion Theory

During the 19th century, many European missionaries and imperialists traveled the world seeking conquests and converts. One country which saw a great deal of this kind of exploration was India (including what is now Pakistan). Some of the missionaries were also antiquarians by avocation, and one such fellow was the French missionary Abbé Dubois(1770-1848). His manuscript on Indian culture makes some unusual reading today; the good Abbé tried to fit in what he understood of Noah and the Great Flood with what he was reading in the great literature of India. It was not a good fit, but he did describe Indian civilization at the time, and provided some pretty bad translations of the literature.

It was the Abbé's work, translated into English by the British East India Company in 1897 and with a laudatory preface by German archaeologist Max Muller, that formed the basis of the Aryan invasion story--not the Vedic manuscripts themselves. Scholars had long noted the similarities between Sanskrit, the ancient language in which the classical Vedic texts are written, and other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian. And when the first excavations at the large Indus Valley site of Mohenjo Daro were completed early in the 20th century, and it was recognized as a truly advanced civilization, a civilization not mentioned in the Vedic manuscripts, among some circles this was considered ample evidence that an invasion of people related to the peoples of Europe had occurred, destroying the earlier civilization and creating the second great civilization of India.

Flawed Arguments and Recent Investigations

It turns out that there are serious problems with this argument. 
  1. There are no references to an invasion in the Vedic manuscripts; 
  2. As stated above the Sanskrit word "Arya" means "noble", not a superior cultural group.  
  3. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that the Indus civilization was shut down by droughts combined with a devasting flood, not a violent confrontation. 
  4. Evidence also shows that many of the so-called "Indus River" valley peoples lived in the Sarasvati River, which is mentioned in the Vedic manuscripts as the homeland. Rig Veda clearly locates Sarasvati as lying between the Yamuna and Sutlej (imam me Gange Yamune Sarasvati Sutudri stotam sachata Parusnya - RV 10.75.5 ). Read this -
  5. There is no biological or archaeological evidence of a massive invasion of people of a different race.
The most recent studies concerning the Aryan/Dravidian myth include language studies, which have attempted to decipher and thereby discover the origins of the Indus script, and the Vedic manuscripts, to determine the origins of the Sanskrit in which it was written. Excavations at the site of Gola Dhoro in Gujarat suggest the site was abandoned quite suddenly, although why that may occurred is yet to be determined.

Why westerners dated Aryan Invasion to 1500 B.C.?

Christianity and Western scholars till 18th century believed that world got created on 23rd October, 4004 BC, Biblical flood occurred in 2400 B.C. and that civilizations started expanding and migrating in around 1500 B.C. So they had to accomodate world events according to this Christian belief. Hence they deviced an Aryan Invasion theory(which neither had scientific backing nor archaeological evidence) - that the Aryans came into Bharat (India) from outside around 1500 B.C. Now the very foundation of Ayan invasion is demolished.

Rig Veda and Zend Avesta - "Aryan" Sciptures?

There are striking similarities in Vedas and Zend Avesta of Zoroastrians(ancient Iranians). And moreover, Zoroastrianism also used the term 'Ariyan' as in Vedas. This combined with the 'Aryan Race' theory has led to a prominent theory that suggests common roots to these. The possibility of common roots may be true to an extent, but that has nothing to do with 'Aryan' or 'Ariyan' as we already saw in the analysis of that term.

Now let us see few details of both civilizations.

Zoroastrianism was the most prominent religion of Mesopotamia. What are their beliefs? Firstly, that their God is Ahur Mazda. Secondly, they believe in a certain powerful satanic(negative) spirit called Ahriman. And their scriptures talk about two types of people -- Yazats and Devas. Devas are symbolic of the evil spirit, an embodiment of all that should not be. Even now, when people of the Mesopotamian region talk about Devas, they talk about them with disgust -- that is the kind of hatred that the Devas have generated. And most importantly, they are led by the demonic evil spirit called Ahriman. On the other hand, Yazats are the followers of the Supreme God Ahur Mazda. They are the righteous people, an embodiment of everything that should be correct.

