In the age of the internet and social media, how does one interpret and apply the Vedas?
Vedas are revelations — content, internet and social media are media technologies. There is no anomaly or contradiction here; in fact, they are beautifully complementary. Content and technology can and will work together.
Can you imagine what a monumental task it would have been in the 14th century for Sayanacharya’s team in the Vijayanagara kingdom to edit and inscribe, copy and circulate manuscripts of his commentary? But today, digital technology is available for those who want to disseminate the Vedas. Recorders and video cameras are helpful as teaching tools, and I have met a number of Veda teachers who take classes on Skype and WhatsApp. As for
interpretation and application, that depends on learning and training.
Ancient wisdom — how relevant is it in today’s world?
Some of the information our ancients documented may not be factual, and if we know better, fine. Science is meant to be improved upon. Some Indian systems from centuries ago such as yoga and ayurveda have found acceptance — perhaps it is because the results are evident. Sometimes, we may already reap the benefits of previous effort and not even know whom to thank for it. For instance, we may wonder about the use of Purva-mimamsa (Vedic interpretation) today, but the principles of Purva-mimansa were helpful in formulating legal methodologies.
Sometimes, information may be available but not understood, and it could take centuries for it to find application. For instance, it does not matter if the general public does not understand the benefits of Vedic and tantric mantras, there will be a select few who engage with them, and the public still must invest in their preservation.
Remember, Aristarchus in the 3rd century BCE proposed a heliocentric model (sun at the centre), but for centuries after that, people still believed in a geocentric model. Like, aloe vera, clove and other herbs shouldn’t be called “ancient” or “modern” — they are a part of the natural resources round us — and they work! In fact, advertisers are using “ancient wisdom” as a platform to sell these products — so let them, why not, and let them package it any which way they like.
On one hand atheism is on the rise, and on the other more and more people are turning to spiritualism, yoga, and meditation. It is a good thing that people want evidence before they “believe” in something. That is exactly what Indian systems teach us. Yoga, for instance, must be done before Shad-chakranirupana (proof of six chakras) is personally experienced. The only thing that can move a person from atheism to theism is experience and personal conviction. Just as you cannot force someone to fall in love, you cannot coerce someone to believe in a higher intelligence through and beyond the world.
Women had a different social role in the Vedic era compared to now. Having said that,extraordinary women have always transcended their allotted roles, both then and now.