The Mother of Us All: Ancient India’s Vedic Civilisation, Part III
by William T. Hathaway
Part Three: Decline and Fall
Barbarian invaders plundered the riches of India: Edward VII, Emperor of India
The previous article, “The Global Culture”, described how Vedic civilization spread around the world. This one tells of its loss.
The basis of Vedic culture, what kept it strong, was a technique of meditation that enabled the people to contact their own inner source, the transcendental unified field, the same field that physicists have now discovered to be the ground state out of which the universe manifests. This field is the ultimate source of all energy, intelligence, and happiness, and in the Vedic civilization most people’s lives were suffused with these qualities.
They experienced this field via an effortless, non-concentrative meditation. Effort is not effective in reaching it; the mind must be in a non-active state, devoid of thought. But trying to clear our mind of thoughts won’t get us there. Mental effort, concentration, and control are activities; they hold the mind on the surface and hinder our access this transcendental field at the basis of our being and of all creation.
Since effort, concentration, and control are necessary in activity, however, they have a tendency to creep into our meditation, and this weakens our contact with the transcendent. Gradually, over centuries, the Indians’ meditations became less effective, which meant their actions became less effective. Their performances of the Vedic rituals were no longer precise. Disputes that had previously been settled peacefully now sometimes became cause for war. The organization of society became rigidly stratified. These changes came in incremental steps, and Vedic culture remained at a much higher level than any other on earth, but over time the loss accumulated, and the golden age became tarnished.
The knowledge and techniques that once created an enlightened society deteriorated over time until they were functioning only partially and only for a few people. After a while only reclusive monks who had devoted their lives to spiritual practices were having genuine experiences of samadhi, transcendental consciousness. The people tried to gain those experiences by imitating these monks. Since samadhi is a state of no thoughts, they tried to reach it by shutting off thoughts, trying to make their mind empty. But this effort holds the mind on the surface, hinders it from transcending to the still depths.
Samadhi is a state of no desires, so they tried to shut off their desires. The life of the senses and flesh was seen as unworthy, the enemy of spirituality. They used mantras that were intended for reclusive monks, so they became withdrawn, less interested in the world. Active engagement in life was something to be avoided. “Because these procedures were more difficult and less effective, enlightenment came to be seen as impractical and difficult to achieve, at best the goal of the recluse but of no value in practical daily affairs.”
Even the environment began to suffer from humanity’s lessened contact with the transcendent. Human consciousness affects the world around us. “Nature and human nature are, in fact, united at their source.”² When we lose contact with the laws of nature, we create suffering for ourselves and for nature. At the level of the unified field there is no split between humans and the world around us. There are no splits whatsoever. Everything is consciousness, where all diversity is united and all knowledge is accessible.³
5,000 years ago what had previously been just an erosion of the knowledge became a full-fledged descent. Human and natural disasters combined to lower the previously superb quality of life down into merely good. The Saraswati and Drishawati rivers, mighty waterways that were crucial to agriculture and commerce, began to dry up. Many people had to leave India.
The fabled soma plant, which grew in the Saraswati watershed, became extinct. Soma was the most beneficial of all natural remedies, and its disappearance lowered the general level of health.
A long, terrible war broke out between those who had strayed from the Vedic ways and those who wanted to remain true to them. The loyalists finally won, but the damage was immense. Many of the rebels left the country.
These calamities created waves of emigration that contributed to the world-wide spread of Vedic culture. What the rebels brought with them, though, was often a distorted version of it. Their rituals and techniques of meditation were no longer authentic. But their knowledge and technology were still much better than what people in other countries had, so they met with success.
The decline of Vedic knowledge accelerated, and the global culture gradually broke down. Indian society became weak and listless, ripe for barbarian conquest. Waves of invaders swept in to seize its riches. “Because the emphasis on Vedic knowledge has decreased and in some cases been ignored, it has led to a weakened condition of the nation. This has allowed the commercial and military invasions into India, which have resulted in such plunder, impoverishment, and enslavement that India is a shadow of what it once was, and in some areas has become full of destitution, disease, and death. Furthermore, much of its real history has been pushed aside, distorted, perverted, and based on misinformation.”⁴
We now live in the ruins of this global Vedic civilization. “We are all descendants of the one great community and way of life, which is the Vedic culture. This Vedic culture, as evidence shows, was once a global civilization, and is still an influence in our lives today in every part of the world. … It is that culture of which we now see only remnants in the various fragmented religions and traditions today.”⁵
This tragic loss, however, is now being reversed. The last article, “Restoration”, describes the current upsurge of authentic Vedic knowledge.
About the author:
William T. Hathaway is the author of eight books and was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. His novel of climate change, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, tells of an old woman and a young man healing nature through techniques of higher consciousness. Chapters are posted at https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/cosmicegg-books/our-books/wellsprings
His peace novel, Summer Snow, is the story of an American warrior falling in love with a Sufi Muslim and learning from her that higher consciousness is more effective than violence. Chapters are posted at http://shattercolors.com/fiction/hathaway_summersnow01.htm
Notes and references