Now let us come to the subject of Rig Veda and the scriptures of Hindus in general. There are two types of people -- Devas and Asurs. Devas are the righteous people; they are an embodiment of all that should be right; they rule the heaven and earth and maintain peace and righteousness all over. Brahman is the Supreme Being from which everything has emanated. And there are the Asurs, who are evil beings. These Asurs are an embodiment of all that is wrong, an embodiment of all that should not be. They are led by their evil guru Shukra.

Do you see anything that relates the two beliefs? In today's geographical terms, these are two communities of people who lived on either side of the current day Afghanistan. We have the community on the west side of Afghanistan call the evil spirit as Ahriman, and we have the community on the east side of Afghanistan call their God as Brahman. Do you get a feeling, or sense something fishy here? Yes, both are the same: Ahriman is the same as the Brahman. The supreme being of the Vedic people is the evil spirit of the Zoroastrians! The name of Brahman got morphed slightly after it traveled over to the Mesopotamian region, and it became Ahriman.

The evil spirits feared by the community on the west side of Afghanistan are Devas. And on the east side of Afghanistan they are good-natured. Both are the same. Zoroastrians hated the Devas of the Vedic people!

The god of Zoroastrians is called Ahur Mazda(Asur of Vedas). And the good people who follow Ahur Mazda are called Yazats(from Rakshas). Zoroaster is the Persian name for the prophet. The Greek name for him is Zarathushtra. Phonetically, this ties in with the name associated by the Vedic guru of the Asurs -- Shukra! 

So we get more similarities between the two. By logical analysis, we have 3 possibilities-
  1. Vedas originated from Zoroastrianism with complete reversal of ideas
  2. Zoroastrianism originated from Vedas with complete reversal of ideas
  3. Both originated simultaneously
Since one has extremely high similarity with other with just a reversal of ideas, only first two is probable and we can discard the possibility of third option. Now considering first two points, which  one is true? Let us analyze the scriptures itself.

Vedic scriptures tell us of two types of beings -- Devas and Asurs -- born of the same parent. Devas, being virtuous, were the toast of all and were bestowed with all graces, while Asurs were deemed incapable and got the raw deal. Asurs were miffed by this and were led away to a far off existence of their own, in defiance of the divine ordinance. Once in a while, they waged wars with Devas to reclaim their motherland.

This description of the sequence of events tallies with the legends and scriptures of Mesopotamia. As per Mesopotamian legends, they were once the servants of Gods. They revolted against the Gods and Gods found them difficult to handle, which forced Gods to expel or let the Mesopotamians go to a far off existence. That is how Mesopotamian came into existence. This description of events tallies with other legends of Mesopotamia as well, like the Zurvan tales. All the legends of both the regions tally with each other.

Whatever the legends be, we understand two things from this that is perfectly tallying with both Vedic and Zoroastrian beliefs:
One, that they(Zoroastrians) were "once" having beliefs identical to Vedic people and was probably were themselves part of Vedic belief system.
Two, they reached where they are now, away from their 'original' place, revolting against that(Vedic) belief system.

From Wikipedia, we get that Old Avestan term daēuua or daēva derives from Old Iranian *daiva, which in turn derives from Indo-Iranian *daivá- "god" and sometime down the timeline it gained a derogatory meaning. So, even with latest archaeological and scriptural evidences available, the confusion is on why Zoroastrians broke away from their original Vedic system and not if Vedas are having origin outside India.

Ultimately, if there is one system emanating from other, the only possible choice is Zoroastrianism emanating from Vedic system, and not the other way. Also, as we saw above, the geographic location of where Vedas were composed also leads to Indian subcontinent - specifically near ancient Saraswati river, near Rajasthan.

For more scriptural evidences from Hindu scriptures on relation of Shukra and Zarathushtra, please read article by Ajit Vadakayil -

Monday, 20 April 2015

Who wrote Devi Bhagavatham?

