Brig Anil Gupta
The chanting of Vedic prayer ‘Shanti Paath’ (Prayer of Peace) from Yajurveda at White House to seek mental peace and solace during the horrifying period of lockdown forced due to Covid pandemic is an indication of shape of things to come in the post covid era. The way Corona is going to affect almost every human being, the degree of affect varying from individual to individual or society to society, undoubtedly seeking mental peace and inner strength is going to become a norm than an exception. The ancient Vedic culture is best suited to meet this requirement. Another fact that supports the argument is lesser number of cases in the countries practising Buddhism. Buddhists till date religiously follow many dictums of Vedic culture and hence live relatively happy. Our neighbour Buddhist nation Bhutan 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 a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. To some it may sound weird that when the world is thinking of life at moon, the reference is being made to the BC era. Yes, the after effects of corona which would cripple many economies, make many individuals jobless and turn poor many rich 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 simplicity and purity.
It is very interesting to know that some elements of the culture of the Vedic Age have survived over a period 3,000 years and continue to be a part of Indian culture even today. 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 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 the means to achieve inner peace.
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 very strict 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”. 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 “Use different clothes while sleeping, while going out, while visiting place of worship”. In Vishnusamriti shloka 64 preaches “Clothes once worn should not be worn again before washing.” Aren’t these going to be the norms in the post Covid – 19 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.
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 desisted by some labelling it to be religion specific has now become popular worldwide due to the effort of PM Narendra Modi who succeeded in United Nations Organisation (UNO) General Assembly 2014 declaring 21 June as The International Day of Yoga.21 June 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 increasing number of nations joining the celebrations.International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce 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. 177 nations supported the resolution, the highest number of co-sponsors for any UNGA resolution so far.
While addressing the UN General Assembly on 27 September 2014, PM Modi advocated 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 fulfilment; 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 the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in wellbeing. 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.
Namaste, Namaskar or Namaskaram, the Hindu way of greeting has already gained wider acceptance and global recognition. Social distancing would be the norm post corona and Namaste is considered the 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 mean “I bow to you.” It is a noncontact 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 recognizing the divine in everything and in every being. This ideal of the divinity of 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 Narendra Modi. As the world is accepting new ways of living to avoid spread of corona, PM Modi should take lead to promote the Vedic way of life sans any religious component. There are numerous pluses of Vedic way of life which the global community would adopt happily as they did while accepting Yoga. The trials have already begun of an Ayurvedic drug for treatment of Covid-19. An ayurvedic drug in India called ZingiVir-H has gotten the go ahead for clinical trials with patients tested positive for corona. If this experiment succeeds, it would become easier to sell the idea of Vedic culture as the new norm in post Covid-19 era.India through its various organisations particularly the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) should take the lead to promote 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 the necessary impetus and funds. When India advocates Vedic way of life it is not doing with a view to promote a particular religion but to promote the culture that conceived the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (world is one family).
(The author is a Jammu based veteran, political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst.)
Brig Anil Gupta