When Muslims and Christians Study Vedas
By Swami Abayananda Tirtha
Imagine a young man claiming to be an ophthalmologist, and he seeks to surgically operate your eyes. As you wonder about his qualifications, he beams, “I have studied the books on my own and am confident of performing an operation.” Will you volunteer to be operated by such a ‘knowledgeable’ eye surgeon? A surgeon has to study and practice under a bonafide surgeon before qualifying himself. If all the surgical tools are kept on the table, will a cataract patient, even though well versed in the subject, operate himself?
There is havoc in spiritual circles when people study Vedas without the guidance of a spiritual teacher (guru), who preaches and lives by the Vedic teachings. Self study and arm chair commentary maybe permissible for subjects such as history, politics etc but Vedic wisdom are transformational in their potency, and require careful tutelage and practice of spiritual practices (sadhana). Just as an untrained surgeon causes more harm than good, an untrained Vedic commentator confuses people and takes them further away from enlightenment. This understanding assumes importance in the wake of claims by Muslim, Christian and Buddhist preachers that Hinduism is backward. These self-proclaimed saviors of mankind quote Vedic texts to prove the superiority of their own respective faith, and establish their own myopic view of God and Truth.The Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.23), Srimad Bhagavatam (6.3.19), Bhagavad Gita (4.34), besides many other Vedic scriptures, emphasize on the need to study Vedas under a practicing Vedic teacher, and not from a commentator with an ulterior motive. Will a Muslim accept Quran passages cited by Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen or Dr Ali Sina (www.faithfreedom.org). A honest Muslim or Christian would be offended by citations offered by the apostates of their respective religious faith. Similarly Vedic scriptures are not the property of one’s own whims and fancies. Unfortunately today, anybody can comment and portray Hindu scriptures in poor light without being admonished for the same. Little wonder, when M.F.Hussain paints Hindu goddesses in nude, Indian media appreciates his creative art work, while vocally criticizing the caricature of Muhammad by a Dutch artist.
When a person studies the Vedas sincerely under a guru, the effects are revolutionary. Dara Sukoh, the successor to the Muslim Emperor Saha Jahan, undertook this adventure. In 1640, Dara Sukoh visited Kashmir and learnt Upanishads from the learned pundits. He also accompanied his teachers to Benares and Delhi and wrote ‘Majma-ul-Bharain’, ‘the mingling of the two seas’, in an attempt to reconcile Islam and Hinduism. In 1657, he completed his translation of fifty Upanishads into Persian. He called it the ‘Sirr-e-Akbar’, ‘the greatest mystery’. In the introduction of this book, he states that Qur’an’s ‘Kitab-al-Maknun’ or the ‘hidden book’, is none other than Upanishads(Max Muller, in the introduction to ‘The Upanishads’). He thus established that the Vedic scriptures are profound in their depth and unsurpassed in history by any other religious or spiritual text. However this had infuriated the orthodox Muslims and his younger brother Aurangazeb had him executed under the Islamic Sharia law for being an apostate. The Islamic law of jurisprudence awards death penalty on a kafir, anyone who rejects the Islamic faith.
A religious system that is insecure pronounces death and violence as a tool to invoke fear in the hearts of the followers, lest they leave the religion. If a member of the underworld gang seeks to reform and desires to lead a civilized life, his gang members wouldn’t let him go, for he ‘knows too much’. Similarly, insecure religious systems pronounce death on those who reject their religion, for they may call upon the other followers to experience a better path.
Interestingly Vedic literatures encourage assimilation of wisdom from all sources. The Rig Veda exhorts, “Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides.” Ill informed people may condemn and brandish the Vedic culture but its here to stay. Having survived over the last five thousand years, the world’s oldest and strongest spiritual culture calls for peace and love.