Question: Who wrote Devi Bhagavatham? Where it is mentioned ? - Question by B.Kalyan Kumar, Hyderabad

Answer: The Srimad Devi Bhagavatam, also known as Devi Purana, was composed into 12 chapters, containing 18000 verses by the great Veda Vyasa. Though classified as an upapurana it is the only purana Vedavyasa called "Maha Purana" meaning the great purana. At the end of each chapter of the 18 main puranas or the upa puranas is the verse "This is the end of the fifth section of the Vishnu Purana", or "Thus ends the first chapter of Ganesha Purana Upasanakhanda called "The Description of Somakanta". Where as in the Devi Bhagavatam it is clearly - "Thus ends the eighth chapter of the first Skandha in the Mahapurâna Srimad Devî Bhâgavatam of 18,000 verses by Maharsi Vedavyâsa".

You can download Devi Bhagavatham English translation here.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Where can I get authentic English translation of the Vedas

Question: Where can I get authentic English translation of the Vedas not done by a westerner? Has any Indian Guru done it?
- Bharath Krishna, Seattle

Answer: If your purpose is to study Vedas, we would strictly recommend you to learn it from a competent guru, who belongs to an authentic parampara. Generally Vedas are not learnt by reading them though, because it requires a guru to guide you to the true meaning. In USA, you can contact Arsha Vidya Gurukulam to find a right place near you.

Translation to Vedas by Agniveer is quite popular. Apart from it, there is NO reliable English translation available currently. They also have Hindi translation at their Arya Samaj Jamnagar website.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

How many arms does maa Durga have and why?

Question: Durga ke kitne hath(hands) hai or kyu?Mohammad Shahnawaz, Muzaffarnagar
A: Before coming to the question, let me explain some basics. 
According to Sanatan Dharma, Durga(Shakthi) is known as the Mother of the Cosmos with infinite power to protect her devotees from all kinds of destructive forces. Actually, Shiva and Shakti are one and the same - both are manifestations of the all-in-one divine consciousness. SHIVA symbolises consciousness. SHAKTI symbolizes the activating power and energy.
Shiva - Shakthi
Whenever a power becomes active, and wherever energy exists, Shakti is working. Other terms for these primal principles are PURUSHA and PRAKRITI; Purusha is consciousness and Prakriti is nature. Īshwara is the omnipresent, eternal, formless divine principle; Purusha is the Ātmā and Prakriti is the manifestation, nature. 
Analogy:An electric light can be used to explain their relationship. The electric current, which is the source of the light, is Īshwara; the light is Purusha, and the object that is illuminated is Prakriti.
Maa Durga has many names like Sati, Parvati, Gauri, Ambika, Amba, Shakti, Bhavani, Bhadrakali and Kalika and symbolises  Mahamaya, Maha meaning Great and Maya meaning 'that which is not absolute truth'.  The Cosmic manifestation is interpreted as Maya or illusion of the entire universe or all that is created and that is not easily understood by mortals. The combined creative energies of Consciousness (Shiva) with the supreme truth praised as Shakti (Power) Devi Durga, in Sanatan Dharma, have been given a feminine attribute due to its creative aspect and is extended to it and hence the power or energy is worshipped in a female form, a Mother who is responsible for the entire Srishthi or Cosmic creation.

The Meaning of "Durga"

The word "Durga" in Sanskrit means "Durgatinashini," 'She who is the remover of all Tamasic tendencies & one who destroys all evils & is invincible' & therefore Goddess Durga is popularly known as Mahishasura Mardini, the destroyer of Mahish Asura the Buffalo Demon(buffalo being symbol of Tamas).

