Is the Hinduism we practise today, Vedic?

Ranveer Allahbadia did a recent interview with Acharya Prashant in Hindi, titled Forgotten Hinduism. Ranveer tries to talk to Acharya about hot takes and it takes time for him to reach the point about the question of whether the Hinduism we practice today Vedic?

Acharya Prashant says that the Hinduism we practise today is not Vedantic. He says that the Hinduism we practise today involves praying to Puranic Gods following Tantric rituals and methods.

He defines the periods from an average of 2000 B.C.E. He refers to the period from second to eight century CE is the Puranic period.

He says that we no longer pray to Vedic gods (like Indra, Varun etc.). He claims that worship in the Vedic era was mostly the worship of the natural phenomena. He claim that Vedic worship did not have the concept of idol worship and does not involve temple worship.

He suggests that Vedic practice begins with reading a few suggested Upanishads and books by the Adi Shankara.

  • Atma-bodha by Adi Shankara
  • Tatva-bodha by Adi Shankara
  • Niralamba Upanishad
  • Sarvasara Upanishad
  • Ishavasya/Isha Upanishad
  • Kena Upanishad
  • Katha Upanishad
  • Ashtavakra Upanishad

After the initial reading on Indian philosophy, this is what I plan to start reading this year. I may not read it all in two months like the Acharya suggests, but I will read through these after I begin with the Mandukya Upanishad.

Suffering and Tranquility

In 2017, I listened to an episode of the Art of Manliness podcast with author and philosopher, William B Irvine. I, then, went on to listen to his book, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy on Audible.

Photo by mukesh s on

In the time of the Greeks and Romans, Philosophy was something that was practiced and not just thought. Students went to these schools for practical lessons in living.

Each philosophy taught that there was an ideal that played a central role more than all the others. Epicureans believed that pleasure played such a central role. Stoics believed that tranquility played a central role.

The book busts several myths about Stoicism. The Stoics were not emotionally dead. They offer several practical tips and tricks to prepare one for the emotional roller-coaster of life. These practices helped Stoics maintain tranquility.

In comparison, the various darsanas of Indian Philosophy seem to say that there is only one theme that plays the central role – the reduction of or end of suffering.

Heading back to Indian Philosophy

I had subscribed to Brain Pickings a long time ago. I used to have the time to read this newsletter before the time there were so many newsletters. I was thinking of names when I learnt that Maria Popova changed the name of her newsletter from Brain Pickings to The Marginalian. Somehow, it pushed me to take the time to read her newsletter every Sunday, her weekly digest.

In a post written on December 7 (coincidence?), she had an article on Carl Jung. The post was on Jung’s advice on how to live and do the next right thing. This post seems to have triggered some avalanche inside me.

Popova writes:

We long to be given the next step and the route to the horizon, allaying our anxiety with the illusion of a destination somewhere beyond the vista of our present life.

Maria Popova, The Marginalian
Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on

I think when I read non-fiction, this is what I sought. An answer that will help me take the next step and provide me with a destination. But, as I read, an author would convince me to change my next step and even the destination.

Jung says that death is the only destination or horizon that is real. There are many ways to get there. We have to take the next step intuitively. There is uncertainty in this. But, uncertainty is the price we pay for beauty. Integrity is the only compass we have to point to the right direction on this uncertain landscape. Popova summarizes Jung more poetically in her post above.

This reminded me of my interest in Samkhya that I had shared here earlier. But, I felt that I wanted to place my study in the context of the wider Indian philosophy.

I have started reading the Sarva Darsana Samagraha. This is an English translation from 1882 but is a surprisingly easy read. While looking for other similar books, I found a suggestion among Nitin Pai’s notes for Chatterjee and Dutta’s Introduction to Indian Philosophy. I am listening to that book on Audible so that I can get through the content once.

Summary of the Chapter I read

Perhaps the entire thing with the Gods and Godless and the 101 years was just to establish the fact that something is difficult to learn. Then perhaps, this fact stated so clearly will not be taken so lightly. Or, perhaps that was the reasoning behind it.

According to Menen, the people who wrote the Upanishads basically did not believe in God and communicated their knowledge through folklore.

Chandogya Upanishad – Seventh Section of the Eighth Chapter

Since I am only beginning, my interpretation of things is supposed to be bad. Anyway, I needed a point to begin. Aubrey Menen, gave me that point and so I have begun. The whole thing is under a title “Gods and the Godless”

Prajapati is an interesting teacher that the Gods and the Godless ( basically referring to devas and asuras) approach to understand the self. That is why we go into things like spirituality and stuff and so I think that is why Menen wanted us to start here!

Prajapati puts these two leaders of the Gods and the Godless to work. At the end of their services, he provides them with the knowledge that _they_ desire. It’s almost like what you might observe in modern PhD programmes. Advisors extract the maximum work of their candidates and then finally give them their PhD. A wicked comparison, for Prajapati was a wise man but something that came to the mind while reading these lines.

