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Death To Vedic People Was A Mere Signpost On A Long Journey

The host of Dirghayu Suktas, supplications for long life, and the numerous hymns to ward off specific diseases and disasters found in the Atharva Veda testify to an awareness of the hazards of living. If the Vedic humans were able to maintain a joyous outlook on life, it was because death to them was a mere signpost on a long journey, and not an insuperable barrier marking the end of the road.

‘The human being,’ the Shatapatha Brahmana declares, ‘is in debt to death right from birth. When he performs sacrifice he purchases himself back from death.’ Life is a constant fight for survival, most of which is waged without our conscious participation by the body’ defense mechanisms.

Living also involves a series of exchanges between our person and the environment. We depend on external sources for the food and drink that nourish our body and furnish us with energy, for the mental and intellectual stimuli that foster our linguistic, logical, and emotional skills, as well as the insights that lead us to the portals of the joys derived from our spiritual Self. We are also constantly made to give of ourselves in the cosmic web of life.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad announces: ‘This self (the individual) is an object of enjoyment to all beings. That he makes oblations in the fire and performs sacrifices is how he becomes such an object of enjoyment to the gods. That he studies the Vedas is how he becomes an object of enjoyment to the rishis. That he makes offerings to the manes and desires children is how he becomes an object of enjoyment to the manes. That he gives shelter to people as well as food is how he becomes such an object to them. And that beasts and birds, and even the ants, feed in his home is how he becomes an object of enjoyment to these.’

Source - Excerpts from Prabuddha Bharata Magazine editorial April 2009 issues