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January - March 2024

Book Review by P. R. Kannan

‘Vedas for Success’ by Narayanaswami

Published by SAKSHI Trust, Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bengaluru. First Edition: 2023; Pages 92; Price Rs. 200.

This book is a departure from traditional presentations on Vedas. Over the last several centuries, Sayanacharya’s Veda Bhashya is regarded as a definitive interpretation of Veda mantras. But in the present book the author calls this Veda Bhashya as ‘the direct external or word meanings’ and avers that ‘Aadhyatmic meanings (spiritual and psychological meanings) were first brought to light after research by Sri Aurobindo and later by Sri T.V. Kapali Sastry and Prof. R. L. Kashyap. He heaps praise on these fresh interpretations.

The author essentially refers to the concepts of chanting certain Veda mantras repeatedly and ‘inviting the Devas to one’s inner being’, which would result in higher levels of consciousness and perfection. He controversially concludes that ‘outward’ yajnas were performed based on Sayanacharya’s interpretation of rituals and that the latter commentators (mentioned above) provided fresh meanings, spiritually oriented, as briefly mentioned above, lessening the importance of the ritualistic Yajnas and stressing the benefit of utilizing the Veda mantras to enhance the level of consciousness and, even, material success.

The author makes a startling observation that Moksha or spiritual liberation does not find a place in the Vedas (P.72). (He evidently refers to Veda Samhita mantras and not Upanishads). This is outright incomprehensible.

It is generally known that Veda mantras, couched in ancient Samskrit, are subject to more than one interpretation. That is why Sayanacharya’s Veda Bhashya is highly respected for charting the right path. Various yajnas have been performed since time immemorial based on this treatise and other Shastraic works.

Adi Shankaracharya, who has written extensively on various aspects of Sanatana Dharma, has stated categorically that Karmas (including yajnas) as ordained in Vedas must be performed for well being of the individual as well as the society. The spiritual aspirant learns to perform the Karmas without expecting the fruits thereof and dedicate the Karmas to Bhagavan. In due course his mind gets purified and bhakti gets intensified. He continues to do his assigned Karmas with increasing devotion. Ultimately his devotion ripens; Bhagavan is pleased and grants him Moksha.

Moksha is not only the subject of Upanishads, but the idea of bhakti leading to Moksha is interspersed all over Veda Samhita mantras as well. Chanting of Veda mantras by way of prayer to Bhagavan’s various forms for invoking them in the body, in Agni, in Kalasha etc. and seeking their blessings for good health, long life, progeny and well being including advancement in spiritual plane is a well-established traditional practice.