Machines and Mirrors in Bhagavad Gita (Post No.9476)

Compiled  BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No. 9476

Date uploaded in London – –10  APRIL  2021     

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Newspaper cutting dated 11-1-1982

Sir

In his book ‘The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy’, Max Muller has translated the conversation between Svetaketu and his father Aruni, extracted from the first Khanda of Chadogya Upanishad as follows:–

Father to Svetaketu–

Svetaketu! as you are conceited, considering yourself well read and stubborn, my dear son, have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what is not heard, by which we perceive what is not perceived, by which we know what is not known?

What is that instruction, Sire? He asked.

The father replied

My dear son, as by one clod of clay all that is made of clay is known, the difference being only the name, arising from speech, the truth being that all is clay.

And as , my dear son, by one nugget of gold, all that is made of gold is known, the difference being only the name , arising from speech, the truth being that all is gold.

And as my dear son, by one pair of nail scissors, all that is made of steel (Karshana ayasam) is known, the difference being only the same, arising from speech, the truth being all that is steel— thus my dear son, is that instruction.

This Upanishad is said to belong to Sama Veda . All the Vedic Upanishads are supposed to be prior to the age of the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. If what is interpreted by Max Muller is correct, we have to believe that all the metals, especially gold and steel were widely in use at that time. Of course, Ramayana and Mahabharata do mention the use of mechanical devices prevalent at those times.

In Bhagavad Gita 61st sloka of chapter 18, Sri Krishna , says as follows

The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, and by his Maya causes all beings to revolve as though mounted on a machine (18-61).  The concept of a revolving machine to be mounted upon should lead us to believe that mechanics at that time was much advanced.

Similarly Gita also mentioned mirror and the effect of rust on it- Karma yoga 3- 38;. The 2-67th sloka of Sankhya yoga also compares the roving senses to be carried away as the ‘wind carrying a ship on water’.

It is generally said that the industrial revolution has dawned upon when man discovered the wheel to start with. If that be the case the references about mechanics in the Vedic period are a pointer to the factor that our history and culture developed in the long course of time along with development in mechanics and other discoveries, including sophisticated clothing like silks.

We come across reference to Padukas and also umbrellas in different places and in varying contexts in the epics. Paduka gained that much of importance when Bharata ruled the country with Sri Ram’s Padukas, treating them as symbolic representation of Rama. Umbrellas appear as royal status symbol in almost all places. But there appears to be no reference to anywhere about spectacles . Does it mean that eye sight those days needed no assistance or help even after advanced old age? Or is it a later necessity which has become unavoidable for the present age when we are born and brought up in artificial bright lights?

R G Prabhu, Kodungallur, 11-1-1982

–subham–

tags– wheel, mirror, metals, machines