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Continued From Part III
Not only was Vyasa's intellect mighty, but he was completely tolerant, holding in his embrace of love the entire universe of living beings. In the "Song of the Lord", the Bhagavadgita, the poet-seer Vyasa brought the Vedic truths from the sequestered Himalayan caves into the active field of politics and the confusing tension of an imminent fratricidal war.
In Vyasa's depiction of the story of the divine incarnation Krishna, Lord Krishna is made to declare the message of the Gita, which is nothing but a reinterpretation of the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads with proper emphasis upon certain vital factors that seem to have been distorted and dried out of recognition in the parched mouths of the Pundits. With the deification of Krishna, Hinduism entered its theistic era; it recognized the Lord as having descended in the form of a mortal in order to reorient India's forgotten Dharma and to pull the decadent culture back again on its high pedestal. This is the most daring and original thought of Vyasa in the whole Gita; that the Supreme, in His unlimited freedom, by his own perfectly free will, takes upon Himself the conditioning of matter and manifests Himself in a particular embodiment in the world for serving the deluded generation of the time. To the Lord, His ignorance is but a pose assumed, not a fact lived. A mortal becomes victimized by his Avidya (ignorance), whereas the Lord is the master of his Maya.
Vyasa is a great poet-philosopher and has become an institution representing the Hindu heritage. No scriptural study or Vedic chanting is ever begun without prostrations unto this greatest of seers. If we must attribute Hinduism to any single individual, there is none else to whom we can most appropriately attribute its present existence and past glories except to Veda Vyasa.
It is believed that Vyasa was born as the son of a Brahmin Rishi and a fisher-woman. The story need not be taken as a literal historical incident, but it may be considered symbolically significant. The father, a Brahmin, represents Sattva, the creative wisdom born out of a life of study and contemplation, while the fisher-woman represents the daring adventurousness with which she has to sail forth day by day in her frail craft into the deep sea, where she captures the unseen food and hauls it to the shore, where dwellers can easily get their nourishment at their own door-steps. Similarly, on the ocean of Vedic knowledge, Vyasa sailed out to gather the best that it contained, and bring us the nutritive essence of Hinduism.
In short, Vyasa was not merely a man of realizations but was also one who had the spirit of adventure to serve his generation throughout his life. He was a revivalist who contributed the maximum to the Hindu Renaissance of that critical era. In fact, he was the most daring religious revolutionary that ever appeared on the horizon of Hindu cultural history.
Vyasa was one of the sages who had a vast vision of the past and the great imagination to see the future, both of which he brought forth in order to tackle the problems of decadence in his immediate present. Had he declared these restatements of the Truth as his own original ideas, it would have been difficult for him to persuade his generation to follow them. It is the character of the Hindus that they will not readily accept a new idea or ideal unless those new ideas have the sanction of antiquity and the authority of the ancient Rishis.
The versatile genius of Vyasa never left anything that he touched without raising it to the most sublime heights of perfection through his rare capacity for composing incomparable poetry and unique diction. Creating innovations both in thought and form, he was a brilliant philosopher, a man of consummate wisdom, and a genius in worldly knowledge. At one time in the palace, at another time on the battle-field, at still another time in Badrinath, and again among the silent snow peaks of the Himalayas.
Sri Vyasa is the embodiment of what is best in the Hindu tradition. Yet, Vyasa's philosophical thought is not sectarian or creedal. It is not a philosophy only for the Hindus. It is universal in its application and is addressed to all mankind.