Note: Imaginary debate with opponents is a thought process adopted since ages by thinkers such as Sankara, Madhvacharya and many others to demolish prativada (counter arguments). This samvada (debate) also follows this technique. The characters are fictitious, but the arguments are real.
The Chief Pracharak had a brain wave, while pondering about how to make the Indian universities fall in line with the Hindutva agenda. Professors from different universities across the country were summoned forthwith. When the Chief Pracharak entered the hall, the pracharaks were ecstatic with cries of “Jai Shri Ram!” They tried to persuade the attendees to repeat their slogans, but only a few, either willingly or out of fear complied. The majority remained silent. The Chief Parcharak began his discourse:
“All of you have been summoned here to realize the fact that our universities have become breeding grounds for all sorts of alien nastik ideologies. Many of you have been corrupted by the false ideologies imported from the West and you are propagating these ideas and polluting young minds. Ours is the great Aryan tradition adhering to Arsha Dharma. Bharatvarsha is the fountainhead of all knowledge and hence there is nothing new we have to learn from outside. The fact is that for thousands of years, they have stolen our knowledge, corrupted it with nastik ideas and now they are imposing them on us. Many ages ago, the Bhagvan, the Supreme Creator had passed on the ultimate knowledge to Bharatvaasis through the great sage, Maharshi Veda Vyas. There is nothing new to be added to the Vedas as they comprise divine knowledge. For example, thousands of years ago, Varahamihira, the astronomer had compiled the astronomical knowledge of the Vedas, into a book, “Panca Siddhaanta”. Eleven thousand years before this time, Lord Rama had established the ideal kingdom and there is nothing more to be added to political science than what was implemented in Ram Rajya. Three thousand years back, Kanva Maharshi had developed the atomic theory based on the knowledge of the Vedas. The West had stolen this knowledge and developed atomic bombs in the 20th century. It is mentioned in the pious Vedas that space ships were traveling to distant stars using Veda mantras. I want you to discard the corrupt Western ideas and start teaching only the knowledge of the Vedic Dharma, Vedic Astrology, Ayurveda, Vedic Mathematics and such pious knowledge. It is your bounden duty to inculcate a culture of patriotism and nationalism among the students.”
Professor Belapurkar, Vedic expert and philosopher, got up and said, “Sir, I have a doubt. You are saying that the Vedas were handed over to Maharshi Veda Vyas by the Almighty Himself. But Sloka number 129, in the 10th Mandala of Rigveda, the Nasadiya Suktka, in the 7th Pada had expressed a mimamsa (doubt) thus:
“Yadi va dadhe, yadhi va nah” (Whether He had created or not)
“so angaveda, yadi va na vedah” (whether he knows or does not know this fact)
So this debate whether the universe was created by someone is as old as human thinking. The fact is that in the Indian philosophical thought, the debate between idealism and materialism existed right from the beginning and continues even today. Materialists such as Uddalaka Aruni, Ajita Kesa Kambal, Payasi and Kanva cited this sukta to argue that, “if the Creator does not know whether he had created or not, the Vedas cannot be a divine gift. The fact is that the Vedas and Upanshads are a compilation of different ideas prevalent at the time of their composition.” For example, in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishd, the debate between the idealist Yajnavalka and the materialist Uddalaka Aruni was mentioned in detail. In fact, materialism is much older than the Vedas. In the Land of Meluha, what we now call the Indus Valley Civilization, materialist stream of thought was prevalent 4500 years back, according the latest historical research. So, Sir, I feel, your contention that materialism is imported from the West only recently is without basis.”
The Chief Pracharak fumed and fretted and shot back at the professor, saying, “You are an expert on Vedas, but your mind is polluted by Western ideas. Sit down!”
