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ON INDIA'S ANCIENT PAST

by Robert C. Priddy

India's past is so ancient and has been so influential in the rise of civilisation and
religion, at least for almost everyone in the Old World, that most people can claim it
actually to be the earliest part of our own odyssey.

History has been called a review of the crimes and follies of mankind. One can learn
from these trials and errors, as well as from the solutions enacted by great figures of
India's past. There are also many lessons of true diplomacy and human wisdom to be
had from the great ancient scripts, prose-poems, epics and revelationary scriptures of
India. The prime example of Rama and his brothers in the Ramayana, and of Krishna
and the Pandavas in the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata and in Srimad
Bhagavatam are perhaps the most outstanding. Yet there is even more than this to be
learned today!

Through Western Glasses Darkly

To the West, knowledge of India comes primarily through newspapers, TV, novels,
biographies and various types of foreign developmental or aid agency. Knowledge
from all these sources is partial, distorted and tainted, the unconventional writer
Chaudheri maintains, for "the world's knowledge about India today is obtained
overwhelmingly at one remove from people belonging to the urban upper middle-
class, who have become the heirs to British rule." As a class, their views and attitudes
are predominantly those of the rulers and exploiters of the remaining nine-tenths."1

The 'dual-accounting' tendency - one beautified account for public consumption and
another unadorned one for private reference - has also been explained by Chaudheri.
According to him, a subtle kind of double-speak exists almost universally in India...
on the one hand what one presents to foreigners and on the other an unspoken
knowledge of certain realities shared by all those who know at least one major Indian
tongue, but which is very seldom expressed by English-speakers or writers. Chaudheri
himself obviously represents one break with the norm. This view of a kind of double-
standard in recording the facts is supported by the existence of records of Indian life
which often present the harsher realities of India in a stark way, having been recorded
in memoirs and other writings by those British who had mastered several Indian
languages and spent their lives in the thick of life in the provinces as colonial
administrators, judges and so forth.
Among the contributions to world literature and culture of ancient India which stand
out as exceptional and influential in the formation of civilisation throughout the
Western world are the stories and tales that form the basis of a large part of the folk
tale traditions of Europe, as well as many of those of the East Indies region. The host
of historical or imaginary figures well-know to Indian children are found in many
stories world-wide that have adopted elements of the Indian tradition which have
travelled to them by various routes and have been transformed on the way. Gods and
demons of the Puranas appear as local heroes enacting the same original dramas in
many Middle-Eastern, European and Nordic folk tales, even turning into animals in
African stories.

What can be won from knowing about India's past above all, perhaps, is not more
historical learning or deep cultural knowledge, but the inspiration of a spirituality that
is so richly elevated, so intense, marvellous and even awesome as to reawaken and
nurture a faith that we have lost. One can certainly assert that there is no dearth of
sources! Even considering a few instances, such as that the Muslim invaders bridged
an entire river with palm-leaf books written in Sanskrit and the British fired the
boilers of the Red Fort with invaluable manuscripts, there remains a truly vast
literature that has been handed down, often from time immemorial, in such subjects as
we call scripture, theology, philosophy, science, folk tales and much besides. This
literature provides insight into a world, or rather into worlds, that it is only
peripherally meaningful to try to study by means of scientific dating or the literal and
'objective' approach through bones and isolated artefacts. Instead we can get access to
the 'flesh and blood' of their daily thoughts and ambitions through countless accounts
of the lives of divine saints and their followers, the actions of Devas and Devendras,
and of events that took place even long before such matters were recorded through
written traditions or by synoptic poems. This can be rewarding and joyously
expansive of mind and soul... opening to the inner eye visions of undreamt-of
possibilities and solutions to the deepest perplexities of life.

The mother of religion, the world's earliest spiritual teachings of the Vedic tradition
contains the most sublime and all-embracing of philosophies from dualisms (Dvaita
and Visishtadvaita) to the highest form of monism (Advaita), surpassing St.Thomas of
Aquinas, Kant, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Hegel or any other Western philosopher as
regards sophistication and unity of spiritual-intellectual insight. This is still almost
entirely ignored by navel-gazing western thinkers, so that Hindu religion is still well
beyond the understanding and religious experience of most non-Hindu theologians -
Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Muslim.

During the struggle for liberation of India from British rule and also after
Independence, the Indian national debate was frequently marked by zeal in raising

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Indian self-confidence through stories of national 'firsts'. These claims descended
from the sublime to the ridiculous while almost any invention was claimed by
someone to have originally been Indian. Leading Indian reformers like Dayananda
Sarasvati, Keshab Sen, Vivekananda, Tagore and others had worked to dispel this
exaggerated chauvinism and to assert the undeniable lead of Western thought in areas
like science, social emancipation and political economy. Despite their influence, there
remained sufficient hyperbole to give room to scathing criticisms of it by enlightened
Indians, such as Nirad Chauderi.

