“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.14)
Is religion legitimate or just a coping mechanism? Does following actually prevent harm in the future, specifically the unknown afterlife, or is this all just a way to keep people under control? Lying, cheating, stealing – these are bad on their own. You shouldn’t need to consult some ancient book in order to walk the righteous path.
Indeed, Vedic culture brings many rules and regulations. The initial reception may not be a welcoming one, even from people who are familiar with the idea of religion.
No one I know does these kinds of things. Who worries about eating meat? The animals are inferior beings. They are under the control of human beings. You kill them, cook the flesh and then eat. Sure, the slaughterhouses give off this putrid smell. You wouldn’t want to live next to one, as opposed to being next to a farm, but why the fuss? Why put so much thought into it? This is how our ancestors behaved, since before anyone can remember.
Why do things in that particular way? If you want to worship, you go to a house designated for that purpose. I don’t see the need for creating a fire pit in the house and throwing grains into it, repeating some Sanskrit words in the process.
The deities worshiped look out of place, as well. A person with a blue complexion? A guy with an elephant’s head? Some person with poison stuck in their throat? A lady sitting on a tiger, wielding weapons in her many hands? Do you see anyone else worshiping like this?
Okay, there is some authority to base the practices on, but those people lived in the past. There wasn’t electricity. There were no automobiles. Science had yet to make so many important discoveries. We are in the present day. The word “modern” has meaning. These ancient religious practices were likely used for dealing with things that couldn’t be explained. That is no longer an issue. We know about the sun, the moon, the seasons and so forth. We can predict the weather to a startlingly accurate degree.
While different aspects of Vedic culture may not fit in well with material life as it is constituted today, there is an underlying purpose. There is a reason to avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. There is a benefit to offering sacrifice, yajna.
From the Bhagavad-gita we learn two important truths in relation to eating. One is that grains are produced through rain, which arrives through yajna. The weather is generally attributed to randomness, i.e. the workings of nature. The spiritual science that is the Vedas says that nature operates with intelligence because there is an intelligent engineer in the first place, along with intelligent beings managing subsequent to the creation.
The Gita also says that the living entity is not the doer. We think that we are solely responsible for the results to actions, but that is illusion, maya. Not every repeated action produces the same result, even if all other conditions are controlled. That is why science continues to update its conclusions, as there are new findings that invalidate previously held beliefs. The very meaning of progress implies imperfection. That is to say you can only progress from something that is flawed to begin with.
While appearing entirely based on faith, the actual foundation of Vedic culture is logic, reasoning and science. The idea is to trust the words at first, and then get validation through the application of the principles. Bring every doubt to the table. Ask every legitimate question. Be confident of the path forward. For the doubting soul there is little benefit.
“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.40)
Yajna is effective. There is a benefit to following pious behavior. The sounds produced by sacred mantras are effective, especially the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Since the objective is bhakti, or devotion, the requirements aren’t as strict. With other mantras an exact, precise pronunciation is required, or else the desired outcome will not manifest.
With bhakti a sincere attempt essentially guarantees success. Through faith in the spiritual master who teaches the principles, more and more is revealed. The truth behind the figures worshiped comes to light. The complexities are many, and while when juxtaposed with other traditions the Vedas seem out of place, the person who continues in the path soon gains an understanding of everything material and spiritual, something no other field of study offers.
Lady on tiger, cloaked figure with rod,
Rules and regulations appearing odd.
Living in modern day man,
Science them explaining can.
Same concepts before a mystery,
Religion now simply for history.
But Vedas with intelligence and purpose so,
More revealed as further into path to go.
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