Professor Shukla, who teaches physics, got up and said: “I think your statement that all the knowledge of Mathematics, Astronomy and geometry are derived from the Vedas, needs some clarification. Varahamihira lived not thousands of years back, but in the 7th Century CE. In fact, he is of Persian descent. He had compiled 5 astronomical theories prevalent at his time, the Romaka (Roman), Paulisa (Greek), Surya (Persian) along with two Indian theories. If you claim that the Panca Siddhanta’ (Five Theories) of Varahamihira is thousands of years old, you have to also agree that the other cultures are equally old. This is historically untenable. A Yavana (Greek) pundit, Yavaneshwara in 100 AD had written a book, Yavana Siddhanta, thus introducing the astrological knowledge of the Greeks, which they had in-turn learnt from the Babilonia. Till then, Bharat Desa does not know the seven day week and adopted the Yavana rasis. That is how the present-day Jyotish Sastra had come into existence. The Ayurveda that you are claiming as a Veda vijnjana is actually developed by Carvaka materialists and Buddhist scholars. And the Yoga, which you claim to be Vedic knowledge was actually developed by Carvaks, the nastiks. And you are trying to hide the fact that Aryabhatta, the great Astronomer of yore was a Carvaka materialist, who rejected the supremacy of the Vedas.
The great scientists of yore, such as Aryabahatta, Bhaskara and Varahamihira never shirked away from interacting with foreign scholars and getting enriched from the give-and-take of knowledge. They had believed that sharing knowledge actually enhances our intellect and broadens our horizon. Patanjali, who had written a compendium of Panini’s grammar, in 250 BC, had said praising the Yavana pundits, that, “though the Yavanas are Mlecchaas and do not follow the Vedic Dharma, there is a lot we have to learn from them. They are in no way inferior to our great sages. That is why they deserve respect.”
And Varahamihira, in his work “Brihat Samhita,” says:
“Mlecha hi Yavanah, tesu samyak sastram idam sthitam/
Risvat tepi pujayante kim punar, daiva vidh dvijah”
The Yavanas, who are Mlecchas, possess great scientific knowledge. They deserve respect on par with Dvijahs (twice born ie., Brahmins). I suppose you are aware that Yavanas are Greeks. In 300 BC, The Greek philosopher Democritus had independently developed an atomic theory and it is said that he had visited Gandhara Desa and showered similar praises on Indian thinkers.
The Aryans, for whom rearing cattle was the main occupation and were leading nomadic life, in search of greener pastures to feed their cattle, used to build temporary shelters made of mud and dry grass. Agriculture was secondary for them. Such a culture does not need the knowledge of stars and seasons. Nor do they require geometry as there was no need for building bigger structures nor indulge in the luxury of town planning. They never ventured to the high seas, and hence had no knowledge either of geography or of Astronomy to guide their ships across the high seas. The people of Meluha, a good 1500 years before the Aryans were conducting brisk sea trade with Sumerians. It was mentioned in the Katyayana Sruta Sutras, that the Dasya craftsmen (non-Aryan artisans) gathered bricks from old ruins (of Indus Valley) and designed and built yajna vaatikas of different designs for the Aryan priests. So clearly, the Aryans had learnt mathematics and geometry from the Dasyas (defeated Indus Valley People).
Besides, you claimed that Kanva had taken the knowledge of the Vedas to develop the atomic theory three thousand years ago. Kanva lived in 3rd Century BC and he had rejected the claim the world was created by a supreme being. He and his followers developed Vaiseshika philosophy, which claimed that the universe was built of fundamental building blocks, called atoms. The Vaiseshikas taught that there are different atoms which are the fundamental building blocks of matter and the properties of different materials are a combination of the various atoms which comprise the matter. The Vasisehikas studied the path of an arrow and deduced the first principles of aerodynamics. In fact, they had experimented with arrowheads of different shapes made with different materials. Through experiment, they had drawn their conclusions. They concluded that there is no need for a supreme force to explain the world.
Now, coming back to your claim of Ramayana being 11 thousand years old. If it is indeed the case, then there no need to build a bridge between Bharatavarsha and Sri Lanka as at that time, the earth was going through an Ice Age and sea levels were about 50 to 150 feet below present sea levels. It means that India and Sri Lanks were not separated by sea and hence there is no need to build a setu (bridge). What you are claiming as Ram Setu is in fact a coral reef. Besides, the separation between India and Sri Lanka is not 80 yojanas (1000 Kilometers) as is claimed in Ramayana, but hardly 30 Kilometers at Rameshwaram.”
