Universality of Vedanta, Swami Prakashananda ( Audio Book )

Universality of Vedanta

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The Universality of Vedanta


Our Motherland, India, and our religion, have not infrequently been grossly misrepresented. People in Western countries seldom go to the right sources for information. There ai^e, for instance, the orthodox Christian missionaries, who, carried away by their enthusiasm to bring light to the so-called benighted heathen, would not hesitate to exaggerate or misstate the conditions of India and misinterpret the various phases of Hinduism. Then, again, there are the foreign travelers who skim over the country, stop in hotels and come in contact with their Anglo-Indian friends. They see only the squalor and the famine, or the gorgeous temples and other superficial things, and thus fail, in not a few cases, to touch the inner spring of Indian religious life. And these people write books on Indian religion and the socio-moral principles of the people ! What can you expect but a caricature of one of the sublimest religions in the world?

If the tourists passing through the different countries of Europe and America, judge the western peoples and their religion sweepingly by observing the slums, the graft and reckless sacrifice of high moral principles in socio-political life, they unof the essence of the East ; the balm of Gilead for the wounds of England, the cordial of India for the tire of America.” Students of religion sometimes become eon- fused over the different names applied to the religion of the Hindus. The word ‘Hindu’ originated from the name of a river, Indus, in the Northwestern part of India, which in Sanskrit is called Sindhu. The Persian invaders often pronounced ‘S* as ‘H’, so the people living beyond the river were designated by them as Hindus, and their religion was called ‘Hinduism.’ Now, people of all classes in different faiths — such as Christians, Jews, Par- sees, Mohammedans, etc., are living in different parts of India, so the term ‘Hinduism’ cannot be rightly applied to the religion of the various classes of people.

The termj, ‘Brahmanism’ given by the foreign missionaries and scholars to the religion of the Hindus has also lost its significance. Undoubtedly, there was a time when the Brahmans were the custodians of the religions of the Hindus, hut now-a-days the Brahmans represent the priestly class who have ceased to ba the true leaders of religion. The proper name for the religion of the Hindus would be ‘Vedic Religion’ or ‘Vedanta’. In order to understand a religion, we should know its founder as well as its scriptures. The question can be rightly asked, “who is the founder of Hinduism?” In reply we are proud to say that Hinduism is not built around the personality of a founder, as Christianity is founded on the divine personality of Christ, or as Mohammedanism is based on the personality of Mohammed. Hinduism, on the other hand, is based on the impersonal and eternal verities of life and creation. Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so it is with the laws and principles that govern the universe. The moral, ethical and spiritual relations between soul and soul, and between individual spirits and the universal Spirit, were there before their discovery and would remain even if we forgot them.

The discoverers of these principles are called Rishis or seers of truth. They are honored and worshipped as God-men and perfected souls. It would be interesting to know that some of the very greatest of them were women. Though Hinduism is based on the eternal and impersonal truths underlying creation, still it accepts personal founders and recognizes the necessity of personal ideals. Here lies the true universality of Vedanta. Those God-men who discover and also represent in their life the im- personal divine principles are accepted by Hinduimu. Hindtiumi accepts all that existed in the past and will accept those who will come in the future.

As Christians have the Bible ; BuddMsts, the Tripitaka; Mohammedans, the Koran; so have Hindus’ the Vedas. In order to get an insight into the Hindu religions philosophies, one must study three Prasthanas (pathways to knowledge) : theUpanishads, which are the cream of tide Yedasr; Oita, which has been translated as •Song Celestial’ by Sir Edwin Arnold; Vyasa- Sutraa or Yedanta Aphorisms, by Badafayana Vyasa, Well has it been said by Paul Deussen ; “On the tree of Indian Wisdom there is no faii*6r flower than the Upanishads, no finer fruit lian the Vedanta Philosophy.” The great. (Ger- man philosopher, Schopenhauer, said in appreciation of the Upanishads: ”In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It hfua been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.” Professor Max Muller says: “There was one religion only, or one religious philosophy, that of the Vedanta, which …. placed the highest happiness of the soul in the discov- ery and recovery of its true nature bb from eternity to eternity one with God. It — the Vedanta — has room for almost every religion; nay, it embraces them all.”

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