Indians in general have given little energy to 'marketing themselves' or polishing their
'image', having since Independence chosen the relative isolation of a non-aligned State
protecting itself as best it could from the world market and intrusive foreign
competitors. There are plenty of reasons why Indians have not used literature and the
media effectively to portray national virtues, ranging from lack of confidence in India
proper by Westernised Indians, the disparity of races, languages and cultures that are
contained together as the Indian nation and perhaps the predominance of other more
pressing concerns in this exploited and struggling sub-continent. The most telling
reason, I think, is the long-term loss of faith in traditional values and in the
importance of this Indian heritage to the world. The sublimity of India's spiritual life
was lost in the myopia of the British and is yet to be discovered properly by their
modern academicians or by those writers who supply the sophisticated yet hardly
elevated tastes of the English language book-buying public which craves exotica,
excitement and literary invention rather than expressions of the still widespread
spirituality of India.

Scientific bias in dating the past

There are those who claim that we are living at a time which has the most civilised
and advanced forms of society since human beings evolved. This view has long fitted
largely in with what the various sciences could substantiate about the past of mankind
and with the basic (unproven) assumptions of the physicalistic scientific paradigm.

Applied to the origin of human society, the scientific historical paradigm with its
Darwinist axiom implies, among other limiting assumptions, that civilisation is an end
product of natural necessity - the herd instinct and need to adjust to changing
environments for survival - and that the human being is an animal who happens
thereby to have acquired a brain as a survival instrument . From this it naturally
appears to empiricists to follow logically that early human beings were more like
beasts, and could not have been highly intelligent conscious spirits, quite possibly
with intuitive spiritual abilities possessed by few people nowadays.

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However, when the present writer was at school, the 'scientific truth' about the origin
of human beings was that the age of mankind (homo sapiens sapiens) was around
20,000 years. Forerunners of the modern human being were supposed to go back to a
maximum of 350,000 years, and that was not accepted until well after the discovery of
the so-called Peking Man. Though this seemed rather vague 'rule-of-thumb' science to
me - a feeling supported by the discovery of the tremendous hoax of the Piltdown
Man which made fools of virtually all palaeontologists then active - any discussion of
greater possibilities of early human beings was seriously regarded as either semi-
lunatic or at best, mere Wellsian science fiction. Since the work of Richard E. Leakey
from the 1960's onwards, it has become known that mankind (in a broad sense) has a
vastly much longer history. The community of palaeontologists talk about the earliest
form of human beings in number of millions of years now! The discovery of Homo
habilis circa 2 million years old and Australopithicus (3 million) are vastly predated
by the earliest hominid form (Kenyapithicus), considered to be 14 million years old! A
skeleton representing the famous so-called 'missing link' was discovered in Ethiopia in
late 1994, having an age of around 4 million years. These are scientific advances; at
first argued with considerable difficulty in the face of the hard opposition of then-
established scientific wisdom.

Winston Spencer Churchill, who must surely be regarded as a historian of some note,
never lost sight of the great perspectives of time and the uncertainties of human
knowledge. "Not seldom in the annals of the past - and how much more often in
tragedies never recorded or long-forgotten - had brave, proud, easy-going states, and
even entire races, been wiped out, so that only their name or even no mention of them
remains." "History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying
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to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion
of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his
conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions.
It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often
mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this
shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the realm of honour."

There is doubtless a general overall progress in scientific knowledge towards the true
facts, but this applies mainly to the natural or directly physical sciences (biology,
chemistry, physics etc.) and much less to the sciences of the past. While I do not wish
at all to belittle the great achievements of generations of students of human origins
and of pre-history, it must be said that their overall success in penetrating the mists of
time are still probably only tentative and are certainly very incomplete. With anything
up to 14 million years of development behind human kind and only a relative handful
of skeletons to show for about 90 % of that time, there are clearly enormous gaps in
the evidence! The sciences concerning most human affairs cannot lay any claim to

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precision or controllability comparable to the simplest proofs of the physical sciences.
They are also much divided into differing schools of thought across the world, and -
as in the other scientific professions - are often spearheaded by individuals who are
highly-competitive and concerned with self-advancement as much as with that of their
disciplines.

The above examples illustrate both the limitations and uncertainties of what is taken
as scientifically proven about prehistory at any given time. More recent history is also
distorted in various ways by the lack of empirical recording and by ethnic cultural
bias, which adds insult to the injury of broken tradition.

What has long been widely accepted as being the real history of India was largely
written by the British. It is traditional Anglo-Saxon stuff, concentrating pragmatically
on the political, military and economic events that concerned the British Raj to the
exclusion of every essentially Indian concern and viewpoint. Voltaire's view, that
history is lies that historians agree upon, is thus far quite applicable, even before
considering the likelihood that even the British view of events during the Indian
Revolution (called 'the Mutiny' from the British angle) was unconsciously distorted
and also wilfully falsified so as to conceal real motives and hide crucial facts, not
without success. It is no history of common life or of the living peoples of the sub-
continent, though the British did record the observable facts of India and its life more
accurately and completely than any Indians themselves did.

