[split] The Vedas - Historical accuracy of interpretations
#1
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(18-Jun-2011, 09:37 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: So at this point, they need to be asked, " A return to Vedic roots means a return to what?" A return to animal sacrifices, soma binges and hereditary priesthoods?

Arvind,

I actually investigated some of the claims regarding animal sacrifice in the Vedas.

As you may know, Max Muller was one of the early Indologists who was responsible for translating the Vedas into English during the colonial period. In 1878, he delivered a series of lectures at Oxford University titled "Lectures on the origin and growth of religion." The following quote comes from page 80:

Quote:Still more is this the case when we have to form our opinions of the religion of the Hindus and Persians. We have their sacred books, we have their own recognized commentaries; but who does not know that the decision whether the ancient poets of the Rig-Veda believed in the immortality of the soul, depends sometimes on the right interpretation of a single word, while the question whether
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the author of the Avesta admitted an original dualism, an equality between the principle of Good and Evil, has to be settled in some cases on purely grammatical grounds?
Let me remind you of one instance only. In the hymn of the Rig-Veda, which accompanies the burning of a dead body, there occurs the following passage (x. 16, 3):
“May the eye go to the sun, the breath to the wind,
Go to heaven and to the earth, as it is right;
Or go to the waters, if that is meet for thee,
Rest among the herbs with thy limbs.

The unborn part—warm it with thy warmth,
May thy glow warm it and thy flame!
With what are thy kindest shapes, O Fire,
Carry him away to the world of the Blessed.”
This passage has often been discussed, and its right apprehension is certainly of great importance. Aga means unborn, a meaning which easily passes into that of imperishable, immortal, eternal. I translate ago bhaagah by the unborn, the eternal part, and then admit a stop, in order to find a proper construction of the verse. But it has been pointed out that aga means also goat, and others have translated—‘The goat is thy portion.’ They also must admit the same kind of aposiopesis, which no doubt is not very frequent in Sanskrit. It is perfectly true, as may be seen in the Kalpa-Sutras, that sometimes an animal of the female sex was led after the corpse to the pile, and was burnt with the dead body. It was therefore called the Anustarani, the covering. But, first of all, this custom is not general, as it probably would be, if it could be shown to be
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founded on a passage of the Veda. Secondly, there is actually a Sutra that disapproves of this custom, because, as Kaatyaayana says, if the corpse and the animal are burnt together, one might in collecting the ashes confound the bones of the dead man and of the animal. Thirdly, it is expressly provided that this animal, whether it be a cow or a goat, must always be of the female sex. If therefore we translate—“The goat is thy share!” we place our hymn in direct contradiction with the tradition of the Sutras. There is a still greater difficulty. If the poet really wished to say, this goat is to be thy share, would he have left out the most important word, viz. thy. He does not say, the goat is thy share, but only “the goat share.”
However, even if we retain the old translation, there is no lack of difficulties, though the whole meaning becomes more natural. The poet says, first, that the eye should go to the sun, the breath to the air, that the dead should return to heaven and earth, and his limbs rest among the herbs. Everything therefore that was born, was to return whence it came. How natural then that he should ask what would become of the unborn, the eternal part of man. How natural that after such a question there should be a pause, and that then the poet should continue—Warm it with thy warmth! May thy glow warm it and thy flame! Assume thy kindest form, O Fire, and carry him away to the world of the Blessed! Whom? Not surely the goat; not even the corpse, but the unborn, the eternal part of man.

In this quote, Muller basically admits that he had difficulty translating certain portions of the Rig Veda, and there may be some merit to the claims by Hindu groups that "Vedic animal sacrifices" are the result of improper translations.
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#2
(18-Jun-2011, 07:14 AM)K. P. S. Kamath Wrote: The importance of the Rig Veda lies in the fact that it gives glimpses of historical events of the time (c. 1500 B.C.). The hatred Arya people had for Dasyus, and praying Indra, their supreme god, for his assistance in destroying Dasyus and their forts is evident throughout the text.

Professor Kamath,

There is some evidence that the "Dasyus" of the Rig Veda were actually Persians, and not Dravidians (as is commonly assumed).
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#3
(22-Jun-2011, 07:51 PM)TTCUSM Wrote: In this quote, Muller basically admits that he had difficulty translating certain portions of the Rig Veda, and there may be some merit to the claims by Hindu groups that "Vedic animal sacrifices" are the result of improper translations.

The above was written as part of a response to...

(18-Jun-2011, 09:37 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: So at this point, they need to be asked, " A return to Vedic roots means a return to what?" A return to animal sacrifices, soma binges and hereditary priesthoods?

**********
Thank you for the Max Muller reference which I will try to catch up on sometime. For now, some questions immediately come to mind.

1. (a) If 'animal sacrifices' sanctioned by the Vedas are simply the figment of a mistranslation (and therefore to the apologist can be relegated to realm of inconvenient fiction), then were the sacrifices prevalent during the Buddha's time and described in gory detail in the Sutta Nipata also based on a misreading of the Veda?

