The book ”The Holy Vedantic Life”is authored by Dr. M.S. Manhas, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ,USA.
The book is primarily directed towards the present generation which in not adequately to derive benefits from the available text books of Vedanta, the most important Hindu philosophy. Vedanta, the end of Vedas, embodies the distilled knowledge of the Vedas that from the foundation of Hinduism. The book explains the basic vocabulary of vedanta, the relevance of vedanta in everyday life without getting into conflicts with other faiths, and from means of achieving enlightenment-the primary goal of human existence. It also embodies the contributions of a few well known sages, and control of mind for achieving fulfillment and tranquility.
The Rig Veda, the most ancient scriptures of the world comprising of 10,552 verses and a storehouse of knowledge, which discusses the religion of humanity, ends with the following verse:
‘(Let) one and common be your aspiration, united be your hearts and common be your mind, so that you can enjoy a close companionship.
The implication of the last verse is that, ‘Let us worship the Lord that created us, not the one that we have created: this is the essence of Vedanta.
Dr. Maghar S. Manhas (1922) is an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.A. He has made outstanding contributions to research papers and two books on chemistry related to penicillin antibiotics.
In recent years Dr. Manhas has undertaken the study of Hinduism with special interest in Vadanta philosophy. He has published three books on this subject titled “Shrimad Bhagavad Gita through the Eyes of a Scientist (1997)”, “The Holy Vedantic Life (2003)”, and “The Hindu Concept of Religion- A Scientific View(2005)”
Dr. Manhas has actively promoted Vedantic teaching through his writings and lectures to learned audiences interested in the religious culture of the East that is non-sectarian and beyond the limitations of colour, caste, creed, gender and nationality.
Human beings have been struggling, since time immemorial, to achieve peace , happiness, and progress. These have been their aims in life ever since they learnt how to think and act rationally. Surprisingly, most of us have not been able to define able to define our concept of peace, happiness, and progress. Each one of us has a different interpretation of and approach to, these triple aims of life which may not be in harmony with those of the next person. Passion for recognition, acquisition of wealth, alleviation of human suffering, prosperity in business, creation of a unique piece of art, new discoveries in science, etc. are some of the ideals that prompt us to activity in order to bring fulfillment in life and peace of mind. However, there is no clear answer to such questions as to how and why the pursuit of these ideals would generate happiness. None of them can be the aim of our life because all these are ephemeral in nature and a transitory object cannot bestow everlasting happiness. They are mere manifestations of our desires, not the goals. To consider them as goals is a great delusion in our life. When pushed to the corner, the answers that one gets are in the form of rhetorical questions of their own: Are not these attributes necessary for survival? Does not everyone like to possess good things in life? This just goes to show that we are not clear about the nature of our goals. An ambiguous answer reflects an uncertain objective.
Let us critically examine the above mentioned aims of life which are supposed to bring peace, happiness, and progress, but instead, burden us with agitation, misery, and regression. In the pursuit of these aims we rely upon our sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) for guidance. Pursuit of desires generated by sense organs is believed to bring happiness, and this happiness is supposed to be the forerunner of peace and progress. In reality the sense organs are meant for perception of the phenomenal world and we erroneously use them for achieving peace and plenty. Acceptance of the slavery of mind cannot confer mastery over senses. This basic flaw in our approach is responsible for our distress, but willy nilly, we persist in this pursuit. The situation is similar to that of an addict who tries to satisfy his drug addiction by using more of the drug. Obviously this is not the correct solution. It only aggravates the problem and ruins the addict physically, mentally, and financially.
The senses, which are meant for perception but are used for achieving happiness through the fulfillment of desires, are unidirectional in their nature. They can only look outwards and guide us in that direction. Most of us follow them and achieve a certain measure of material success. This gives us temporary satisfaction but it also leads to addiction. The senses cannot look inward. In fact the senses have been designed primarily to look outward (Katha Upanishad, 2.1.1). Therefore, the world that lies inside us, where answers to all our problems are hidden, is relatively unexplored. Strangely enough the gold mine that lies inside us escapes our attention and we remain preoccupied with transient bits and pieces and feel happy. Imagine what would be the extent of our happiness if we could master the energy of the subtle mind by uncoupling its reliance on the senses and using that energy for our needs!
The only instrument available to explore the world within us is our own mind which is profoundly influenced by the senses. Before we can use the mind, it is necessary to learn how to control it. An undisciplined mind is useless for any meaningful achievement in life. Mind is difficult to control. Katha Upanishad (1.3.3.-4) has compared the senses with the horses yoked to a chariot and mind is the bridle which is supposed to control them.
atmanam rathinam viddhi shariram rathameva tu
buddhim tu sarathim viddhi manah pragrahameva cha.
indriyani hayanahur vishyamstenhu gocharan
“The Self is the master of the chariot, intelligence is the charioteer, and mind is the bridle. They (wise men) call sense organs as the horses, and objects as the roads. The wise call the Self associated with body, organs and mind, as the enjoyer.”