Ignorance and pride of some bigotted British colonisers in the past, overawed by
Indian architecture and the civilisation of which it spoke, spawned the preposterous
idea that the Red Fort of Delhi - a miracle of Indian Islamic architecture - was really
designed by a Britisher! The British wantonly and unnecessarily destroyed much of
the Red Fort in connection with the so-called 'Mutiny'. The same prejudice is seen
clearly when most Occidental historians, and their misled, westernised Indian
adherents, date early Indian scriptures. The predominant view of India in Western
culture suffers even today from a host of faulty perceptions, unscholarly literal
misunderstandings and a hodge-podge of traditional conceptions introduced by
narrow-minded missionaries, hard-headed Imperial soldiers and businessmen and
other base pragmatists and scientific materialists who lacked understanding or even
the desire to learn from anyone else but their own kind.

World history - including that of India - as written for his daughter Indira by the father
who was to become India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, at least took a step
towards an ethnically Indian history, even though Nehru was over much steeped in
Western thought and tradition. However, the European approach generally was so
effectively inculcated in the Anglo-Indian mind, not least through Lord Macaulay's
nationally-repressive system of education for Indians as a class of clerks, that many of

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the distortions of fact and of Western attitudes still persist, and this sustains existing
international misconceptions of the rich Indian culture and ignorance of the heights of
its moral and spiritual civilisation. Even at the turn of the 21st century, most historians
and scientists in the West suffer unknowingly under culturally-ingrained prejudices
about Indian culture and religion.

The Failings of Scientific Perception of Indian Antiquity

The scientist, vowing to rely strictly upon only what can be observed and recorded,
tested by systematic corroboration of observations or by controlled experiment,
cannot see that our world is an inverted one. In order to do so, one must work
systematically on the basis of a model or inner vision of how a righted world would
be. Science does not accept this as part of its theory and method. There is no known,
scientifically-recorded model against which to compare the present condition and
those of known history, unless we include 'myths' like that of paradise, a golden age,
an early 'utopia', an era of truth and so on. The reconstruction of the history of
mankind, ever stunted beyond recognition by science's insistence on physical proofs,
shows only that the same norms that prevail today have been prevailing in one way
and another since records began.

There is evidence that the type of ancient Indian 'science' - its psychological subtlety
and spiritual simplicity - was superior in achieving many things both mental, material
and 'ecological', equal or superior to our much-praised present material science and
technology. All agree that the ancient Indians already operated with a time span of
astronomical proportions long before the earliest signs of natural science in ancient
Greece. It is undeniable that ancient Indian texts present astonishingly exact scientific
calculations even by today's latest scientific standards, such as the speed of light,
exact size of the smallest particles and the age of the universe.

The Surya Siddhanta, a textbook on astronomy of ancient India - last compiled in


1000 BC, believed by Hindus to be handed down from 3000 BC by aid of complex
mnemonic recital methods still known today - computed the earth's diameter to be
7,840 miles, the distance earth - moon as 253,000 miles. These compare to modern
measurements resp. as 7,926.7 miles and 252,710 miles for max. dist. moon-earth.

Manu's texts in Sanskrit propounded evolution thousands of years before Lamarck &
Darwin. "The first germ of life was developed by water and heat. Man will traverse
the universe, gradually ascending and passing through the rocks, the plants, the
worms, insects, fish, serpents, tortoises, wild animals, cattle, and higher animals.
These are the transformations declared, from the plant to Brahma, which have to take
place in the world."

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Brihath Sathaka operates with divisions of the time of one day into:- 60 kalas or
ghatika - 24 mins each. Subdivided into 60 vikala (24 secs.each) 60 para then into
tatpara, then into vitatpara then into ima then into kasha.... the smallest unit, equal to
approx. o.ooooooo3 of a second (one 300 millionth).This smallest unit (3 X 10 -8
second) is surprisingly close to the life-spans of certain mesons and hyperons,
according to some Western physicist who was interviewed on the BBC World Service
in the early 1990s.

Dr. Subhash Kak of Lousiana State University was interviewed on Science In Action
BBC World Service, July 17 1998 on his having discovered that the ancient Indians
had calculated the speed of light exactly. According to Dr Kak 14¹th century Indian
astronomers worked out the speed of light exactly. They also were very close to
getting a correct figure for the age of the Universe. Roland Pease asked whether they
had remarkable insight, or was this all a remarkable coincidence. This question well
illustrated the general incomprehension of Western scientists towards anything but
their own kind.

The 14th century 'Rigveda of the Sun' (dated by manuscript age only), says that the
sun covers 2,202 yoganas in half a mimesa - which calculates as 300,000 metres a
second, fairly exactly the speed of light. Dr. Kak has checked this against the Puranas,
finding that this text definitely referred to the speed of light, not the speed of the sun's
travel. Further, Kak pointed out that the size and age of the universe are also given,
the figures being very close to those given by science today. 8.64 billion years is the
figure given for the age of the universe. The professor judges that these are mere
coincidences! 3

In Indian scriptures, such as the ancient Srimad Bhagavatam, the estimated length of a
Day of Brahma was 4,320 million years. That represents one complete cycle of the
universe. Argon-dating undertaken some decades ago put the age of the earth at 5,000
million years. The difference is relatively small, the similarity is more amazing than
the discrepancy.The Indian thinker Kanada put forward an atomic theory, concluding
that light and heat are two forms of the same basic substance.

