About the Book
the Hindu view of life in its totality - Its origin, its growth, its decay,
the different schools of thought in East and West - beginning with human
belief in the Unseen, down to religious rites and the birth of materialism.
over 500 ancient texts (each translated into lucid prose) to justify the
Hindu cults of immortality, karma, transmigration of souls and image-worship.
the fundamentals of physical science as found delineated in the early Vedic
texts, and -
the Hindu concept of cosmic and bio-cons- ciousness, their relation to
Space-Time Continuum and the Supreme.
About the Author
Late Shyam Ghosh had a deep study of Hindu Sastras. He translated several
ancient texts including a few relating to yoga. His expose of Patanjala
Yogasutra is widely commended. His other published books are The Original Yoga
(1989, 1999) and the Rgveda for the Layman (Satasuktaparidarsanam) (2002).
No life is complete except with its death. The two are inextricably linked. To think of one is to be aware of, howsoever vaguely, its counterpart also. In fact man has indulged in such ponderment for ages.
But do we know today more of life and death than what the ancients knew centuries, nay millennia ago? And, is our knowledge of either now radically different from what the early thinkers have already recorded? If not, can we then justifiably reject all of those early beliefs-beliefs based no doubt on their concept of life and death-as sheer myth born of superstition?
The present survey of Hindu scriptures seeks to find cogent answers to such questions by tracing back to the earliest concept of life and death upon which, evidently, many of man's later beliefs about the known and unknown were built down the age. In this task an attempt has been made to juxtapose the old and the new and also to underscore, wherever evident, the scientific basis of at least some of these beliefs.
For instance, we find a few ancient thinkers speaking of cosmic sound-waves as the prime cause of consciousness. Also, of cognition, intelligence, volition and conscience (the self-regulating moral force) as modes of the same energy that filters through Space and Time. Such a thesis perhaps calls for a second look in the age of satellite communications and "star wars"
As for the philosophy of life, no true philosophy obviously can endure unless the same rests on sound premises. For this purpose some fundamental facts-such as the primal source of life-energy and its true character-must first be identified and duly tested before one may confidently preach the merits of a virtuous life, a blissful heaven, or of immortality and a cycle of births and deaths, indeed, enduring faith can be established only in this manner. Hence, if the old recorded views culled here passed also through this process, the same should perhaps be accepted as fairly sound. Their advice for regulating the physical, mental and moral forces in man should then be also acceptable to all.
About the word 'Hindu' used in this essay: The texts quoted obviously belong to a period when no Hindu as such existed The people inhabiting this land then could therefore at best be described as proto-Hindus. Actually, however, they represented all races and all cultures of the world. None the less they were the true ancestors of present-day Hindus.
For, as competent anthropologists, archaeologists and ethnologists have now determined. Many of the early nomads did once converge to this part of the globe, and they did settle down here. Apparently they came from all directions-north, south, east and west. The Australoids then mixed with the Negroids and were joined later by Mongoloids and Caucasoids-till the land turned into a veritable melting-pot of primary races. As one scientist now pertinently opines, "India is a great anthropological paradise"
Local legends too speak of a Jambudvipa that once existed in a dim period of prehistory. But here also there is no mention of any Hindu. The Bharatas evidently emerged centuries, maybe millennia later when one King Bharata (son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala) we come upon a Bharata-varsa, literally a land that 'rains plenty' or that 'nourishes all'. Archaeologists now date this period around the close of the 3rd millennium BC.
Historically however, the Hindu appeared only after the arrival of Semites. It is on record now that, late in the fourth century BC, north and reached the banks of the mighty Sindhu. The Sindhu hereafter became a landmark for later entrants who, evidently, found it convenient to identify their conquered territory as the land of the H(s)indu. Thus, although by this time the Saraswati had disappeared, leaving behind a sizable part of the Land of Plenty as Thar Desert, the name Hindu somehow stuck on to this land and its people.
The Hindu view presented here thus reflects the thoughts of a well integrated community-the product of a unique ethnic and cultural blend. This view, apart from being of topical interest when humanity cowers under the shadow of death, also assumes a new dimension in a world riven with diversities. It should therefore command some attention of all thinking people. Maybe the futility of aggression would yet become obvious when the fundamentals of life and death are better understood!
Finally, my sincere thanks are due to Messrs Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers for their bold decision to present Indology in a new garb for the growing number of people now interested in India's priceless heritage.
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