Durga's Many Arms

Durga is shown with multiple arms to carry multiple weapons. See their meaning below:

Durga's Many Weapons

  • The conch shell in Durga's hand symbolizes the 'Pranava' or the mystic word 'Om', which indicates her holding on to God in the form of sound.
  • The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrows in one hand "Mother Durga" is indicating her control over both aspects of energy - potential and kinetic.
  • The thunderbolt signifies firmness. The devotee of Durga must be firm like thunderbolt in one's convictions. Like the thunderbolt that can break anything against which it strikes, without being affected itself, the devotee needs to attack a challenge without losing his confidence.
  • The lotus in Durga's hand is not in fully bloomed, It symbolizing certainty of success but not finality. The lotus in Sanskrit is called "pankaja" which means born of mud. Thus, lotus stands for the continuous evolution of the spiritual quality of devotees amidst the worldly mud of lust and greed.
  • The "Sudarshan-Chakra" or beautiful discus, which spins around the index finger of the Goddess, while not touching it, signifies that the entire world is subservient to the will of Durga and is at her command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
  • The sword that Durga holds in one of her hands symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword. Knowledge which is free from all doubts, is symbolized by the shine of the sword.
  • Durga's trident or "trishul" is a symbol of three qualities - Satwa (inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity) - and she is remover of all the three types of miseries - physical, mental and spiritual.
Devi Durga stands on a lion in a fearless pose of "Abhay Mudra", signifying assurance of freedom from fear. The universal mother seems to be saying to all her devotees: "Surrender all actions and duties onto me and I shall release thee from all fears".
Durga's Three Eyes
Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as "Triyambake" meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).

Durga's Vehicle - the Lion

The lion represents power, will and determination. Mother Durga riding the lion symbolises her mastery over all these qualities. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Why god has created this universe? What is the purpose of life? Who am I?

Q: Why god has created this universe? What is the purpose of life? Who am I?
Vaibhav, Bangalore


1. Why god has created this universe? 

The notion of god "creating" something not true. Because the concept of "creation" in Hinduism is not an external creation, rather it is a manifestation of Parabrahman itself. The world as it appears is not an absolute truth, but is relative. It is called mithya or maya. The illusion, where relative truth appears as absolute reality is the cause of our ignorance - a veil of ignorance that covers ourself from reality.
2. What is the purpose of life? 

Goal of human life is mOksha, the liberation from cycle of births and deaths. mOksha can happen only through true jnAna(knowledge) - the knowledge of the self. This is achieved through a 3 step process designed by our ancient rishis - Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana. But to attain Jnana, you must satisfy some prerequisites. You must have one-pointedness of mind (Ekagrata). Ekagrata comes through Upasana. Upasana comes through purity of heart (Chitta Suddhi). Chitta Suddhi comes through Nishkamya Karma Yoga. To do Nishkamya Karma, you must have controlled the Indriyas. The Indriyas can be controlled through Viveka and Vairagya.

Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana:The definition of shravaNa is the consistent systematic learning of Vedanta from a competent live teacher for a prolonged length of a time. The teaching has to be reflected upon until there are no more doubts left in the mind, and that is called manana. I am not going to touch a wire until I know for sure (100%) it is not a live wire. Even if there is a slight doubt, I would hesitate to touch it. Similarly the purpose of manana is to insure that the mind is completely doubt-free. Contemplating on the teaching until it is assimilated is nididhyAsana. 

Moksha is not to be regarded as a becoming into something which previously had no existence. Moksha is not something to be achieved. It is already achieved. Everything is one with Absolute or Para Brahman. What is to be achieved is annihilation of the sense of separateness. Moksha is the direct perception of that which has existed from eternity, but has hitherto been concealed from us on account of the veil of ignorance. Moksha is attainment of the Supreme Bliss or Immortality and removal of all kinds of pain. Moksha is freedom from birth and death. 

3. Who am I?

This is something to be discovered, and not explained through words.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Why did Sri Ram abandon Sita maiya?

Q: Isn't it wrong in part of Sree Ram to abandon sita maya into forest even though she had passed The Agni Pariksha and that too just because a drunkard was shouting on his wife.... While the drunkard should have been punished instead ..?

A: The main point to be considered here is that the original Valmiki Ramayana ends with Yuddha Khanda. Since we have a well maintained 'parampara' through which scriptures are handed down the generation, any addition could easily be identified.