One need not descend to the unchained speculation of a von Däniken in pointing out
that ancient texts of India describe the existence of ancient weapons, vehicles and
technology (in metallurgy, electrics, chemistry) which were only recently invented in
the West. The most ancient kind of preventive medicine and cure of illneses
prescribed in Ayur Veda is successfully practiced for many conditions today, and
increasingly so in many parts of the world.

As to whether India's past is so ancient, the primary question for scientific


archeologists and palaeontologists is naturally enough why no physical remains and

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human artefacts have been found to prove claims of civilisation there as far back as
8,000 BC and before. The likelihood is that Indian civilisation existed in times far
more ancient than historians can witness by scientifically-based methods. Yet this is
ignored due to the limitations of the current assumptions (or pre-judgemental beliefs)
that direct the minds of historians who themselves belong to a civilisation which in
many vital respects may still be inferior in many important respects.

The age of the Vedas of ancient India, the first scriptures known to mankind, is
doubtless much greater than supposed by 'scientific historians'. An authoritative study
of the Vedas' internal evidence for the origin and spread of ancient civilisation by the
first recognised Westerner to become a Vedashastri and thus to master them, the
American David Frawley, throws much light on the shortcomings of historical
science. There is reportedly clear evidence of the positions of some stars at the time of
the earliest Vedas which, calculating for the precession of the equinoxes, dates these
as early as 8,000 B.C. Holistic interpretations of the evidence also weighs strongly in
favour of a global catastrophy having taken place, most probably around 10 thousand
years ago, when the icecaps receeded. This work also demonstrates the tremendous
unrecognised influence of ancient Indian on almost all subsequent world culture.
(Gods, Sages and Kings - Vedic secrets of ancient civilisation, David Frawley. 1993 -
Delhi. pub. Motilal Banardas).

The view that a catastrophy and global flood were connected to the last 'retreat' of the
ice caps around 8,000 B.C., despite compelling evidence on many fronts, is still
rejected out of hand by established geology. There is increasing acceptance of the
theory of earth cataclysms in the very distant past, such as at least partially involved
where the extinction of dinosaurs were concerned, and the same as a recognised cause
of the sudden extinction of the mammoths.

In the West, it is hardly questioned at all that the Bible's Old Testament by and large
refers to events that - though probably inaccurately described - actually must have
taken place, at least from the time of Abraham and Ur onwards... more than 5,000
years ago. Hebrew scribes are reckoned to have put sacred oral traditions into writing
centuries after the events. The same liberality of belief is not accorded to the doubtless
yet more ancient Vedas, which the evidence shows were much more firmly based in
oral traditions and preserved by a complex cross-checking system of memorising. Yet
some historians, in a travesty of objectivity, even date certain Vedic scriptures from
the earliest extant manuscripts, sometimes even as late as 1400 A.D. Meanwhile, note
that science can say what is possible on the basis of what as been observed as being
the case but it cannot tell what is impossible or even therefore what can have been the
case.

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Above all, then, questions concerning the loss of records and the recording of its
history must be faced when considering the enigma of India's past. One perennial
problem for historical science is its lack of any substantial evidence about the
kingdoms and wars described in the oldest writings, or the alleged existence of a
previous 'golden age' of wise men, saints and deities. The world's cultures and
religions abound with accounts or stories of times when mankind lived in harmony
with itself, with nature and with God, as well as with accounts of a great flood. These
legends can be accounted for most easily by having been handed down across many
generations. Like all historical material, even in very recent times, such a process of
transmission may have been subject to losses, distortions and some wilful revisions.
Yet the weight of evidence for such eras in the very distant past collected from many
cultures is very considerable and common sense insists that it must contain some hard
kernel of truth. It comes from almost all the ancient high civilisations and from many
simple tribal hunter-gatherer systems, cultures that have mostly had no known or
possible contacts within known history. The general tendencies of such accounts, have
been lumped together and thought of as one supposed 'paradise myth' to be discredited
by scientific sceptics who will not credit the possibility of what cannot be read from
known bones, bricks or other artefacts.

The modern mind excels in the physical knowledge and information available to it,
but as regards the sublimity and scope of intellect, I regard it as a travesty of the truth
to say it surpasses the highest in Indian culture, even if we include higher
representatives of Western thought of the calibre of Thomas Aquinas, Newton,
Goethe, Kant, Einstein etc. (But there is one great neglected yet exceptional and
mysterious Swedenborg, whose time for recognition as one of the greatest Europeans
in science, technology, religion and spirituality has surely yet to come).

