CULTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS Pt. 2
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD
Continued From Page 18
....All these scriptures are designed primarily to be chanted rather than read or pondered over with the rational intellect; such chanting purifies not only the chanter and those who hear but the surroundings and atmosphere at large. Such purification is essential to the deep understanding and experience of the knowledge contained in the texts. Thus, none of this is philosophy in the modern Western sense. It is not a collection of verbal propositions to be pondered, debated, accepted or rejected. It is a living truth, designed to expand the consciousness of those fortunate enough to come into contact with it. Historically, that contact was quite limited as the practice of Vedic knowledge was strictly limited to the hereditary priestly caste, the Brahmins. It was they who were entrusted with the preservation and transmission of the sacred wisdom that had been passed down in an unbroken tradition from father to son and from teacher to pupil. This was and still is an oral tradition and involved feats of memory that were quite extraordinary. Each passage was learned according to five systems of memorisation, called shakhas. The first system was, of course, to learn the words of the passage straight through, thus: abcd. The next system was to recite them without the complicated rules of elision being applied. The third was to repeat each wordtwice, thus: ab, bc, cd. The fourth system was to recite the whole thing in reverse order -- ab, ba, ab, bc, cb, bc. And, finally, the fifth system was to recite the passage in compound order. So effective was this method of memorisation that out of the 74,000 known words of the Rig Veda, there is only one variant reading: mamscaatch for mamscatch.
....Whatever the caste system may have been at first, one thing is certain, what remains today is a degenerated version of the original. In pure terms, the status of the Brahmins had nothing to do with either power or money. It was due to the fact that it was they who dealt, on behalf of the whole community, with the Gods. In time, in India no less than elsewhere, the hierarchical priesthood no doubt became corrupt, to the extent that when, in the 6th century BC, Buddha came to revive the knowledge of Enlightenment, he rejected all Vedic rituals and practices and urged his followers to practise only meditation and morality as the direct path to freedom.
....Of the Vedic terms that have filtered into popular consciousness, two stand out: dharma and karma. Dharma, that which upholds, denotes the order by which the cosmos evolves. This eternal law regulates and orders all the streams of evolution; thus, in order to progress in life we must act according to dharma. This entails aligning our minds to the Source within, our Silent Centre, and acting as best we can in the world, utilising our talents not just for our own apparent advancement but for the benefit of all sentient beings. While this imposes a tremendous moral obligation to do right rather than wrong, it is coming from the right place rather than from a sense of acting only to avoid the punishment of a wrathful heavenly Father, like the Old Testament Jehovah.
....Karma is a concept that is often misunderstood in the West, where it thought to be fate or predestination. The Sanskrit word, however, means action and describes the eternal law of cause and effect, action and reaction. Even the Bible says: As ye sow so shall ye reap. Karma is both the power latent within action and the results each action brings. Every action, without exception, will have consequences both immediate and universal, for each action not only affects the individual but reverberates through the cosmos. Therefore, every thought or action is important. Our present life and circumstances are the result of our past actions and our future depends on how we act right now. The law of karma operates on all levels: individual, family, group, nation and species. As a practical morality, karma teaches that by seeing clearly how we affect others by our own selfishness, we can take responsibility for reducing suffering in our environment.
....The oral tradition of the Vedas, the chanting of the Vedic Pundits and the intoning of ancient wisdom are the sounds of the Veda. But, above all, the Vedic song is a silent one, of freedom. It is the song of freedom from all limitations, from all that hampers the free flow of life. It is the freedom that removes all obstacles -- physical, mental and moral -- from the path, that gives freedom from transgressions against natural law. All the freedoms are celebrated in the song of the Vedas -- freedom from disease, from poverty, oppression, impurity, darkness and suffering. When the Rishis of the Rig Veda chant: May we be free, may we be sons of freedom, may we be a stronghold in the midst of gods and mortals, (8th Mandala; Verse 52) they are singing of the most profound of all freedoms. Indeed, of the only true freedom.
....And there is only one area of life that is truly free -- the transcendental realm of pure consciousness, Brahman, the Self.
....So the Rishis chant again: I have known this Heavenly Man, effulgent as the sun beyond the darkness; only by knowing Him does one overcome death; no other way is there to go, (Yajur Veda, 31.18.)
....A man is free only when he is whole -- hale, hearty, healthy, -- in balance with himself and the whole cosmos. This is the state of Enlightenment -- the ultimate goal of Vedic teaching and of humanity -- and it is this that we will be looking at in the third and final part of this article.