"The first and the last Books of the Ramayana(Bala khanda and Uttara khanda) are later additions. The bulk, consisting of Books II--VI, represents Rama as an ideal hero. In Books I and VII, however Rama is made an avatara or incarnation of Vishnu, and the epic poem is transformed into a Vaishnava text. The reference to the Greeks, Parthians, and Sakas show that these Books cannot be earlier than the second century B.C......"[ The cultural Heritage of India, Vol. IV, The Religions, The Ramakrishna Mission, Institute of Culture].

However Book I, Balakanda is considered to be an original version except for some injected stories. 

Even on linguistic evidence, we can understand this clearly.

1) Fal-Shruti evidence: Fal-shruti of a book (of religious importance) describes that what spiritual or other benefits one can get after reading that book or chapter. Exactly fal-shruti is either given at the end of a book or at the end of each chapter in some books. In valmiki Ramayan we can see that fal-shruti is given at the end of yuddh kand and not after each chapter. And that also describes the importance of reading whole RAMAYAN not yuddh kand alone. It means that the whole book ends with the end of yuddh-kand. But when the fal-shruti describes the benefits of reading RAMAYAN and Ramayan ends with it, why would the book proceed again with Uttar Kand? 

(2) Difference in language: When linguists tested the language of Valmiki Ramayan, they stated that there is a clear difference in the language of uttar-kand and the language of rest of the Ramayan. It seems that there is a difference of minimum two centuries between them.

Why did God separate souls from himself which should go back to him?

Q: Souls are not born, they are eternal. They must go to God to achieve salvation. But souls came from God...So if souls comes from God and it has to go back to God, why did God separate souls from himself to come back to him?
- Madhukar Singh

A: In Sanathan Dharma, the concept of 'Atma' cannot be equated with the 'soul' in Abrahamic religions. Neither is their concept of "god" same as that of Ishwara. Atma need not "go to Ishwara", because Atma is not at all separated from Brahman. 

There is an example of 'AkASa'(space) used in Vedanta to explain this concept. Imagine(you really need to imagine) an empty pot. Even though empty, it encloses space  ( = AkASa).  We may call this enclosed space, the pot-space (= GhatAkASa).This is not different from the universal space (= mahAkASa) which is outside the pot -- except that the pot-space is space  enclosed, conditioned by the material of the pot, whereas the universal space  is unconditioned (= nirupAdhita).  

Now fill up the pot to the brim with water.  The pot-space seems to have disappeared.  We only see water now but in the water we see the universal space reflected.  This reflection shows the sky, the stars or whatever there is in the sky or the space, like buildings, trees, clouds, etc. with all their different shades of colour. This reflected presentation of the outside space may be called water-space  ( = jalAkASa). 

Water-space shall not mean  'the space occupied by water' but shall mean the reflection, in the water, of the mahAkASa, which is everywhere.  

Now the water-space hides the real space, namely the pot-space within and projects a falsity of an outer space, inside. This is the grand delusion in which we are all in. The water-space corresponds to the jIva  (the individual soul - kshara purusha).  It hides the presence of the pot-space within.  The pot-space is the akshara purusha

Without the substratum of the pot-space there cannot be any water-space.  We in our delusion think that the water-space is all there is. We forget that there is a pot-space within and it is the real space and that the water-space is only a false projection of the reality.  Without the substratum of the imperishable purusha within, the jIva or the kshara purusha or what we think as our personality has no existence. The imperishable purusha is also called kUTastha, the immovable, or the immutable, that which remains like the unchanging iron-piece (anvil) on which the blacksmith does all his hammering.  

The water in the pot is the mind or intellect. It is the reflection in our intellect of the universal consciousness that generates the feeling, an individualised feeling, in us, of 'I' and 'mine'.

To conclude, let me tell you simply - the notion of 'soul' separate from Ishwara is itself an illusion, and to identify the reality of Atma is the goal of life. That is achieved though self-knowledge, from an authentic guru.