Legend And Myth In India

The scientist, doctor and historian W. B. Crow has pointed out that the records on
which history has to rely are not merely the record of actual events. Were that so, one
might exclude much that is not literally true, particularly in dealing with the subject
then under his consideration... the history of magic. The study of India's heritage is
much like this: not only is there much recorded and claimed in the sources that today
seems to bear on magic, but the records are simply not of the kind a modern thinker
would prefer with exact date, place and neutral descriptions by independent observers
etc. What actually happened and what people thought happened may be quite
different, but both orders of information are of great importance. What really
happened in terms of physical events is almost entirely beyond proof, one way or the
other. So, as Crow remarks, we have to be content with the records. An impartial view

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of any historical era is difficult, perhaps impossible, at the very best of times. But
despite this, as Crow says even of magic, the phenomena are too widespread to be
dismissed as delusion and fraud. Fraudsters must be dismissed, but this does not mean
that all or most records are fradulent.4

That many of the ancient stories and tales are actually myths is undoubted. But myths
themselves are data and cannot just be explained away. To explain when, where and
how a myth arose - or more often might have arisen - is not the same as understanding
the myth. Many researchers, among them the notable Mircea Eliade and Lévi-Strauss,
have shown how the content of myths often lies in the structure of relations between
the symbols employed, rather than in the factual assertions or stated ideas. The
structure of relations has been shown by comparative mythology to be able
remarkably to survive all manner of cultural distorting influences that arise from
misinterpretation, mis-translation, additions and alterations.

As noted, the suppression and rewriting of history has long traditions. How this was
practised upon the Christians from both within and without the Church is a much aired
issue. It has also been written that, after Emperor Constantine: "The vista into the far
distant past, beyond the deluge and the Garden of Eden, began to be forcibly and
relentlessly shut out by every fair and unfair means from the indiscreet gaze of
posterity. Every issue was blocked up, every record upon which hands could be laid,
destroyed." This point was made by Madame Helen Blavatsky, who - though probably
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not always very reliable - was extraordinarily well-informed about esoteric beliefs of
Brahmins that have not become commonly known in the West until very recent times.
She reported that the 'Book of Dyzan', which she allegedly received from a Himalayan
hermitage in the 19th century, may be referring to the Flood when it states: "The first
Great Waters came. They swallowed the Seven Great Islands. All holy saved, all
unholy destroyed." 6

Andrew Tomas, Australian citizen, born in St. Petersburg in 1913 and an extensive
traveller wrote on the riddles of ancient science: "The more critical amongst us often
say - 'We want more facts.' But it should not be overlooked that the mere
accumulation of facts is not sufficient. It can become mere philately. What is needed is
the precise evaluation of data and the practical application of knowledge." And, as to
'myths', "The average person thinks they are a by-product of fancy. However, this is
not always the case. Folklore, as the collective memory of the human race, contains
many records of past events, often coloured by ancient story-tellers and unavoidably
distorted because of the passing of legends from one generation to another. But not
infrequently, traditions are actual fossils of history. It is utterly unscientific to discard
mythology as a collection of fables. A reality of yesterday is a myth of today. The
world we live in will be hardly more than a myth itself ten thousand years from now." 7

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Whether or not one regards all the descriptions in ancient sources of apparently
incredible events as 'myth', there is another sense in which the texts regarded by
today's scientists as 'mythology' can help us reach towards the deeper truths. As
Swami Tapasyananda of the Sri Ramakrishna Math wrote in his introduction to the
English version of the traditional 'Life of Sri Shankara' (Sankara Digvijaya) :-

"The word 'mythological' is not used here in any sense of disparagement. A highly
poetic and mythological narration of the lives of individuals and events marks the
measure of the tremendous impact that these individuals and events have made on the
racial mind of a people in those ancient days when correct recording was not much in
vogue, and impressive events easily took a mythological turn. They are living
traditions that transmit a little of their original impact to the generations that have
come later, whereas pure historical productions are only like dead specimens and
curios preserved in the corridors of Time's museum. The trouble comes only when
mythological accounts are taken as meticulously factual and men begin to be
dogmatic about the versions presented in them. In the mythological literary technique,
facts are often inflated with the emotional overtones and with the artistic
expressiveness that their impact has elicited from human consciousness, and we have
therefore to seek their message in the total effect they produce and not through a
cocksure attitude towards the happenings in space and time. If we approach the
Sankara-vijaya in this spirit, we shall understand more about Sankara and his way of
life than through the writings of professors who disparage them for their defective
chronology, their fanciful descriptions and their confusing statement of facts. Such
being the position, a translation of the Sankara-vijaya is the only way to give some
idea of Sankara, his doings, his personality and the times in which he lived."
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Ancient Ways Of Preserving And Handing Down Information

Firstly, then, the enigma of India's past and questions concerning the loss of records
and the recording of its history must be considered. Ever since Max Müller lent his
academic weight to the dating of certain artefacts in India - which he had never seen,
never having been there - it has been held by some shastris and pundits that Western
historians have vastly underrated the age and authenticity of ancient Indian scriptures
and handed-down accounts of the past. It may well be that the first texts of many very
ancient teachings are as recent as empirical archeologists claim. Certain versions of
the ancient scriptures - and also of ancient commentaries upon them - bear linguistic
and other signs of contemporaenity with relatively recent epochs. For example, the
Vedas may not have been recorded until after Christ, yet they are likely to have been
preserved by methods almost extinct today for extremely long periods of time... even
dozens of centuries, as indeed claimed. Brahmin pundits through the ages have held

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that the Vedic scriptures have been handed down for several thousand years before the
dates now claimed for the first extant written texts. The teaching of masters of Vedic
lore insist that the four chief Vedas were themselves only a concentrated exposition of
what remains of a truly vast amount of Vedic composition of enormous antiquity, the
mass of which has been lost.