Now it is the turn of Historian Professor Chandra Maurya: “your claim that all knowledge is imbibed in the Vedas appears to be an attempt to belittle and ignore the contribution of Carvaks, Buddhist and Jaina philosophers as well as many other schools of thought. The great Nalanda University, which thrived for more than 700 years is a great place of learning and enquiry. The progress achieved by Nalanda scholars in the fields of Astronomy, Material Science and Ayurveda is indeed remarkable and it is this work that had shaped the Indian science of yore. It is one of the most advanced intellectual enterprises in human history. Scholars from Persia, China, Sri Lanka and even faraway lands had come to Nalanda seeking knowledge. Some of them had settled down as teachers there. Aryabhatta and Bhaskara, though being Vedic Brahmins, studied and taught there. In the great Nalanda library, with 12 lakh books, they had contact with Greek, Persian, Chinese, Sumerian and Babilonian knowledge. A good 4 centuries before Aryabhatta, the Roman and Greek scholars had established that the earth is a sphere and that it revolves around the Sun. They had experimentally proven this fact and also measured the diameter of the earth to a great accuracy. All this Aryabhatta and Bhaskara should have been aware of, being at Nalanda. Please remember that distorting history will distort our present also.”
And finally, Professor Mahadevan, who teaches political economy stood up and asked, “Sir, you are saying that we should discard Western knowledge. But the government run by your Party says that through Make-In-India, billions of Dollars in foreign investments will flow in, along with modern technology. It is evident that even after more than two years, the much publicized scheme is a non-starter. That is besides the point. What is pertinent here is that if modern technology comes in to the country, we need expert engineers and workers familiar with new technologies to run the proposed factories. On the other hand, you claim that Western technology and knowledge are not required. You claim that thousands of years ago, space ships were being built with Vedic knowledge and they were run by Vedic chants. There is no substantial proof that either in this land or anywhere in the world, such a technological capability existed any time in the past. Knowledge of electro-magnetics, metallurgy, heavy machine building and the engineering and research base to support such an effort is a must, if any country wants to embark on space exploration. An economy that can support such a monumental effort as space exploration should have a well developed scientific and economic base, communication and transportation systems and finally millions of skilled workers and experts. No country in the past before the 20th century had achieved such a fete. Can you show even an iota of proof that such technologies existed in the Vedic times?
The gun used by your Godse to kill the Mahatma was of foreign make. The modern weapons with which you are imparting armed training to Hindutva extremists were smuggled in to the country from Israel, according a detailed report of the London Times. Even the mobile phone in your pocket is built with foreign technology. And the Khaki shorts, white shirt and cap you are wearing are Western attire. Your Svayam Sevak Sangh is established with the inspiration of the Dictator Mussolini’s Black Shirts. And you claim that we do not need foreign ideas. Sir, please understand that knowledge has no borders and it cannot be the monopoly of a certain race or religion. To what religion or race Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Beethoven or Einstein belong is immaterial. Their great work is the precious wealth of the whole of mankind. Science and technology and for that matter, the intellectual wealth of mankind should be utilized not for profit making or for divisive politics, but for the well being of all. If you try to confine human knowledge within the iron cage of your fascist ideology, it will only spell disaster for the country. You are urging us to preach patriotism and nationalism to the youngsters. But those that hate this country’s citizens – the minorities, Dalits and other backward sections – cannot claim to be patriots. Your government is selling this country to foreign multinationals and you are talking about patriotism. You are trying to distort past historical events to suit your present day prejudices. History cannot be erased and rewritten to suit your political convenience. What is past is past. Distorting the past will in turn distort our present and our future also.
You are preaching us what we should teach and what we should not. But for millennia, right from the days of Takshasila and Nalanda, to Oxford and Cambridge, till today, it is the prime duty of a teacher to open up young minds to truth and equip them with the capability to form them own worldview. We are following that historical tradition. You have exhibited your great knowledge by your speech here. As teachers, we welcome any new ideas, even those that we believe are not correct. But it is left to your discretion whether you are really equipped to give instructions to such a gathering of eminent professors. Good Bye, Sir!”
The meeting ended with the fretting and fuming Chief Pracharak, saying, “whether you like it not, we will go ahead and implement our agenda,” and walked out in a huff.
Vijaya Kumar Marla is a retired engineer and presently the National Working President of All India Progressive Forum, an organization of intellectuals and active in 18 states in the country. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org