Sophistication of the Vedas

The body of knowledge that forms the basis of all Eastern religions is referred to as Vedas. Veda, in Sanskrit language, means “knowledge”. In the revered book of knowledge called the Bhagavad Gita (which is considered to be an essential part of the Vedas), the history of the Vedic knowledge has been traced. It can be understood to be at least 120 million years old or 2 million years old or 5000 years old, depending on when a snapshot is taken. From another perspective, this knowledge is timeless because it is eternally present in the heart of realized souls and this knowledge has been always flowing from the heart of a realized soul (a teacher or a spiritual master) to a sincere seeker (a student or a disciple) since time immemorial. The chain of teachers who maintain the integrity of this transcendental secret of spiritual science is called a disciplic succession. The knowledge preserved by the disciplic succession is considered to be perfect because of two reasons:

(1) The knowledge of the disciplic succession originates in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is, by definition, perfect, and

(2) the members of the disciplic succession do not have any vested motive to tamper the message for their own profit but they are simply interested in disseminating the knowledge (that they have received from their teacher(s)) with utmost care and caution (as it is).

Consequently, it is natural to expect that the Vedic knowledge would have a strong correlation with the modern empirical findings. In this article, I wish to share two instances where the timeless Vedas have documented numbers which are strikingly similar to the data obtained by modern research. They answer two important questions: (1) How many species are dwelling in this planet? (2) What is the age of this earth planet?

According to the Vedas (Padma Purana), there are exactly 8.4 million species on the earthly realm. The Sanskrit quote is as follows:

jalaja nava lakshani, sthavara laksha-vimshati, krimayo rudra-sankhyakah, pakshinam dasha-lakshanam, trinshal-lakshani pashavah, chatur lakshani manavah

The rundown as per the above verse is as follows:

Jalaja (Aquatics) - 0.9 million
Sthavara (Plants and Trees) - 2.0 million
Krimayo (Reptiles) - 1.1 million
Pakshinam (Birds) - 1.0 million
Pashavah (Land animals) - 3.0 million
Manavah (Human-like animals) - 0.4 million

Total = 8.4 million

A Science Daily article dated Aug 23, 2011 writes,

Eight million, seven hundred thousand species (give or take 1.3 million). That is a new, estimated total number of species on Earth — the most precise calculation ever offered — with 6.5 million species found on land and 2.2 million (about 25 percent of the total) dwelling in the ocean depths.

Although the criteria for classification used are quite different, it is astounding to see that the numbers are remarkably close.

According to the Vedas, time is cyclical and the material universes (including the earth planet) go through a timeless cycle of creation and annihilation. Skipping the detailed calculation, the age of the earth (or the elapsed time between a particular creation and destruction) can be established to be about 2 billion years, based on the Bhagavad Gita (BG 8.17-18) and other books of Vedic knowledge.

Time between creation and destruction of the Universe
= 1000 times the time duration of a cycle of 4 epochs
  (golden age, silver age, bronze age and iron age)

Golden age (Satya Yuga) lasts for 1.728 million years
Silver age (Treta Yuga) lasts for 1.296 million years
Bronze age (Dvapara Yuga) lasts for 864000 years
Iron age (Kali Yuga) lasts for 432000 years

Total time in a cycle of 4 epochs = 4.32 million years

Therefore, total time between creation and destruction of the Universe
= 1000 x 4.32 million years = 4.32 billion years

Currently, we are 5000 years into Kali Yuga of 454th cycle of epochs.
Therefore, total time elapsed since last creation
= 453 x 4.32 + 3.89 million years = 1.96 billion years

Now, let us study an article in wikipedia, which corroborates information from various references and asserts that the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years. Given that there are many assumptions in the radiometric dating, this number is quite close to the number already enjoined in the Vedas.

Of course, these are just a handful of examples where the scientists have established the validity of the Vedic information through their strenuous research. There are many other facts in relation to the cosmological models of the universe, which point to the sophistication of the Vedas.

Thus, it behooves us to take a serious look into the contents of the Vedas with an inquisitive spirit and make an effort to understand and take advantage of the timeless knowledge therein.

 

Going beyond tolerance

In BG 2.14, Krishna gives a nice formula for tolerance: The periodic appearance and disappearance of happiness and distress are like appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. Therefore, one should learn to tolerate them.

Tolerating an event becomes much easier when we know the event is temporary.This is based on an intellectual conviction of this basic principle.