There is historical and social anthropological evidence of the world-wide existence of


priesthoods whose social functions have included the preservation of a society's
culture through strict lifelong practices of memorising through mnemonic chanting.
The achievement possible by such means, when practised from early childhood with
rigour and continuously, day in and day out throughout a lifetime, far surpass what the
average person today could credit. It is known how rigorous were the training
methods of the Ancient Pharoic priesthood, the Druids and many others. Not least
among these are, of course, the Brahmin priests, to whom the scriptures were even
chanted daily throughout the 9 months of their gestation in the womb and who were
subsequently trained to exactitude by gurus, who spent the larger part of each day for
the rest of their lives as Brahmins repeating these teachings through the performing of
rituals. Ancient Indian scriptures often refer to the importance of pre-birth influences
on the foetus for the development of a harmonious soul, a spiritual nature, a perfect
memory and so on. Some of these assertions are now becoming regarded as feasible
hypotheses even by lagging Western psychology and some scientific evidence in their
favour is already being discovered.

To take one example illustrating such ability, Alexandra David-Neel wrote before
1938, "Kushog Chösdzed was a Gelugspa, that is to say a follower of the reformed
sect founded by Tsjong Khapa, about A.,D. 1400, familiarly known as the sect of
'Yellow hats'.... I do not know whether this lama gave himself assiduously to
meditation and should be classed as a mystic, but he certainly possessed extraordinary
erudition. His memory resembled a miraculous library, where each book was ready at
the asking, to open at the desired page. Without the slightest effort he could quote
texts by the dozen, on any matter connected with Lamaism, Buddhist philosophy and
Tibetan history or secular literature. This is, however, not an unusual feat in Tibet, but
his perfect understanding and subtle comprehension of shades of meaning was quite
uncommon." 9

On members of the Philosophical College she writes "Amongst them one finds
eminent litterati and subtle thinkers. They too can quote for hours from countless
books, but they are also able to descant on the import of the old texts and bring
forward the results of their own reflections."10

Even in Western nations today there are persons, unfortunately most often regarded as
'memory freaks', the capacity and accuracy of whose memories astonish the ordinary

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person. One such was the B.B.C.'s so-called 'memory man' of the 1950's, a Mr. Leslie
Welch. It is perhaps a sign of the times that he did not know the Vedas, the Bible,
Hesiod and Homer... but he held 'in his head' a complete catalogue of every known
recorded football and cricket team, score and scorer - and much more besides - and
could answer any question put to him by anyone without hesitation and with 100%
accuracy. There have been others like him in recent times. According to William
Manchester's biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: he (Winston) "couldn't or
wouldn't, learn the ablative absolute - a minor feat of memory - but he could recite
twelve hundred lines of Macaulay without missing a word, and at no one's urging he
memorised whole scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry VIII, and The
Merchant of Venice. There are also impressive case records of amazing cases of the
phenomena such as 'photographic memory' and even feats of memorised visual
comparison of irregular patterns enabling the subject to find the hidden information
placed there, found only when the patterns are conceived as overlapping; so-called
'holographic memory'.

On April 26, 1999, the BBC's Newshour reported on a 7-year old boy, Mohammed
Hussain, who can recite the entire Koran from memory, who preaches on it and
already has a doctorate of Islamic religion. His ability was discovered at the age of
two when he was able to quote large segments of the Koran which he had heard his
aunt teach to others within his earshot. At the age of 3 1/2 he had learned the entire
600-page Koran. This is but one of his achievements, his memory capacity being
phenomenal.

My contention here, then, is that feats of memory can be very complex and subtle and
at least some of them may well also be the result of training in a society where the
techniques are known, perfected, regulated by daily observances and accepted as an
essential - or the most essential - part of the culture. The deterioration of memory
abilities in society must have accelerated when writing became widespread, just as we
are witnessing a further deterioration in the verbal abilities and probably in the general
knowledge of the masses influenced by visual media and over-reliance on computer
memory. Today one still generally finds impressive memories of definitive texts in
less technologised societies, especially in outlying agricultural and hunter-gatherer
cultures. The entire Koran is doubtless known by heart by thousands, at the very least.
However, knowing so long a text would be a veritable newsworthy feat by any
average Western graduate or even a Hollywood actor today.

India, European Thought, and Christianity

It is frequently said, especially by Western academics, that the Greeks were the first to
introduce natural philosophy, to speculate on the four (or five) elements, to think of

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the atom, to conceive of the heliocentric system, and so on. The evidence about India's
distant past shows that this is most certainly not the case. That it has been available for
a long time, too, reflects very badly on the scope or the historical competence of
academic Western philosophers, who continue to stare too much at their European
navels.

Great epics of good and evil, of individual conscience and will versus fate had been
developed in India long before Homer or the classical European period of the
dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes by well over a millennium. On
only has to consider the Mahabharata, which describes the catastrophic armed conflict
that took place according to widespread tradition about 3000 years BC The date
calculated by various Indian shastris and Brahmins from Sanskrit sources is
equivalent to 3138 BC.