Prajapati never gives straight forward answers and answers only those questions that the student puts to him. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The leaders of the Gods and the Godless – Indira and Virochana – ask him what is the self. Prajapati asks them to look in their eyes and what they see is the self. Ditto for looking at water and mirrors. Virochana is quite happy with this ‘wisdom’ and propogates it among the Godless. This according to the Upanishads is why the Godless are more interested in bodily sin et. all. This I think is a bit of exageration on the part of the interpreter. This is the basis, perhaps of condemning sex as an act of the weak.

Anyway, Virochana is happy and so the Godless are now cursed to living their lives in good bodies with bad minds (aka sex et. all)

However, Indira is doubtful. He returns to Prajapati with a good doubt. If the body is the self, then shouldn’t the self change according to the strength in the body. This is not so. Whys that? Prajapati asked Indira to work under him some more time. In this way Indira works under Prajapati for about 101 years which leads to a common saying in India of why the self is valuable. Even Indira took 101 years to master it!

The final cut-short story is this wonderful quote from Prajapati:

“Like the wind, like clouds, like thunder
and lightning, which rise from space without physical shape and reach the transcendent
light in their own form, those who rise above body-consciousness ascend to the transcendent
lightin their real form, the Self.”

The self is not such an easy thing to understand and yet it’s been so beautifully expressed. Reading those lines and imaging how clouds are formed or how thunder falls from the sky – from the formless to that of form, seem to attain the true form of the Self.

I have been thinking for quite some time on what I have just written. I am tired for today. Maybe tomorrow. When I clear out the message and read this part again. And then on with the rest of the Upanishads.

Summer Study

It is normally at the time of exams that one seeks God in order to try and increase the grade in a subject that you have not learnt all semester. I have been doing that for the past 17 years. Last year after my incompetency was proved in examination, I decided to take a different approach.

I decided to take to atheism and it has not disappointed me so far. Why? In theism, you expect God to rescue you. Therefore the effort that you put in is generally reduced. When depending on no one but oneself then you reach a point where you are giving in your maximum.

I have however, given every point of view a chance but none have attracted me so far. During this exam I plan to cut down on a lot of activities that I do – some of which you are witness to through this weblog. This gives me one quantity – time.

So, far about 1 hour everyday I shall read and summarise here a section of the Upanishads. I seek to follow the words of one, Aubrey Menen in my pursuit. Some of his books have been banned – which is generally, in relation to religion – a good place to start. I shall then apply my own knife and see how it cuts.

Menen’s advice with regards to the Upanishad is quite straight forward –

“The Western reader has a wide variety of translations to choose from in several languages. The translators are often very gifted, but when they come to the word atman most of them fall flat on their faces. They call it “the soul”, which it is not. The reader should be more wary. He is much in the position of Adam when he named the animals in the Garden of Eden. To call a tiger a ‘tiger’ Adam had first to see the beast. So is is with the atman. You cannot really know what it is until you have found it, and that can only be done by going off alone and looking for it. Once you have found it, you really do not care what it is called, because it is so much your own private business.

However, a distinguished Indian and scholar S. Radhakrishnan, faced up to the problem. He dismissed out of hand the word ’soul’. Instead he chose the word ’self’. It was the best that could be done, and that is why the Western reader, whatever the translation he is reading, should keep Radhakrishnan’s the Principal Upanishads beside him for checking. Parts of Radhakrishnan’s English translation are eminently readable, parts not. The Western reader should begin with the seventh section of the eigth chapter of the Chandyoga Upanishad.

Then he should shut himself alone in some quite place and think.”

I shall take Menen’s advice of being wary. I shall not do what he suggests – shutting myself in a room and thinking. I like to walk in the crowds, observe and think. I shall follow his advice on where to start reading the Upanishads. I have with me Eknath Easwaran’s The Upanishads. I shall only read the translations and create the meaning for myself by taking into consideration everything I have learnt till now.

These notes will become part of my notebook. I shall post them on  the blog whenever I can!!


I have not been too well to blog. I was also working towards my last exam this semester. Life’s getting pretty lethargic.But, I read these words by JK on what should be the role of a teacher:

“Surely, when the teacher regards each student as a unique individual and therefore not to be compared with any other, he is then not concerned with system or method. His sole concern is with ‘helping’ the student to understand the conditioning influences about him and within himself, so that he can face intelligently, without fear, the complex process of living and not add more problems to the already existing mess.”

When you read works by JK, one of your first instincts is: “Easier said than done.” Well, but if you look deep enough, then what we’re doing is actually delaying the final outcome of a process.

A very simple example. You live in a place where the river’s water level is rising. What do you do? You build a wall around your house. As the level of the water rises, you raise the level of the wall. At some point, you reach a limit and you can no longer raise the level of the wall. What do you do then? Move.

That was a philosophical example, if you understand what I mean. This is what we are tend to be doing. Just a word of advice, if you plan to read books on philosophy or personal opinion of people, please make sure that you do not read books seperated by a lot of time. People have written these books and experience changes many of the things they may have stated while they were younger.