“The froggish philosophers and mundane wranglers in science and mathematical calculation may not believe in the inconceivable potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but they are sometimes puzzled by the wonderful jugglery of man and nature. Such jugglers and magicians of the mundane world are actually puzzled by the jugglery of the Lord in His transcendental activities, but they try to adjust their bewilderment by saying that it is all mythology. There is, however, nothing impossible or mythological in the Supreme Omnipotent Person.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.6.39 Purport)
Friend1: Have you ever heard the Vedas or Vedic literature in general described as mythology?
Friend2: Of course. That is a quite common classification.
Friend1: Did you know that people get upset with the use of that term?
Friend2: In that specific context or the word itself?
Friend1: They get mad when someone references stories and incidents from those works and uses the word “mythology” or “mythological.”
Friend2: I see. Does that surprise you?
Friend1: I think devoted people are surprised, especially when they use the term themselves.
Friend2: Surprised at the backlash?
Friend1: Because they intend no harm. They use “mythology” in the vernacular sense.
Friend2: You casually throw that around as if there are multiple meanings. Is not there only one understanding to the word?
Friend1: I think the devotees consider mythology to mean “old” or “amazing.” As in, “Let me tell you about the mythological stories from the Mahabharata.”
Friend2: I don’t see any difference there. First of all, do you understand why someone might get upset?
Friend1: Because of the correlation with Greek mythology, which no one accepts as real.
Friend2: Or factual. Yes, exactly. To say that the Vedas are mythological is to discredit. It is a term generated from outsiders. You will not find any corresponding term within the literature itself. Whether you go back to the original Ramayana or read a modern work in praise of the same main character, there is no hint at mythology.
Friend1: The people accept the events as factual, as amazing as they may seem.
Friend2: There is never a question as to authenticity. Outsiders use the term “Hindu” to describe something with which they are unfamiliar, i.e. the eternal way of living, sanatana-dharma. They do the same with the accounts described within the texts of that tradition. It is mythology to them since they can barely make heads or tails of the material nature around them.
Friend1: Okay, but how will they accept a flying monkey or a writer with an elephant head? A small character, of bluish complexion, lifts up a massive hill and also devours a forest fire. I am not saying I agree with their characterization, but I can understand why they would have difficulty believing.
Friend2: Right, and just because someone else is not intelligent enough to understand does not mean others will simply go along with their ignorance. Using the term “mythology” is tacitly approving their point of view. It is agreeing with something that should not be given acceptance.
Friend1: Okay, but what is the explanation, then? People will say that you are primitive, outdated, for accepting the incidents blindly.
Friend2: Again, the same people are bewildered by the material nature, at every turn. After you understand yoga, the scientific nature to the world, how the living entity can manipulate the material elements, then a monkey-bodied person talking and leaping over oceans is not impossible.
Friend1: It’s not?
Friend2: No. A person can have ten heads and eat other human beings. These are not so amazing, if you understand who God really is. Through His favor an ordinary person can rise to extraordinary heights, but enhanced control over material elements does not come close to becoming God.
Friend1: In other words, while one person is so amazed at the descriptions that they relegate everything to mythology, the wise person is not impressed at all.
Friend2: Because they know God. They understand Him at the personal level. They know that He can devour a million forest fires simultaneously, if necessary. As Shri Rama He singlehandedly defeats fourteen thousand attacking fighters, who are highly skilled and employ black magic. In truth, Rama could do the same against fourteen million. The factual, historical incident is merely a demonstration of God’s abilities.
Friend1: A look into the spiritual side of life.
Friend2: Instead of calling it mythology, view it as a merciful glimpse into another world. More importantly, to ascend to the equivalent heights in our temporary existence will not do much for us.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: I don’t need to jump over an ocean, fly on a personal airplane, or appear and disappear at will. I simply have to serve God to a level sufficient to purify my consciousness. Removing the rubbish, eradicating the influence of the ignorant, and taking the instructions of the acharyas as my life and soul, I will succeed in a world that otherwise bewilders everyone living in it.
With that term offense taking,
Since approval of outsiders making.
That as mythology to use,
Material nature to confuse.
Since of soul’s proper standing,
Dichotomy not understanding.
Ramayana and other works as real,
Only through practice truth to reveal.