The Least Brahmins Can Do
Whether or not the present Hindu society changes and whether or not it can be changed, it is essential to have a class of people whose very life-breath is Vedic learning. I do not speak thus because I am worried about the existence of a caste called Brahmins. Nothing is to be gained if there is such a caste and it serves only its own selfish interests. If a caste called Brahmins must exist, it must be for the good of mankind. The purpose of the Vedas, the purpose of the sound of the Vedas, is the well-being of the world. That is the reason why I feel that, hereafter at least, there ought not to be even a single Brahmin who does not chant the Vedas. The only remedy for all tile ills of the world, all its troubles, is the return of all Brahmins to the Vedic dharma.
In this context I should like to tell you the least expected of Brahmins. I am prepared to ignore the fact that they have neither the courage nor the spirit of sacrifice necessary to come back to their dharma. But they can at least make their children take to it. In the next generation there must not be a single Brahmin who is not conversant with the Vedas. You must work for this goal and make sure that your sons learn these sacred texts.
If you are averse to making your sons mere Vaidikas1 and are anxious that they should also . lead a life of comfort like you (what you think to be a life of comfort , I am prepared to come one step further down to make the following suggestion. You wou1d not perhaps like your children to take up Vedic learning as a lifelong vocation and would like to give them an education on modern lines so as to prepare them for office or factory work or to make them doctors, engineers, and so on. I am prepared to go with you so far. But I would ask you to perform the upanayana of your son when he is eight years old. He must then be put in a Veda class held for one hour in the evening after school hours. He must be taught the Vedas in this manner for ten years.
This is the least Brahmins can do to preserve the Vedic tradition. Arrangements to impart Vedic learning to children must be made in every Brahmin household. I know that there are not enough teachers, a sad reflection on the state of our dharma. considering this and the likely economic condition of parents I would suggest that Veda classes may be conducted for all children together of a locality or neighbourhood. Children of poor families may be taught on a cooperative basis.
Step by step in this way the boys will be able to memorise the mantra part2 of the Vedas and also learn the prayogas to conduct rites like upakarma. I speak here about "prayoga", the conduct or procedure of rites, because in the absence of purohitas (priests) in the future everyone should be able to perform Vedic rites himself.
The sound of the Vedas must pervade the world for all time to come. Everyone must sincerely work towards achieving this end. It is your duty to ensure the good not only of the Brahmin community, not only of all the castes of India, but of all the countless creatures of earth. It is a duty imposed on you by Isvara - it is a divine duty.
It is important that we perform this duty we owe to the people of the present. But it is equally important that we perform it so as to be saved from committing a crime against future generations. "As it is nobody cares for the Vedas," you are likely to tell me. "Who is going to care for them in the coming years? What purpose is served by all the efforts we take now to keep up their study?" I do not share this view. When the wheel keeps turning, that part of it which is now down has necessarily to come up. Modern civilization with its frenzied pace is bound to have its fall after attaining its peak. We have been carried away by the supposed comforts made possible by advanced technology. But one day we will realise that they do not give us any feeling of fullness and that we have indeed created only discomforts for ourselves through them.
The example of America is enough to drive home this point. People there are believed to have attained the acme of luxury and yet feel empty within. They are anxious to dispel the disquiet created by modern comforts. Americans who have some degree of awareness have been drawn towards Vedanta, yoga, devotional music and so on. Others want to forget sensual enjoyment somehow. They swallow all kinds of tranquillizers and are immersed in a deep stupor.
This fate may overtake our country also. We are always tempted by the feeling that there is some worldly pleasure yet to be savoured and we know no rest until we have done so. After draining pleasures to the dregs we will discover the impermanence of it all. That is the moment when we will turn to matters of the Self, to the quest of enduring bliss. When we realise the peace and harmony that society derived from Vedic practices, we will be keen to take to the path shown by them. If we of this generation create a break in the chain of Vedic study4 kept up for ages, from generation to generation, we shall be committing the unforgivable crime of denying our descendants the opportunity of learning the Vedas.
"There are so many books dealing with the Vedic mantras and sacrifices, volume after volume produced by Indian and foreign scholars," the suggestion is 1ike1y to be made. Surely future generations can read them and learn the Vedás thus.
Before I speak about this I have to answer another important question, a question that goes to the very heart of the Vedic tradition. It is this "What do you mean by saying that the sound of the Vedas protects the world? The mantras are certain sounds expressed in the form of words. These words have their own profound meaning. Could we not learn the. mantras and their meaning from books? Why should there be a class of people especially devoted to, the chanting. of the Vedas? If the meaning of these scriptures is to be preserved there is no, cause for worry since there are books to serve such a purpose. There is no need for an exclusive caste, functioning on a hereditary. basis and charged with the duty of preserving these texts. But the question of meaning of the Vedas apart, why should. there be a class of people whose duty it is to chant the Vedic hymns and preserve their sound in the form it has come to us from time immemorial ?"3 This question must be answered.
Notes & References
Vaidika" is one learned in the Vedas. That the term has come to have a pejorative sense even among Brahmins shows the sorry state of the community.
Mantra part of the Vedas is constituted by the Samhitas. This is dealt with subsequently.
We must remember that the Vedas are handed down orally from generation to generation. This precisely is the theme of the succeeding passages.