From the viewpoint of academic philosophy, I cannot help but notice that the main
ideas of early Greek philosophy and of Socrates and Plato all clearly prefigure in the
already long-established systems of Indian thought. Hence for me, European thought
is - to a much greater extent than recognised - an offshoot of a process that has its very
ancient roots in India. This judgement is not provable by material evidence but is
based on a phenomenological, hermaneutical approach to the meaning of the texts,
both Vedic and Greek, which - properly carried out - is the only reasonable way to get
insight into such questions about the very ancient history of ideas.

The metaphysical theories and philosophical ideas that the early Greeks imbibed from
India, partly from Babylon and Egypt and probably occasionally by travellers, were
most likely quite formative for Western culture. This influence has been denied by
Western historians of philosophy on the suspiciously chauvinistic grounds that
European thought arose parallel to, but independently of, India. Yet there is no
substantial evidence to decide this one way or another. Due to the long-prevailing
ignorance of the rich variety of ancient Indian thought, Western academics have
largely failed to see the great similarities between ideas held by Grecian schools and
the systems of Indian philosophy, especially the Sankhya philosophy.

Around the early 6th century BC, the first known Greek natural philosopher, Thales of
Milet, concentrated on the idea that the elemental stuff of life or of the cosmos is
water. This view is clearly prefigured in Indian thought. Subsequently, all of the five
elements described in Sankhya philosophy - earth, fire, air, water, and aether (akasa) -
are considered by other pre-Socratic thinkers. Anaximenes regarded the basic stuff as
being air. Meanwhile, Anaximander identified it as the unobservable element he called
to ápeiron, which meant some kind of boundless stuff. This is very similar to the
ancient Indian concept of akasa or kind of limitless aether stuff. Empedocles held
there are four elements, earth, fire, air, and water. Even the concept of the atom - the

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smallest, indivisible particle, has a clear forerunner in the Sanskrit anu, or tiniest
possible particle.

Heraclitus apparently identified the basic element as fire, the measure of things from
which all things rise and to which they return. The Rev. Gary Kowalski has remarked
how the conceptions of the 'world soul' was embraced by the Stoics, who doubtless
knew the work of Heraclitus. They thought of fire as inherent in all creatures. This is
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virtually the Vedic conception of fire as agni or Divine Fire, itself invisible, which
converts food into life energy. This is one of the reasons for Vedic fire worship and
offerings (Yagnas). The Bhagavad Gita continues this tradition with prayers to
Brahma as the digestive fire which consumes food.

The medicine of Hippocratus, from which Western medicine has slowly developed, is
in large part virtually the same as the ancient Indian ayurveda being theoretically
almost identical.

The unbridged gap between East and West here is between two entirely different
cultural traditions which are still today in some respects 'worlds apart'. Few subjects
can have more controversial potential between India and the West than the
increasingly well-argued and documented view that Jesus of Nazareth spent the main
portion of his 'lost years' (from his 12th until after his 30th year) in India and Tibet.
Referring to Jesus' 'lost years', Nehru wrote in 1932 that it is believed in the whole of
central Asia, in Kashmir, Ladakh and in Tibet that Jesus (Isa) travelled around in those
regions. Some believe he also went to India. Nehru thought that it not certain whether
this was so but that it is possible, even though many who have studied Jesus' life do
not credit it. At that time there were large universities in India, particularly in
Takshashila in the north-west where many students came from foreign parts. Nehru
also judged Jesus' teachings to be so like those of Gautama Buddha that it seems
unlikely that Jesus did not know of them, yet this would also have been possible
outside India, due to the spread of Buddhism in those times. Since Nehru wrote this,
Prof. Fida Hassnain's remarkable unsought discoveries in Kashmir and his subsequent
researches have made Jesus' sojourn in India scientifically documentable. 13

There are many indications that Jesus' teachings and practices originated in India. The
use of water to baptise, such as Jesus accepted from John the Baptist, is clearly
derived from an ancient Indian tradition. The immersion in the water of the Ganges,
according to the much more ancient Indian tradition, is a act that symbolises the
removal of all sins.

Few views could be more controversial in the West, unless it be the further assertion,
for which circumstantial and much other supporting evidence is strong, that Jesus'
resurrection was actually his revival to life (after what is regarded as 'clinical death'),

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whereupon he eventually travelled back to India and settled in the 'lost tribe' Jewish
community in Kashmir to be a revered teacher until his finally leaving the body at a
ripe age of around 80 years. That this has been believed by many people in the region
since historical times is itself a fact still hardly known to the West. Obviously, there
are many people and also leaders of powerful institutions to whom such a fact is sheer
anathema and one which must be figuratively speaking 'ethnically cleansed'.

Four Ages And The Present

We live in an era when there are many good reasons to say that almost everything is
turned upon its head. Leading citizens may talk of this as the most advanced form of
civilisation yet known on earth, but at the same time this is a world in which good
values have rapidly been replaced by their opposites. This great decline is one of the
identifying characteristics of the Dark Age of Kali, as predicted in the previous age
several millennia ago in the Bhagavat Purana.There are a variety of palm leaf
manuscripts bearing texts of great antiquity which are remarkably prescient about the
present time, predicting for our times a 'machine age' when sexual and other morals
will also degenerate to unprecedented depths. This text also famously predicts for this
era a redeeming incarnation of God as the Kalki Avatar.

