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|The Capacity to Work and the Capacity to Protect|
(HinduDharma: The Vedas)
The Lord has endowed us with the capacity to work and the celestials with the capacity to protect. There is a similiar division of functions in this world also.
The field and the factory are associated with labour. The police station, the lawcourt and other offices have the function of protection. The administrative offices are meant to ensure that what is produced in the field and in the factory is made available to the households in an equitable manner. The offices do not "produce" anything, nor do they have any crops to harvest. They are free from the noise of the machines and from cowdung and dust. Those who work in an office need not make their hands aand nails dirty and can spend their time sitting comfortably on chairs with the fans whirling over them. There is hardly any bodily exertion-it is allpen-pushing. The celestial world is like this: it is the office that affords protection to all the worlds. We do not find fault with people who man offices for not ploughing the fields or operating the machines. If they start doing such work, they will not be able to do their duty of protecting us. The celestials resemble these officials.
The earth is the field as well as the factory. It is all slush and mud, all din and noise, and it is oily, sticky, dusty. We have to toil here all day long. Performing the rites according to the canons means suffering all this, like the smoke of the sacrificial fire, exhaustion due to fasting-indeed you have to sweat through the elaborate rites.
The Lord does not regard the celestials as belonging to a higher plane nor does he think that we mortals belong to a lower one. The peasant and the factory worker produce food and other articles. The official sitting stylishly in his cubicle will starve and will be denied essential goods but for the work done by the peasant and the factory hand. All the same, it is because of the protection afforded by the official that the corn harvested by the farmer and other essential articles produced by the factory worker are made available to all members of soceity.
The engineer gives the order to dig irrigation canals. The agricultural officer supplies pesticides. , Another official issues the license to start a factory. The government, which means also the police, assists in the just distribution of the goods manufactured by it. (It is for this purpose that the government is constituted, no matter how it functions in practice. ) Thus it is a system in which one is dependent on another. A contributes to B's happiness and B to A's.
It is against such a background that we have to consider the words of the Gita, "Parasparam bhavayantah". Though the devas look to us for our help, it must not be forgotten that they belong to a higher plane and that we must be respectful towards them.
In other religions the one God is worshipped directly by all. They do not have a system of sacrifices meant to please a number of deities. Among us, only sanyasins worship the Paramatman directly. Others have to please and propitiate the various deities and obtain well-being through their blessings. It is to please the deities that we perform a variety of sacrifices.
A big king is not directly approached by all. The subjects have their favours granted by the officials appointed by him. These officials do not function on their own; they look after the welfare of the people under royal orders. Some customs of our religion are reminiscent of such a system. Paramesvara is the supreme king-emperor. We, human-beings, are his subjects. Varuna, Agni, Vayu and such celestials are his officials. We have to obtain a number of benefits through them and we perform sacrifices with a view to enhancing their power to do us good. The oblations we make in the sacrificial fire constitute their food:"Agnimukhah devah".
We say "na mama" (not mine) when we offer any material in the sacred fire. Such an oblation is consumed by Agni aand conveyed to the celestials invoked. It is thus that they obtain their sustenance. In this way we also propitiate our fathers(pitrs), those belonging to our vamsa or clan. The Vedas contain directions about how rites meant for pitrs are to be performed.
For a general background, please see here