Coming back to the present, or rather to the past that sounds so much like the present, I would like to first read out the creation hymn (from) the most ancient Rig Veda, which at a conservative estimate would be at least 2000 years old. The creation hymn goes like this:
Then, neither being nor non-being existed.
Neither atmosphere nor firmament, nor what is above it.
What did it encompass? Where, in whose protection?
What was that water, the deep unfathomable?
Who knows truly? Who can here declare whence it was born and whence this emanation?
By the emanation of this, the Gods came into existence only later.
Who knows whence it has arisen then?
Whence this emanation has arisen, whether God created it or whether he did not create it?
Only He who is the overseer in the highest heaven knows or perhaps does not know.
So, if in ancient times, the Vedic seers were so skeptical and so much uncertainty— doubting, asking questions with great deal of care, firmly believing in the technique of ‘samvad‘, the dialogue between the teacher and the taught or rather the taught and the teacher—then how is it that in later years, everything became a question of either you accept it or you’re cursed to go to hell?
I am saying that if you go back to the Upanishads, the Vedas, the ancient shastras, the approach is thoroughly rational, and the search is for an eternal truth that does not reside anywhere else other than in your own Self and also the world that surrounds the Self.
This is the essence of the Upanishadic or the Vedic teaching.
Now, when you say Vedic teaching, we are talking about the ‘Samhita’ portions, which are the hymns, but there is a wisdom section of the Vedas that is called the Upanishad.
And I think—and you’ll find out why—old, young, able-bodied, clear-minded men and women should have at least a cursory understanding of the great Upanishadic teachings.
Why? Because it shows you how to keep your mind absolutely clear and unprejudiced and to begin your search without rigidity, discuss with the teacher whom you treat like your dearest relative or friend and, step by step, gradually, move towards the understanding of the reality, hidden behind the illusionary ideas that you have formed about it.
Now, will this help you practically? It helps you to learn, to think clearly. Nothing in this world can be done if one cannot think clearly.