Sri D V Gundappa, the celebrated writer of Kannada literature of the 20th century, had published a series of books titled ‘Jnapaka Chitrashale‘ (Theatre of Memories) in which he wrote short biographies of achievers in various fields such as arts, music, social service, literature and so on. The personalities he covered in this series of books were mainly people with whom he had personal contact, or those about whom he had undertaken some study.
Volume 5 of this series is about those who spent their entire lifetime in the service of ‘Vaidika Dharma‘. He narrates the life stories of numerous Vedic stalwarts such as Punyashloka Venkatarama Bhatta, Kashi Raghavendracharya, Chappalli Vishweshwara Shastri, Motaganahalli Shankara Shastri, and others. Each of these giants had dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit and practice of a Vedic lifestyle.
The folks at preksha have done an outstanding job translating many of those biographies into English.
At the end of this volume, Sri DVG has written an outstanding epilogue that analyses the importance and place of the Vedas and Shastras in our life, the problems facing the Vedic community during those times (the book was published in the 1970s) and the solutions that ought to be pursued by the community. I do not have the permission to translate the entire chapter into English (would dearly love to do that – and I hope to gain the necessary permission as soon as possible). A summary of Sri DVG’s wise words is what I have attempted below.
Uniqueness of Vedic Culture
Sri DVG begins the chapter by commenting on the need for economic and technological progress in any nation. He says that such progress is very much necessary, and is one of the key desires of the people of any country. India, and its people, too will long for economic prosperity, material wealth and technological comforts. However, such progress and achievement will not be unique. Every other country is also competing on these fronts, and will have similar accomplishments to show.
On the other hand, the unique possession of Bharata that no other country in the world can ever hope to possess is our ancient spiritual culture. DVG says that if our nation neglects this wealth, then no other achievement is worth talking about.
Our tradition and culture, rooted in the Vedas and Shastras, are something no country possesses. This wealth is what can serve us in this, and the next, world.
DVG then goes on to give a succinct, yet rich, definition of what ‘culture’ is. He says real progress in any human is the one that happens inside him or her. The growth of an individual’s ‘inner life’ is what is ‘samskruti’. The key attribute of such culture is spiritual in nature. And the Vedas are those key instruments that illuminate us with the philosophies and methods of leading, and growing, a spiritual life. Hence the Vedas are the torch in our spiritual journey.
DVG then gives a short summary of the situation existing then (prior to the 70s). He expresses concern that the number of people who are practising a Vedic lifestyle, and are involved in the teaching and propagation of the same, are dwindling rapidly. He notes, with sadness, the troubles people face in getting qualified purohitas to perform worship of devatas, and the ‘karyas’ of the pitrus.
He laments that the propagation of Vedas is declining, and the study of Shastras is dwindling. He says that it is a tragedy that the knowledge which is the lifeline of this Bharata bhumi, and which is the soul of our country, is getting lost!
Solutions for sustaining the Vedic heritage
Sri DVG, in the next section, provides a 8 point approach using which an attempt can be made to sustain and nourish the Vedic tradition of our country.
- Those from a Vedic background must make a firm resolution – that no matter what the troubles in life are, no matter what financial difficulties arise, one shall not give up the ‘kula vidya’ (family knowledge). Each Vedic family must take an oath to this effect.
- The society as a whole, especially those with a connect to the Vedic way of life, must undertake that they shall never ignore nor insult the Vedas and Shastras or those who are into the study and practice of the same. Society must resolve to respect the torch bearers of our ancient heritage.
- Those into the Vedic way of life must stop seeking the help of the Government completely.
- Those into such a lifestyle have nothing against the Government, or their officials. However, they must not stretch their arms in front of them and express their willingness to subjugate themselves.
- Many from Vedic backgrounds will naturally get into ‘loukika‘ (material) pursuits to sustain themselves and their familes. This is natural. Still, such people must not give up their Vedic pursuits completely. Outside of their work demands, especially in the evenings, they should draw up certain rules for the study and practice of Vedas and Shastras. Even if such effort is very minimal in nature, it must be undertaken.
- Those who are into loukika pursuits also should maintain a traditional outlook in their homes, to the best of possibilities.
- The purohitas must play an important role in encouraging others on the Vedic path. They must necessarily give up greed for excessive material wealth. When such scholars and pandits are seen as not having material greed, the others will develop even more dedication and belief in them.
- As a complimentary measure, people who engage Vedic pandits and purohitas must shun miserliness and provide abundant ‘dakshina‘ and ‘daana‘. Their outlook towards Vedic people must be extremely generous.
Role of Society
Sri DVG then briefly touches upon the role of society in general, and mathas in particular, in the sustenance of the Vedic heritage. He suggests that mathas and pithas must arrange conferences and gatherings of Vedic pandits every year, and felicitate them with scholarships, stipends and other grants so they can pursue their studies and practice with lesser worry about physical sustenance.
(Note: This practice is reasonably prevalent these days, which is a very positive development)
He also suggests that every matha should consider establishing a fund to take care of the scholars who are its followers.
DVG gain reiterates that those engaged in Vedic knowledge must not expect any support or encouragement from Government sources. He calls out the fact that the Government is a ‘secular’ one in independent India, and that it is no longer the rule of Maharajas, who greatly patronized our culture and tradition. He cautions that the bad habit of seeking Government support will lead to the intrusion of people from other religions and ‘rational reformers’ into the Vedic system (we now know how this prophecy has come true).
He ends this chapter by clarifying that the responsibility of preserving and propagating the Vedic culture is not the sole duty of Brahmins alone. He rightly declares that our culture and heritage belongs to all, albeit with Brahmins performing the role of its torchbearers. He says that the benefits of the Vedas are for all, and therefore the responsibility of preserving it also falls on all sections of society.
Nearly 50 years after DVG published this excellent work, many of the concerns he expresses and eventualities he foresees have come true in our ‘secular’ country. The decline of the practitioners of the Vedic lifestyle continues. The disdain for those who undertake the study and practice of our traditional knowledge has only intensified. Under such circumstances, a revisit of DVG’s analysis and a serious consideration of his suggestions is very much necessary.