Last time I spoke to you on Dharma. Perhaps you may remember a few things of what I said and in continuation of it I thought I will speak to you of the Vedic literature. I said last time that Dharma, the concept of Dharma was rooted in the Veda. So I thought, let’s explore this Veda to some extent.
There are many reasons, apart from this, as to why I have selected this topic. One important reason is that all students of Auroville are to become world citizens. They have to vibrate with world consciousness. They need to know therefore what is this world, and the whole world. And to answer this question there are many approaches. One of them is to find the origin of the world, origin of species which are all around in the world, origin of humanity, original thought of humanity, original aspiration of humanity. This is one of the ways by which we can enter into world consciousness. There are many other approaches also. If you are asked the question: how did humanity think in the beginning of history? Do we know enough of how human beings thought, aspired, worked? What was the motive of human beings? Today we have quite a good idea as to what present humanity is thinking, what are its preoccupations. Much literature is available to find out what we are thinking, what we are about. But if we are asked the question: do we know what was the first thought of humanity? If you open some history books, we are told of prehistoric man, regarding whom we do not have any records. Paleolithic man and Neolithic man, you might come across these two words, — the Neanderthal man. There are speculations as to what this Paleolithic man or the Neolithic man, the Neanderthal, what they were thinking, there are speculations. But if you are asked the question: do we have any certainty, as to what they were thinking? Not speculations, not imaginations, not what we think they were thinking. Do we have records, so that we can be certain that they were thinking of this?
Now we know that there were many civilisations which flourished in ancient times, when people think civilisation started. So it is on a large scale that this question has to be raised, in the context of which what I am going to say will have some meaning. I do not want to present Vedic literature as Indian literature, which is how it is very often presented. We had in earliest times, some civilisations, like the Egyptian civilisation, we had a civilisation in Mesopotamia, civilisation of China, civilisation of India, and then we hear also of the civilisation of Persia, civilisation of Greece. Unfortunately even though these great civilisations flourished, we have no definite historical evidence as to what were their thoughts and aspirations among all these ancients’ records that are available in one form or in the other. In Egypt we had the Pyramids, and we have paintings in the Pyramids which are available. These paintings are being interpreted in many ways, and we imagine what the people of Egypt might be thinking of. But among all these ancient civilisations, there is only one literature available which can give you a definite idea with certainty as to what those ancient people thought, what they aspired for. And that is Vedic literature. If you ask the question what are the ancient, most ancient records which we can open and where we can find out, with definiteness, what exactly were the thoughts and aspirations of ancient people — this is the literature available to us. So I want to present Vedic literature as world literature. It is a common heritage of the whole world, relevant to everybody in the world. Anybody, whether he is European, or American, or African, or Indian, or Asian, or Australian, whatever, if anybody wants to know with definiteness, what ancient people thought and aspired for, they have to refer to this literature, because it is available. It is available now in written form. For a long time it was available only in the oral form. We are going to explore the thoughts of the ancient people, aspirations of the ancient people, as evidenced in the Vedic literature. That is one aspect of what I am going to say. There is another aspect. Why should we at all inquire into what the ancients have thought? Why? What is the usefulness of it? Relevance of it? There are three answers to this question. What we are today can very often be known when we know better and better what we were yesterday. There is what is called, a question of identity. When we ask the question: “What are we today?” What you are asking basically of what is our identity, what are we? This is our first question. And if what we are today is dependent upon on what we were yesterday, and even the day before yesterday, then it is worthwhile exploring that ancient time, and what the Ancients thought and aspired for. Maybe what we are doing today is rooted in it. May be, may not be. But if we know what was, we can find out whether we are rooted there or not, and our identity can be known better. That is the first answer to the question.
The second answer is that we are today in search of a solution. Why? Because today we are confronting what may be called critical problems, not only problems, but critical problems. There is a difference between a problem and a critical problem. A problem is a question regarding which we have a hope to find a good answer, more or less with some difficulty, with some uneasiness. But a critical problem is a problem regarding which the answer must be found, and yet that answer is extremely difficult to find. There are many problems, in regard to which answers may not be found, and yet it doesn’t matter, but a critical problem is a problem regarding which the answer must be found. If its answer is not found we cannot move forward. That is the meaning of a critical problem.
Now we are facing today a series of critical problems, and we are not able to find answers easily; and yet answers must be found. That is one of the reasons why many people today are looking backward, looking into history. Very often the question is asked: “Why should we study history at all?” One of the basic reasons why we should study history today is that we are confronting critical problems and answers must be found. Therefore we go back into history to see whether anything was thought of, in ancient times, if anything was discovered but lost later on, and which you can recover now, and which can be useful today to find the answers. This is one of the special reasons why the study of history becomes very important today. And that is why many serious people of the world are turning to ancient times, to medieval times, to the past. Not necessary to belong to the past, but knowledge of the past can be useful to us to the present day, to open the doors of the future. It is a study of the past to aid the future. This is the reason why we should study history. Not to belong to the past, but to create a gateway to the future. It is in that context that the study that we are going to make now, to some extent, in a preliminary manner, could be very useful.
And there is a third answer to this question: why should we study these ancient times? The third answer is: whenever we stand at the threshold of the future, at the gateway of the future, we find ourselves automatically summarizing ourselves. This is the psychological process. Whenever you want to move forward, psychologically we always tend to summarize our past. It is as it were the law of the psychological development of mankind. You cannot move forward towards the future unless in a synoptic manner, in a summarizing manner, in a very brief manner you can overview, a very rapid overview. Since we are now standing facing very consciously towards the future; we are all speaking of the millennium, isn’t it — the next millennium, and we are all visualising it. So when we stand at such a critical moment, at a very important moment of the future, it is good to summarize the past in a very rapid manner. I don’t like the study of history as a record of so many battles, so many conquests, so many dynasties, and quarrels of various kinds, intrigues of various kinds. What is very interesting in history is what can stand out in the summary. Ultimately, what is the essential experience that we gained from the past, which will give us an idea where we are today and how we can move forward.
So, it is from these three points of view that I selected this particular topic: “Glimpses of Vedic literature”. Because the Veda contains definite evidence, not speculation, but definite evidence as to what the ancient people thought and aspired for. And those who have studied the Veda feel that there is something in the Veda which is very useful to the future, so we can study that aspect, while making a leap towards the future. You know Sri Aurobindo spoke of the mutation of the human species. Sri Aurobindo said: “Man is a transitional being.” There is going to be on the earth a new race, new type of beings, superhuman beings. He spoke of super–humanity, not a humanity but a super–humanity. And particularly because Auroville is designed to be the cradle of that super–humanity, I feel it is very necessary that we know in a summary manner what we are, what kind of apes we are, how much we can jump now, or if we want to make a jump how shall we jump into the future. Because we need to know this, therefore, I suggested that we can share together, open a few pages of the Veda, and learn a bit of it, not so much, because there is so much in it. I cannot propose that we should study at present all that much, but something. You have still many, many years of study ahead of you and if at this stage you have a few germs, it will be a great aid to you for the future. This is the reason why I selected this topic, and I invite all of you to share some of the things that I want to present to you.