Over 5,000 terrible wars have raged since the beginning of recorded history. The truly
good and humble have been, and still are seen to be, persecuted while many self-
seeking people live in the lap of luxury and thrive upon a system of enormous waste
and injustice. Despite the advance of civilisation, immorality of every kind is apparent
everywhere on a mammoth scale. The ancient practices of rapine, incest and sexual
immorality have been spreading ever more like an unhindered contagion across the
world today, having even become widely accepted as 'understandable'. Sexual license
is even preached for the sake of 'mental health' as being only natural, almost as if it
were a new form of morality. The unprecedented rise in mental illness, many kinds of
abuses of children, the use of torture are examples of the effects of 'modern, civilised
society' or its effects wherever it somehow penetrates. Personal violence is afoot on a
huge scale throughout most modern societies, as much among youth and even
children in some countries, as well as among criminal gangs of all kinds. Both murder
and suicide rates are climbing world-wide. Financial corruption is being exposed to be
an all-time high rate, not least among the world's political leaders. Low forms of
outward entertainment supplant art, while superficiality and ignorance are
predominant in the media. Mere physical knowledge now passes as truth and wisdom
in the modern world which cultivates the body, money and media fame rather than
philosophical and moral intellect. Genuine religious faith as the guiding star by which

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to live a good life is generally looked upon in Western societies as misguided
superstition, a remnant of the past.

'Raising the standard of living' is what most people in the world expect today and
think to be the basic answer to all or most of its ills. But if we are strictly rational in
approach, we must admit that this materialistic-evolutionary assumption is only
hypothetical and moreover incomplete; it is not 'proven true'. That this is an age of
progress is undoubted as regards science and technology, but this is only part of a
wider picture. There is at least just as much decline in many other matters. The
degradations of nature on all fronts, the decline in unique and good aspects of
traditional cultures all around the globe, the increase in personal and social alienation
of many unheard-of kinds are part of the wider picture.

The last half of the twentieth century is the Age of Kali of Indian scripture, which was
known as the Iron Age in the ancient Greek view of major historical epochs.
According to the Bhagawat Purana each of the four ages or yugas - of which the yet
greater cycles of cosmic time are composed - have seemingly-incredible lengths of
anything from 1.7 million to 432,000 years depending on the age in question.
Probably the greatest living authority on all Indian scripture, Sathya Sai Baba, has
given much reduced time-spans for the four cyclic ages, the shortest Kali Age lasting
only 11,000 years. He has also provided the precise date of the beginning of the
present Kali Yuga, which traditionally dates from the death of Krishna. He confirms
that the Kali Age began 20th December, 3102 BC, which was the day Krishna left the
body. Likewise, the Mahabharata War, according to Sathya Sai Baba, began in 3138
BC and the battle lasted for 9 days, while the present Kali Age, the darkest epoch of
the darkest age, has yet nearly 6,000 years to run out, he tells us.

The above brief summary of some topsy-turvy features of this 'world turned upside-
down' does not even include innumerable and various threats to the environment,
nature's species, human health and life. The scientist, vowing to rely strictly upon only
what can be observed and recorded, tested by systematic corroboration of
observations or by controlled experiment, cannot see this to be an inverted world. In
order to do so, one must work systematically on the basis of a model or inner vision of
how a righted world would be. Science does not accept this as part of its theory and
method. There is no known, scientifically-recorded model against which to compare
the present condition and those of known history, unless we include 'myths' like that
of paradise, a golden age, an early 'utopia', an era of truth and so on. The
reconstruction of the history of mankind, ever stunted beyond recognition by science's
insistence on physical proofs, shows only that the same norms that prevail today have
been prevailing in one way and another since records began.

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Footnotes:

1. The Continent of Circe Nirad C. Chauderi. Jaico Publishing. Bombay, 1965.


2. 'Their Finest Hour'. Vol. 2 of The Second World War. London 1949, p 215.
3. Dr Subhash Kak, Elec. and Comp. Engineering Dept, Louisian State University, Baton Rouge,
LA 70803.
4. The History of Magic and Witchcraft . Prof. W.B. Crow (U.K. 1968).
5. From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan. Madame Blavatsky. 1883-6. pub. The Theosophical
Publishing House, p. 134. 6. ibid, p.39.
7. We Are Not The First. Andrew Tomas. 1972, p.138.
8. Sankara Digvijaya - The Traditional Life of Sri Sankaracharya trans. Swami Tapasyananda. Sri
Ramakrishna Math. Madras, introduction.
9. Magic and Mystery in Tibet. Alexandre David-Neel. (orig. version Penguin 1938) Souvenir
Press, London 1967, p. 33.
10. i bid, p. 103.
11. The Last Lion. Churchill biography by William Manchester.
12. The Souls of Animals. Rev. Gary Kowalski. ISBN 0-913299-84-7.
13. A Search for the Historical Jesus. Dr. Fida Hassnain. Gateway Books, Bath. U.K. 1995.
Robert Priddy, now retired, lectured on the history of philosophy at the University of Oslo
between 1968 and 1984.

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