(b) If the officiators of Vedic sacrifices were only gorging on vegan substitutes cryptically named 'aja' or 'anustarani', then was Vivekananda also simply misled by a flawed translation when he replied, when asked about what he considered the most glorious period of Indian history, "The Vedic period, when 'five brahmins used to polish off one cow." ?

2. Returning to the question of what 'a return to Vedic roots would really entail, what is the revivalists' plan for effecting this return in the first place, especially when there is no consensus about what the roots really are even among trained Indologists who have devoted their lives to the purpose?

What will be the credibility of such an exercise, especially when similar past exercises in revivalism, say by the Arya Samaj have resulted in products whose resemblance with the extant Vedas is questionable?

Most importantly, what guarantees are revivalists willing to give that a Veda-inspired experiment in social engineering will pass Lincoln's test of power?


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#4
(22-Jun-2011, 11:06 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: 1. (a) If 'animal sacrifices' sanctioned by the Vedas are simply the figment of a mistranslation (and therefore to the apologist can be relegated to realm of inconvenient fiction), then were the sacrifices prevalent during the Buddha's time and described in gory detail in the Sutta Nipata also based on a misreading of the Veda?

I am aware of the claims that the Buddha spoke out against animal sacrifice.
I am also aware of the fact that the Buddha lived in his father's palace until the age of 30.
Usually, when someone wants to study the Vedas, they have to find a guru and study in his ashram for a few years. Do we have solid evidence that the Buddha actually studied the Vedas? If not, then why do we accept him as an authority on their contents?

(22-Jun-2011, 11:06 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: (b) If the officiators of Vedic sacrifices were only gorging on vegan substitutes cryptically named 'aja' or 'anustarani', then was Vivekananda also simply misled by a flawed translation when he replied, when asked about what he considered the most glorious period of Indian history, "The Vedic period, when 'five brahmins used to polish off one cow." ?

Once again, we have to ask the question of whether Swami Vivekananda actually studied the Vedas (his biography on Wikipedia just says that he studied under Ramakrishna Paramahamsa). If he didn't, then why do we accept him as an authority on the Vedic period?
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#5
@TTUSCM

Whether or not Buddha was trained formally in the Vedas is besides the point. The Sutta Nipata was presented here as a testimony of the prevalence of animal sacrifice during that period, and it is reasonable to assume that these were performed under the auspices of a Brahminical establishment that claimed Vedic sanction. There maybe different readings possible on whether the sacrifices mentioned therein can be traced back to the letter to the Vedas, but it does not seem unreasonable to assume that the sacrifices were carried out in the name of the Vedas and were plausible under a reading of the Vedas considered authorized and prevalent during that period.

The criteria which have been used to exclude the Buddha and Vivekananda as authorities on the Vedic period, would also exclude many other spokespersons of present-day revivalists. Whose word can we safely take for this, especially when over the centuries considerable injustice was presided over by gurukula alumni[/b] whose words were indeed taken to be the true interpretation of the Vedas?
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#6
(23-Jun-2011, 06:47 AM)TTCUSM Wrote: Once again, we have to ask the question of whether Swami Vivekananda actually studied the Vedas (his biography on Wikipedia just says that he studied under Ramakrishna Paramahamsa). If he didn't, then why do we accept him as an authority on the Vedic period?

Didn't Paramahamsa and Vivekananda achieve moksha? Don't such people have a direct line to true knowledge? Doesn't that make them gurus unto themselves and hence authorities? Of course, I'm not talking from a historical perspective, but just framing the issue within Vedic ideology, the one in which the requirement of a guru to teach the Vedas arises from.
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#7
(24-Jun-2011, 11:19 PM)Lije Wrote: Didn't Paramahamsa and Vivekananda achieve moksha? Don't such people have a direct line to true knowledge? Doesn't that make them gurus unto themselves and hence authorities? Of course, I'm not talking from a historical perspective, but just framing the issue within Vedic ideology, the one in which the requirement of a guru to teach the Vedas arises from.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's biography is on Wikipedia:

Quote:Ramakrishna attended a village school with some regularity for 12 years,[18] he later rejected the traditional schooling saying that he was not interested in a "bread-winning education".[19][20][21] Kamarpukur, being a transit-point in well-established pilgrimage routes to Puri, brought him into contact with renunciates and holy men.[22] He became well-versed in the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavata Purana, hearing them from wandering monks and the Kathaks—a class of men in ancient India who preached and sang the Purāṇas.[20][23] He could read and write in Bengali.[20] While the official biographies write that the name Ramakrishna was given by Mathura Biswas—chief patron at Dakshineswar Kali Temple, it has also been suggest that this name was given by his own parents.[24]

It says that he became well-versed in Puranic scriptures like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, but it says nothing about the Vedas.
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#8
(02-Jul-2011, 05:32 AM)TTCUSM Wrote: It says that he became well-versed in Puranic scriptures like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, but it says nothing about the Vedas.

Let me see if I understand this right...According to the exacting standards of Vedic apologetics...