In this illustration, the oranges (indriyas), under the influence of an uncontrolled mind, behave like unruly horses yoked to a chariot. These two verses of Katha Upanishad tech a very profound lesson about our aims in life and the means that nature has provided to achieve them .The choice is ours to use these means in a positive way for reaching the goal of self realization or to misuse them and be relegated to a life of perpetual bondage.
The driver of this chariot is the intellect (buddhi).The role of an accomplished charioteer is critical in life. When Arjuna went to Shri Krishna before the beginning of the Mahabharata war to seek help, Shri Krishna told Arjuna that he had two choices and he was free to choose any one them. ‘My army is on one side and Me alone on the other. Furthermore, I have decided that I shall not bear arms during the war.’ Without any hesitation, Arjuna replied: ‘All I need is You. I need a skilled charioteer who would not let me veer away from my path in both life and war.’
Mind, a powerful human faculty, severs as a bridle when it is under the control of the intellect. Through this bridle, the intellect regulates the movements of the unruly horses in the form of senses organs which have a tendency to gallop in pursuit of sense objects (roads). If the horses yoked to the chariot are not in the firm control of the driver, they can easily topple the carriage and injure the charioteer.
A few doubts and misconceptions about Vedanta
1.Who should practice Vedanta?
2.What is the difference between Atman and Paramatman?
3.What is Nishkama Karmayoga?
4.What is Moksha?
5. Difference between Academic Awareness and Spiritual insight.
6. What is Bliss?
The word Upanishad has been interpreted by different authorities in several ways. Swami Shankaracharya explains that the word Upanishad is formed by adding the suffixes upa (near) and ni (with certainty) to the root sad (destroy). In this way the word Upanishad denotes that knowledge which destroys ignorance about the closer to Brahman. It also means “texts incorporating such knowledge.” According to Max Muller, the Westren scholars give a different interpretation. They think that the parts upa (near), ni (down), and the root sad (sit) in Upanishad indicate sitting down of a disciple near the guru to receive spiritual instructions.
We do not know how many Upanishads existed at a given point in the because much of the he Vedic literature has been lost over the millennia. Mahabharata mentions the existence of 1131 shakhas (branches) of the four Vedas at one time and each one of them had an Upanishad associated with it. Now only 12 shakhas are available and some of them are incomplete or the well understood. Only 108 Upanishad are currently available. Some years ago the Adyar Library (Madras) added the names of 71more Upanishads in this list. Shankaracharya considers 16 Upanishads as authentic and more important. They are regarded as major Upanishads. Some of them are: Katha, Isha , Kena, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitereya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Kaivalya, Maitreya, and Svetasvatara Upanishads. The Upanishads are divided into major and minor. This classification into major and minor Upanishads is arbitrary and is primarily based upon the length of the text, and the nature and variety of subjects covered in them. The extent of Upanishads varies from many thousands of words to about a hundred. Most of the Upanishads are in prose form, some are set in verse format, while a few, are composed in both verse and prose.
Most of the Upanishads are in dialogue form. The disciples asked their teacher pointed questions to clarify the nuances of esoteric metaphysical subjects. The teacher, in turn, elaborated the subject based on his knowledge and self realization. Often the teacher initiated a complex topic himself and then the discussion followed to cover various ramifications of the sophisticated theme under exploration. Clarification of perplexing concepts was considered essential in the learning process of the disciple. In the absence of such a free wheeling discussion even magnificent concepts degenerate, with time, into dogmas and arrest the intellectual growth of the disciple. Blind faith, which can only result in hypocrisy and bigotry, was discouraged. Only a realized teacher could fathom the depths of spiritual oceans and offer a harmonious blend of scientific approach and philosophical principles. Science without philosophy is a monster, and philosophy without science is barren.
The main emphasis in all the Upanishads is on the search for Reality and the means to forge a union with It. Most of the Upanishads are very ancient and form an integral part of Vedic Samhitas – Brahmanas – Aranyakas complex. Some of the Upanishads are reported to be more recent are not included amongst the revealed texts called Shruti(heard).
Noting is known about the authorship of the Upanishads. Some names like Gargi, Yajnavalkya, Janaka, are mentioned in the texts, but they are only participants in the discussions, not the authors. As a class the Upanishads from the philosophical foundation of Sanatana Dharma (erroneously translated as Hinduism). The branch of philosophy which is based on the teachings of Upanishads is called Uttar Mimansa or Vedanta. Although the seeds of Vedanta can be found dispersed in all the four Vedas, it was popularized as a separate branch of India philosophy in the Mahabharata period. It was subsequently refined by Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, Jnaneshvara, and other well known vedantists. Swami Vivekananda deserves the credit for being a pioneer in spreading Vedanta philosophy in the West through his dedication, foresight, scholarship, eloquence, and magnetic personality.
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