However, Krishna furthermore recommends that a serious practitioner of a spiritual path should aspire to go beyond the “gritting the teeth” sort of tolerance. At this stage, the practitioner sees every situation as an opportunity to receive grace of God. This is only possible if one accepts the situation with a sense of responsibility, understanding that others are simply acting as instruments of one’s own karma, and one maintains the commitment (and strengthens his will-power) to enthusiastically follow the prescribed regimens of the spiritual path.

Such a committed person embraces an adverse circumstance with (1) Yes (“I accept the situation”), (2) Thank you (“for this opportunity to grow”), and (3) Please (“help me”) – calling out for a power beyond one’s own to receive the necessary realization to bolster one’s relationship with God in this circumstance.

 

Gratitude

Someone may be very active in spiritual matters, but may have no feelings in the heart, or may have apathy. In spiritual life, one may be engaged in some kind of activity without any real taste for that activity, or one may be doing it in a mechanical fashion. One is not doing it with care and attention, or with feelings.

There is an antidote to this problem of apathy, and that is cultivating gratitude. We receive so much from God. We receive our life, that which sustains our life, food that we eat, air that we breathe, and so on. One can just push on, not taking into consideration any feelings of gratitude. If there is some acknowledgement for the wonderful gifts that God has given, then those feelings of gratitude will impel one to serve God.

When you have feelings of gratitude, you should express it. You say it, you do it and you live it – living a life of gratitude! A life of devotion is a life of gratitude. On the other side, apathy is carelessness or callousness.

Lessons from a pencil

1. The pencil teaches you that what is inside is more important than what is outside – in other words, that the soul is more important than the body. When we have a pencil we value the graphite at its center much more than the dead wood that surrounds it. Never forget that you are an eternal soul inhabiting a temporary body, just as the graphite and the message it can create inhabit the wood. 

2. Whenever you make a mistake correct it immediately. Every good pencil has an eraser at the end. Whenever one makes a mistake with one end of the pencil one can immediately erase it with the other end. Learn from the pencil that it is not dishonorable to correct mistakes. No, correcting your mistakes is actually your duty. It should be done as soon as you notice the mistake. Truthfully, it is not only a duty to correct our own mistakes but an honor.

3. Stop from time to time to sharpen your tools, meaning your mind, body, and spirit. Just as a pencil needs to be sharpened, so we need to sharpen ourselves by spiritual practice. Only then can we become one-pointed enough to give full attention to the Lord. 

4. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Learn to make your own contribution in life with joy. Each pencil has its particular line to draw. This line become words – specific words – and these words form a unique story – your story. Never be afraid to draw your specific line, to follow your unique occupational duty (as instructed by your spiritual guide).

5. You may do big things in life, but never forget the hand that guides you. Just as the pencil is never proud, thinking how it has written a book, so we should always give credit to God and strive to become  humble and willing instruments by surrendering to God’s plan. 

Foundational Principles of Yoga

Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means linking. When we talk about linking, we should have clarity about the objects linking together. Through the process of Yoga, we are supposed to reestablish our lost connection with God.

Following are the foundational principles which are essential for a proper practice of Yoga:

Purpose: Yoga does not have any meaning if there is no God in the picture because Yoga is a process of linking with God. God is the Supreme Person with whom each one of us has a unique relationship of love. The commodity exchanged in Yoga is love. Because we receive loving reciprocation of God, we become spiritually satisfied.

Qualities: The most important qualities of a spiritual practitioner are inquisitive spirit and humility. We must objectively look into into our present conditions and honestly acknowledge that there is a hard struggle for existence even to maintain our bodies. Even though we are endeavoring very hard to satisfy our senses, we experience pain and misery. When we are inquisitive enough to question, “Why am I suffering?”, it marks the beginning of spiritual life. In proportion to the sincerity of our inquisitive spirit, the law-books of God provide us with answers for progress in spiritual life. At every step of our spiritual life, we need humility and submission to access the transcendental knowledge and apply the process of Yoga.

Environment: In order to practice Yoga, one’s life has to be framed in the mode of goodness, which is characterized by knowledge, cleanliness, punctuality, equanimity, and serenity. This can be achieved by bringing mode of goodness into one’s diet, activities and company.

Process: Chanting of the Holy Name attentively. The transcendental sound vibration can easily carry us to the transcendental platform, especially if our mind is absorbed in the sound. This is owing to the absolute nature of God – God and His names are identical.

Meditation

Prayer: Reestablishing our lost connection with God means reviving our dormant loving relationship with God which we have forgotten. Loving relationship means with feelings. Therefore, naturally, the process of chanting is not merely lip-deep but heart-deep. With feelings, one begs to the Lord for re-acceptance in the loving relationship: “Please accept me.”