Buddha cannot be trusted on the Vedas since he was an adherent of heterodox paths.
Vivekananda cannot be trusted on the Vedas since his initiation was not under the canonical Ashrama system.
Max Muller cannot be trusted on the Vedas since his Sanskrit was not scholarly enough.
Michael Witzel and Michael Wood cannot be trusted on Vedas and Vedic sacrifice because of their conclusions on the Central Asian 'mlechcha' origins of these practices.
Dr. Prabhakar Kamath cannot be trusted on the Vedas because he is after all a Macaulay Putra publishing without sanction from any acharya.

Let us, just to humour the fastidious apologists, follow their exacting standards and stick to just what a supposed ashrama alumnus and Veda speed-reader had to say on the Vedas. It's just that this undisputed authority on the Vedas, considers those texts rather superfluous to the real goal and in fact quite a distraction we can all well do without!
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#9
(02-Jul-2011, 06:53 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Let me see if I understand this right...According to the exacting standards of Vedic apologetics...

Buddha cannot be trusted on the Vedas since he was an adherent of heterodox paths.

That's not what I said.
I said that Buddha cannot be trusted on the Vedas since there is no evidence that he actually studied them. If he had studied them, and then chosen a heterodox path, then I would trust him.

(02-Jul-2011, 06:53 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Max Muller cannot be trusted on the Vedas since his Sanskrit was not scholarly enough.

In the quote that I provided at the top of this thread, Max Muller pretty much admitted that there were numerous ways of interpreting certain Vedic verses.

(02-Jul-2011, 06:53 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Michael Witzel and Michael Wood cannot be trusted on Vedas and Vedic sacrifice because of their conclusions on the Central Asian 'mlechcha' origins of these practices.

I never mentioned Michael Witzel in my posts. However, he has been criticized for having an anti-India, anti-Hindu bias.

(02-Jul-2011, 06:53 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Dr. Prabhakar Kamath cannot be trusted on the Vedas because he is after all a Macaulay Putra publishing without sanction from any acharya.

I never mentioned Dr. Kamath in my posts, either.
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#10
(02-Jul-2011, 06:53 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Let us, just to humour the fastidious apologists, follow their exacting standards and stick to just what a supposed ashrama alumnus and Veda speed-reader had to say on the Vedas. It's just that this undisputed authority on the Vedas, considers those texts rather superfluous to the real goal and in fact quite a distraction we can all well do without!

But wont then the excuse be that Krishna was not a Brahmin? [Image: Xt1pn.gif]

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#11
(03-Jul-2011, 12:09 AM)Lije Wrote: But wont then the excuse be that Krishna was not a Brahmin? [Image: Xt1pn.gif]

Well, if Krishna is indeed an Avatara of Vishnu (unless that too is our misconception thanks to some Puranic mistranslation) and if the names attributed to him in the Vishnu Sahasranama are indeed his (as certified by Adi Shankaracharya whose credentials we can trust in this matter, unless there are doubts among the learned on his ashramic record as well), then the affiliation of Krishna with Brahminism is hard to miss when we look at this page and search 'Stanza 71' therein.

Just saying because it was asked...
Apologetics is not my chosen specialty as you know Sleep
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#12
(03-Jul-2011, 01:24 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Apologetics is not my chosen specialty as you know Sleep

Know what, Lije? On second thoughts, some indulgence in our Indology hobby may in fact be quite instructive here...

A cursory look at Puranic fragments like the Vishnu Sahasranama is replete with snapshots of how Brahminism co-opted Upanishadism (by conveniently redefining Brahmin as 'Brahman-knower')and Bhagavatism (by conveniently self-anointing Brahmins as the foremost Bhagavan-worshippers) as Dr. Kamath describes at length in his series, to come up with a chimerical please-all solution.

In this page (search Stanza 78), we can find a single verse which begins with sublime-sounding Upanishadic abstraction and as if to counterbalance its impersonal distancing effect, adds a line picturing a loving caring personal God. The words Lokabandhu and Lokanatha share not just an etymological resemblance with today's Lokpal but also a conceptual one. Dr. Kamath explains in the section of this article titled 'How Lokpal System In Ancient India Is At The Root Of Misery In Modern India'.

Quoting from there:
Quote:"During post-Vedic period (1000-250 B. C.), when lustful Brahmins (bureaucrats) and greedy Kshatriyas (politicians) thoroughly corrupted Yajnas (their bureaucracy), which stole Karmaphalam from gods (equivalent to politicians and bureaucrats stealing money from people today), there was widespread impotent rage in the country (just as now). To prevent further degradation of Dharma, Upanishadists decided to overthrow them by putting forward their Lokpal Bill, which was the doctrine of Brahman. They came up with a powerful weapon called Yoga with which they decided to chop down the rotten tree of Brahmanism (BG: 15:1-5). They appointed Krishna as Lokpal, and made him declare: BG: 4:7-8: “Whenever there is decay of Dharma and rise of Adharma, I will take birth on earth to protect the good and destroy the doers of evil deeds and to establish the Dharma.” He blasted these corrupt Brahmins and Kshatriyas as thieves, vain and sinful (BG: 3:12-16). Brahmins were supposed to be reformed into Jnanayogis (by giving up attachment to wealth, BG Chapter Four) and Kshatriyas were supposed to be reformed into Karmayogis (by performing selfless service of people, BG Chapter Three)."


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