Faith

Interpreting the Vedas

One must learn all sacred texts through one’s preceptor, who will throw light on difficult passages in the texts. Attempts at self- learning can lead to misinterpretations, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse. The Taittiriya Upanishad, talking about how to give daana, says, “Shradhhayaa deyam; ashraddhayaa deyam.” Shradhhayaa deyam means “give with respect”. But the very next line uses the word ashraddhayaa, and we may wrongly interpret it as “Give disrespectfully.’ If such an interpretation were to be taken, then it would be the opposite of the previous injunction. Why would two contradictory statements be given by the Vedas? And there is no way the Vedas will ask us to give daana in an improper and arrogant manner. So, clearly, to interpret ashraddhayaa as implying that one must give disrespectfully, would be very wrong. The correct interpretation is “do not give disrespectfully.” If one studies under an Acharya, he will teach one how to properly understand the statement. The Vedas were passed down orally, and this has ensured that they have come down intact, without mistakes, because different permutations and combinations were used to ensure accuracy.

The Taittiriya Upanishad gives more instructions on what the attitude of the giver should be. It says, “Shriya deyam.” That means one must give joyfully, and without regrets. It says , “ Hriya deyam.” This means one must be ashamed at one’s insignificant donations. It further says, “Bhiya deyam.” This means one must give with fear, for if one is arrogant while giving, it will mar the act of charity. The Upanishad says, “Samvida deyam.” This means one must be firm in one’s resolve to give. There should be no wavering or second thoughts about giving to someone.


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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 4:15:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/interpreting-the-vedas/article36126487.ece

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