Question: What is the Vedic view on polygamy? We have seen stories of kings who kept multiple wives and mistresses, not only in Vedic times but in recent times as well. Was it allowed? Can such a person practice bhakti?
Answer: Polygamy was allowed in the past but was mainly limited to members of royal dynasties. One of the practical reasons for this was that kṣatriyas fought in battles, and many died. So, the male-to-female ratio was skewed; there were more females than males. Thus, polygamy was a practical solution. For kings, polygamy was also a status symbol.
Polygamy was also allowed if one did not get a son from the first wife. Obtaining a son was an important part of family life, for the lineage to continue and for the śrāddha ceremony to be performed by descendants.
As far as bhakti is concerned, there is no bar that a man with many wives cannot perform bhakti.
Arjuna had a few wives. But it seems that they all cooperated, and he faced no problems.
Question: I noticed that in modern Indian education, there is lot of emphasis on memory-based learning, apart from coaching for competitive exams such as the IIT JEE (Joint Entrance Examination for Indian Institute of Technology). While I was studying in Europe, my teachers or professors would often state that memory-based learning is of little use outside the school or university.
Some would state that due to oral traditions, the current education system in India is geared towards memory-based learning. The idea is that knowledge was passed down with no written records, so there was more emphasis on memory-based learning. Is this true? Can you shed some light on ancient India’s system of education? Was it always centered around memory-based learning?
Answer: Yes, it was memory-based but it was not only memory-based. In your observation, you are assuming that the modern Indian education system is a product of the traditional Indian education system. This is a mistake. The modern Indian education system is a gift of the British rulers of India. But unfortunately, the British have modified their education system while India continues with what they inherited from them more than a hundred years ago.
The traditional Indian education required indeed a lot of memorization but it was not only that. The students also learned how to use it in their lives. There were subjects like Pūrva-mīmāṁsā and Nyāya, which are highly logical. One needs a very logical mind to understand such subjects. Even though Sanskrit vyākaraṇam (grammar) requires a lot of memorization, it is also full of logic. In fact, if one studies Sanskrit vyākaraṇam in a traditional manner, one’s mind becomes very logical and sharp. This fact is not known to those who do not study śāstra.
Question: The other thing is the idea that knowledge was protected by the brāhmaṇas due to the caste system. This is the reason why people belonging to the other communities were not as learned as brāhmaṇas. There was a lot of discrimination practiced in ancient India. How can one respond to such statements? What’s the Vedic view on this topic?
Answer: These are western views meant to downgrade Hindus and they have been very effective at their agenda. At present, all good universities all over the world have some criteria for admission. They do not admit everyone. But no one calls it discrimination. You mentioned IIT JEE .Would you call this a discrimination?
The same system was followed in India. Kṛṣṇa very clearly says in that Gītā that the varṇa system is based on guṇa and karma and not on birth. There have been great scholars in India who were not brāhmaṇas. Vālmīki, the author of Rāmāyaṇa, Manu, the author of Manu Smṛti, Bharat Muni the author of Nāṭya-śāstra which is also called the fifth Veda, Abhinanv Gupta, who wrote scores of very important books such as Abhinava Bhārati, were not brāhmaṇas. There were also many kings like Bhoja, Shudraka, etc., who authored important works. Vidura was not a brāhmaṇa. He wrote Vidura-nīti.
There are so many examples of non-brāhmaṇas being scholars. But many modern scholars and leftists have an agenda to attack Hinduism to create conflict and promote their culture.
The spiritual path is very important to understand. Why is it said to have a guru and surrender to a guru? If you don’t surrender, you are only going to hang on to your own mind and material lens. That’s what you have, you can’t get rid of it. It’s not possible. You have to surrender your mind, body, and speech to guru. You have to have this faith that if he is saying something and it doesn’t match my understanding, then I am going to give up my understanding.
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