A CD of Shanti mantras from the Upanishads and Veda Samhitas explains the nature of the vaidika mantras and how they may be used to address several situations in which we often find ourselves

Peace and strength are two of the most important universal boons that the vaidika seers sought. They sought these at three scales: self, immediate surroundings and the world.

Two things are currently very fashionable. Anything even remotely in Sanskrit, much less the Vedas, is immediately to be dismissed (at best) or derided as oppressive (at worst).

The other is to treat such lore as somehow “new age” band-aid to many a modern ailment, from cancer to stress, colds to diabetes, or to be touted as a sign of being “with it.”

There are two other ways to engage with vaidika lore.

Take them as beautiful poetry with many soothing accents and cadences.

Second is to wisely use their wisdom for modern times transformatively, to bring about improvement in our thinking and action to bridge the three scales mentioned above with ease, poise, and sublimity.

The introspective parts of the Vedas are called the Upanishads (‘to be seated near’; that is how those ideas were passed on).

Among their verses are many which address the two ideas of peace and strength among, and between, the three scales.

Saksi have published a variety of print and audio materials on the various Vedas and Upanishads, several bearing the name R. L. Kashyap.

Among these is a CD, “Shanti Mantras from the Upanishads and Veda Samhitas.”

After nearly 35 years as a highly respected scholar and a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at Purdue University (USA), Professor Kashyap returned to Bangalore upon retiring in 1997.

He has continued studying the Vedas and Upanishads.

This CD begins with a commentary written and vocally delivered by Professor Kashyap.

In simple and lucid language, and with excellent enunciation, he explains the nature of the vaidika mantras and how they may be used to address several situations in which we often find ourselves.

He explains the structure of the source texts and why it is important for us to consciously espouse peace as the source and means for strength. Implicit in this message, and the selections on this CD, is an important point: we need to strengthen ourselves as well as strengthening the rest of the world.

The CD proceeds to provide much food for meditation — not religious, but spiritual, and thus not sectarian, but universal.

Each of the selections seeks strength and peace in different aspects, just as yoga helps us focus on our bodies organ by organ, then the body as a whole, culminating with the body as a part of a universal whole.

A brief mention of its source introduces each selection. Instrumental music, playing the very apt raga Revati, is kept in the background where it belongs and offers soft, lilting, waves upon which the firm and clear recitation proceeds.

Following the recitation, there is a brief translation written by Professor Kashyap in his simple and yet evocative style (but spoken by another voice).

The translation is well-enunciated but jars on two counts. First, the accent — even with an Indian accent, with clear enunciation (as it is here) and the pronunciation reasonably correct, it will still be accessible to a non-Indian audience.

As it is, the accent tends to sound somewhat call-centre-ish. Secondly, the use of the old forms such as ‘thou’, ‘dost’, ‘thee’ sound awkward, if not unnecessarily pompous.The selections can be very useful in developing and propagating two important themes. First is as a tool to stimulate a benign and healthy environmental ethic.

For these prayers to be answered, we have to treat the environment right.

It is no use chopping down whole forests and then mouthing ‘kaale varshatu parjanyah’ (may the rains be on time).

Second, seeking peace has to begin with resolution of conflicts and fears within oneself. Only then can one seek peace elsewhere.

This CD should be used in inter-disciplinary studies. It also makes a great gift idea.

The CD “Shanti Mantras from the Upanishads and Veda Samhitas” comes at Rs. 100, Saksi publications.

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CHANDRA SHEKHAR BALACHANDRAN