Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dr. Zakir Naik: There is no mention of REBIRTH in the Vedas

Dr. Naik makes yet another claim that there is no mention of  rebirth in the Vedas. Let us see what the vedic texts have to say. I hope that Dr. Naik knows that Upanishads are part of vedic texts; and that upanishads provide the real glimpse of inner spiritual truths. I present below some of the instances and mentions of the cycle of birth and death, and of rebirth. In most cases references are indirect hints, which prescribe choosing the permanent over the temporary, and choosing liberation over the cycle of birth and death. However, I focus only on some of those statements that clearly and directly mention the cycle of life-and-death, and rebirth.

kaThopanishad: 3rd valli, verses 6 and 7. 
"yastu avijnAnavAn bhavati amanaskaH sadA ashuchiH | 
na sa tatpadamApnOti saMsAraM chAdhigacChati ||"

One who lacks the [spiritual] knowledge, lacks self control, and is 'impure' (foul), will not attain liberation but attains 'saMsAra' (birth in the material world).

yastu vijnAnavAn bhavati samanaskaH sadA shuchiH | 
sa tu tatpadamApnOti yasmAdbhooyO na jAyate ||

[However,] one who is learned (has spiritual knowledge), has self control, and is 'pure', will attain liberation, and does not take birth again (this is an example of the 'indirect' reference that I was talking about, which is the pursuit of 'liberation' and bypassing the cycle).

The subsequent verses clarify what 'padam' implies in the above verses - the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, which implies liberation. It is clear that one may or may not take rebirth according to the factors mentioned above. There are repeated indirect reference to bypassing rebirth in the 6th chapter where qualities to attain liberation are explicitly discussed, the consequence is, if liberation does not happen then one becomes part of samsAra again.

muNdakOpanishad: khaNda 2, verse 7: 
... etatcChrEyo yEbhinaMdati mooDhA jarAmrUtyuM tE punarEvApi yaMti ||

.... those foolish people who pursue the impermanent aspects enter the cycle of birth and death.

As with kaThopaniShad, here also the discussion is more around the positive aspect of attaining liberation, i.e. escaping from the cycle of birth and death.

shetashvatara Upanishad: 1.11
jnAtvA dEvaM sarvaoAshApahAniH ksheeNaiH klEshair janma-mRutyuprahANiH |

Upon understanding the Lord, all bondage is destroyed (one becomes free), all the distress is weakened (destroyed) and one is released from the cycle of birth and death.

prashNOpaniShat, 1.10
.... yetadvai prANanAm-Ayatanam-Etad-amRutam-abhyaM-Etat-parAyaNaM-EtasmAt-punarAvartataM ... |

(upon controlling / winning-over the senses, inquiring and meditating on self and God) immortality, fearlessness, and liberation can be obtained after which there is no coming back.

athaikaryOrdhva udAnaH puNyEna puNyaM lOkaM nayati pApEna pApamubhAbhyAmEva manuShyalOkam

Now, via the one (suShumnA nAdi), one moves upward towards the puNyalOka due to the puNyAs, pApalOka (narka) through pApa, and by a combination of both into the 'manuShyalOka' (earth; which symbolizes the cycle of birth and death).

tEjO ha vA udAnastAsmAdupashAMtatEjAH | punarhavamiMdriyairmanasi saMpadyamAnaiH ||

'tejas' is udAna, due to which the one who has lost 'tejas', along with the mind and senses, takes rebirth (punarbhavaM)

sOmalOke vibhootim anubhooya punarAvartate
One after experiencing the riches and pleasures of the higher 'soma' planet comes back into this world (takes birth again)

And, then there are mantras to instruct how to escape this path of repeated rebirth, the path of liberation.

Complementing the above statements are the statements from the PurANAs and Bhagawad Gita. Dr. Naik tries to bypass Bhagawad Gita because it is one scripture that provides the best and the most clear answers to the question on hand. There is no debate on the authority of the vedas but all the 'aachAryas' (greatest vedic scholars) have insisted on the authority of Bhagawad Gita as well, because a) it is directly from the Lord (nArAyaNEna svayam), and b) it is the essence of all the vedas/upanishads. And, in Bhagawad Gita Sri Krishna says in several places that unless 'liberated' one takes birth again and again in a cycle:

1) bahunAm janmanAm ante jnAnavAn mAm prapadyate
      .... after multiple births, the intelligent soul approaches me
2) mAm upEtya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate
    .... if you approach me, there will be no rebirth....
3) aabrahma bhuvannAlloka punarAvartinOrjuna
   ... from the highest material planets (brahma loka) one takes rebirth upon completing the credits.
4) te tam bhuktva svarga-lokam visAlam ksine punye martya-lokam visanti
         After exhausting the enjoyments of the higher planetary systems (heaven etc), they descend down to the earth (which is the planet of of birth and death). 
5) mAm upetya punar janma duhkhAlayam asAsvatam nApnuvanti mahAtmAnah
         After attaining Me, the great souls never return to this temporary world 

Again, these are just some of the examples where it is clearly mentioned about rebirth. It is inappropriate of Dr. Naik to claim that Sri Krishna never mentions about rebirth in Bhagawad Gita or that the vedas do not talk about rebirth or that it is a recent concoction. Irrespective of whether or not the Muslims, and the others can comprehend, understand, acknowledge, appreciate and accept the concept of rebirth, the truth remains clear from the vedic scriptural point of view.

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