As the world is accepting new ways of living to avoid the spread of Corona, PM Modi should take the lead to promote the Vedic way of life sans any religious component. There are numerous pluses to the Vedic way of Life which the global community may as well adopt happily as they did with Yoga
The Vedic Shanti Paath derived from the Yajurveda has been recited at the White House in
Washington, DC during the National Day of Prayer by Pujari Harish Brahmbhatt from a
Swaminarayan temple in the presence of US President Donald Trump
The chanting of Vedic prayer ‘Shanti Paath’ (Prayer of Peace) from Yajurveda at the White House to seek mental peace and solace during the horrifying period of lockdown due to COVID pandemic is an indication of the shape of things to come in the post-COVID era. The way the pandemic is going to affect almost every human being, the degree of impact varying from individual to individual or society to society, undoubtedly seeking mental peace and inner strength is going to become a norm rather than an exception. The ancient Vedic culture is best suited to meet this requirement. Another fact that supports the argument are the lesser number of cases in the countries practising Buddhism. Till date Buddhists religiously follow many dictums of our Vedic culture and hence live relatively happy. Our neighbour Bhutan, a Buddhist nation, measures nation’s wealth not as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but as Gross National Happiness.
Vedic culture is not religion-specific but a way of life. It was the daily routine and rituals during the Vedic Period. The Vedic Period or Vedic Age is the period in the history of the northern Indian subcontinent between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. It may sound weird when the world is thinking of life on the moon, reference is being made to the BC era. Yes, the aftereffects of Corona pandemic which threatens to cripple many economies and leave huge number of people jobless and poor, many wealthy households would need the internal strength and peace to overcome the trauma. There is likely to be a paradigm shift in our way of life with glitter, extravagance giving way to a simple and frugal lifestyle.
It is exciting to know that some elements of the culture of the Vedic Age have survived over 3,000 years and continue to be a part of our Indian culture even today. The Vedic period saw the emergence and exploitation of technology with the discovery of Iron. Many crafts developed during this period and growth of population and surplus of food grain due to extensive farming led to urbanisation. The period also witnessed the emergence of a sound system of governance even though hereditary system prevailed. The Gurukul system of education, though not universal, was aimed at holistic development of Shishyas, which made them great warriors and kings. Meditation was a means to achieve inner peace.
Many of the things being promoted now worldwide as new norms of living to avoid being affected by Coronavirus were the usual norms during the Vedic times as stringent norms of hygiene were followed as we are now being told to not to touch our eyes, nose etc., without washing hands. In Manusmriti (4/144) it is written, “Without a reason don’t touch your own indriyas (eyes, nose, ears etc). As regards frequent washing of hands, Padmashristi (51/88) states “Wash your hands, feet, mouth before you eat”. Another common thing being insisted now is avoid re-use and frequent change of clothing particularly after you return home from a visit outside. In the same scripture, shloka 51/83 says, “Don’t use the cloth (like towel) used by another person for drying yourself after a bath.” The Mahabharat teaches us to, “Use different clothes while sleeping, while going out, while visiting place of worship”. In Vishnusamriti, shloka 64 says, “Clothes once worn should not be worn again before washing.” Aren’t these going to be the norms in the post-COVID era? The material (samagri) used for Havan (fire worship) in Indian households including incense sticks, use many ingredients which purify the atmosphere and keep infections away. This is also a gift of the Vedic period, which if promoted like Yoga, could change the way of life of many.
Many of the things being promoted now worldwide as new norms of living to avoid being affected by Corona were the usual norms during the Vedic period as stringent norms of hygiene were followed. Like we are now being told to not to touch our eyes, nose etc without washing hands in Manusamriti (4/144) it is written “Without a reason don’t touch your own indriyas (eyes, nose, ears etc). As regards frequent washing of hands, Padmashristi (51/88) states “Wash your hands, feet, mouth before you eat”
The word ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit, which means to join or to unite. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice, which originated in India. Yoga, which was not very popular internationally and was resisted by some labelling it to be religion-specific, has now become popular worldwide. Due to the effort of PM Narendra Modi, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. June 21 was suggested as the date by PM Modi since it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world. It is being celebrated every year since then with an increasing number of nations joining the celebrations. International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. Thus by declaring International Day of Yoga, the world body created awareness globally of the multiple benefits of practising Yoga that may help in addressing many global problems. One hundred and seventy-seven nations supported the resolution, the highest number of co-sponsors for any UNGA resolution so far.
While addressing the UNGA on September 27, 2014, PM Modi advocated the promotion of Yoga internationally and stated, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well-being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” The world was awakened and the UN going through its routine process declared the International Day of Yoga in December that year.
Despite objections by various religious heads, it has now been accepted that Yoga, as practised internationally, is devoid of any religious content but at the same time it is not only for physical fitness but also helps in attaining inner peace. Attainment of inner peace is an individual requirement and is not religion specific. Yoga has now emerged as one of the elements of India’s multifarious soft power.
Despite objections by various religious heads, it has now been accepted that Yoga, as practised internationally, is devoid of any religious content but at the same time it is not only for physical fitness but also helps in attaining inner peace. Attainment of inner peace is an individual requirement and is not religion specific. Yoga has now emerged as one of the elements of India’s multifarious soft power
Namaste, Namaskar or Namaskaram, the Hindu way of greeting, has already gained wider acceptance and global recognition. Social distancing would be the norm in post-corona era and Namaste is considered a better and appropriate form of greeting maintaining the requisite distance. Persons greeting each other place their palms together, fingers pointing upward, and say namaste with a bow. “Namaste” is a combination of words derived from Sanskrit that means “I bow to you.” It is a non-contact form of greeting, as opposed to hugging or shaking hands. It is quite proper if a person from a different culture uses this form of salutation to another person, Hindu or non-Hindu. Although a simple expression of greeting, Namaste carries a profound spiritual meaning that is derived from the Vedantic ideal of recognising the divine in every being. This idea of the divinity of the soul, in a spiritual sense, unifies all of humanity. Thus, though recognised as Hindu way of greeting, Namaste can have universal acceptance due to its spiritual component.
We are fortunate that we are led at this crucial juncture also by none other than the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. As the world is adopting new ways of living to avoid the spread of Coronavirus, PM Modi should take the lead in promoting the Vedic way of life sans any religious component. There are numerous pluses to Vedic way of Life, which the global community may as well adopt happily as they have done while accepting Yoga. The trials have already begun of an Ayurvedic drug for the treatment of COVID-19. An Ayurvedic drug in India called ZingiVir-H has got the go-ahead for clinical trials with patients tested positive for Coronavirus. If this experiment succeeds, it would become easier to sell the idea of Vedic culture as the new norm in the post-COVID era. India, through its various organisations, particularly the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), should take the lead in promoting Vedic culture worldwide and through the UN. If needed, a separate vertical of International Promotion of Vedic Culture be added to the existing organisation of ICCR to provide it with the necessary impetus and funds. When India advocates Vedic way of life, it is not promoting a particular religion but to promote the culture that conceived the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
(The writer is a Jammu based veteran, political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed are entirely personal)