I will share a story with you before I get into the subject, ‘The Ancient Indian Scriptures and their Relevance to Contemporary Life’.
One day, I was in the Himalayas. As you know, when I was young, I wandered a lot in the Himalayas and, one of those days, I was standing just outside a place in Haridwar where they teach the Vedas and the Upanishads, in Sanskrit of course.
A great language, unfortunately considered a dead language today.
And I met a young man—I was young too then—who had come on a tour. He had gone to the United States and had returned for a short vacation; he was an Indian, of course.
He met me at the gate and asked me, “What’s going on in there?” I said, “I am a student here and am studying the Upanishads and the Vedas.”
So, he looked at me, smiled broadly and said “Ah! So that’s a wonderful thing to do, must be quite entertaining!”
I said, “Sorry, no, it’s not entertaining; this subject is quite serious.”
He started his question, “Why do you young people in India…”—believe me, he was an Indian too—he said ‘you Indians.”
This is what happens sometimes to Indians who go abroad and come back. They are likely to address you as ‘you Indians’.
He said, “You, Indian young man, why are you wasting your time here with all this old, forgotten, godforsaken scriptures that have always been used to exploit people and doesn’t anyway mean anything; they are just superstitions, beliefs and so on.”
So, I said to him, “Friend, that’s what you think.”
Unfortunately, that’s the popular opinion because the knowledge, the ancient scriptures, has probably been exploited by the unscrupulous for certain purposes and also due to the fact that not many know Sanskrit.
We have to depend on interpreters and translators who give us what they think the scriptures are talking about.
So, we get caught in this and that kind of superstition and so on.
But I told him, “Look, if you are prepared to study the Upanishads and the Vedas in their purity, in their clarity, without in any way compromising your rational mind, you will find that among the ancient writings, they are the most illuminating, rational, critical and intelligent teachings that I have ever seen in my life or studied in my life.”
So that was the story.