Retransmission of possibly lost or partly lost message

l.m.fosse at l.m.fosse at
Thu Nov 30 15:00:33 UTC 1995

Some says ago I sent the message appearing below to Indology. I got a
message telling me that it had been lost (or partly lost) during
transmission. Mr. Achar seems to have got it, because he answered me.
However, if anybody else is interested in the discussion, I send it once


B. N. Narahari Achar wrote:

       The concept of gods and deities in the Vedas and Puranas is quite
>unique.   The vedic gods do not have a material body, they are "ichchaa
>ruupinaha", they can assume any form they want.   They are "amaraaha" and
>"nirjaraaha", they do not die, nor do they age.   "manushya dharma", the dharma
>of the humans does not apply to them.   These points are made clear in
>Brihaddevata or in Nirukta, essential readings for any study of the Vedas.
>Ms Doniger dismisses these as disclaimers and embarks on her Freudian thesis.

I am afraid that the concept of gods and deities in Vedas is not quite as
unique as it is assumed here. Most of the qualities cited are part and
parcel of all ancient Indo-European mythologies. E.g. both ancient Greek
and Nordic gods can change into any shape they want, and do so frequently.

>        The human like relationships attributed to gods are only figurative.
>When water vaporizes in to steam, Vayu is born out of Varuna.   But, when vapor
>condenses to form clouds and then rain water, it is Varuna who is born out of
>Vayu.  When sound emerges from Brahma, Vac or Saraswati is born out of Brahma.
>So, she is his daughter.   The unity of sabda with Brahma is described as the
>wedding of Saraswati with Brahma.   This should not be treated as incestual
>relationship in human terms.

It seems hard to interpret Rudra's arrow against Prajapati as anything but
a punishment for a real offense. I should think that the strictly symbolic
interpretation of Vedic mythology suggested here is a rather modern way of

>        Vaidic religion is a living religion.   It is quite offensive for
>persons following that religion to see their most revered texts and gods whom
>they worship being treated in Freudian terms a la Ms. Doniger,alternate and
>more satisfactory explanations not withstanding, all under the garb of
>academic scholarship.

There has for the last two hundred years been an almost constant conflict
between science/scholarship on the one hand and religion on the other. The
annoyance expressed by Mr. Achab has also been expressed by e.g. Christian
theologians, who had to see their most revered truths analysed in the same
kind of scholarly language, not necessarily Freudian, but nevertheless
offensive to them. We live in a world with free speech, and the right to
analyse and criticize ideologies and religions is a part of the Western
academic culture. This does not necessarily mean that the analyses or
criticisms are correct and fair, but the freedom to make them is as
fundamental as the freedom of people to worship God according to their own
ideas. Personally, I find many religions ideas offensive, but I don't
complain about other people expressing them as long as I may express my own
ideas. We simply have to live with the fact that people have a right to
express their view, whether we feel hurt or not. People who feel secure
about their beliefs usually can take quite a bit of criticism or irreverent
language without getting too upset.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Lars Martin Fosse
Research Fellow
Department of East European
and Oriental Studies
P. O. Box 1030, Blindern
N-0315 OSLO Norway

Tel: +47 22 85 68 48
Fax: +47 22 85 41 40

E-mail: l.m.fosse at


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