Myths and legends are not the most important part of any religion. The core of a Religion is some kind of yogic experience around which later on, gather crusts of philosophy and metaphysics, occult and symbolic truths, worst of all rituals and practices that are purely temporal in nature yet tend to endure. Even if all the myths and legends were wiped off, the truths, if any contained in a religion, would stand. It is the very nature of truth that it cannot be wiped out even if there is nobody who has experienced or ever expressed it. Truth is like a discovery that we may find at a given point of time but it was there much before the discovery was made and will continue to be there even if it ill-understood. This core truth of any religion, in fact of any sciences is that there is something much more than what meets the eye, something that we do not know and yet search for through whatever limited instruments of nature we have evolved so far. Reason is one such instrument though not the only one. Science and Religion are one such approach to Truth but not the only one. Philosophy, Occultism, Yoga, even Art and Music and Painting and Psychology are so many ways through which man approaches what is hidden to his outward gazing mind and the senses. This much is common to all human pursuits.
Religions start from some kind of experience or the other of this Reality hidden behind the cosmic movement. depending upon the angle of approach the experience is more or less partial. Besides there are many side-discoveries that are made, incidental but equally enriching that are made in the course of this discovery. For example, yogis have discovered that there are several orders of the One Reality, several universes behind and beyond our own material universe, several layers and levels at which we can experience this Reality. This idea of multiple universes built of subtle or grosser states of matter, of different substance-energy combination, constituted of different Time and Space and forces and beings is not something that is entirely unscientific or irrational. Science itself is inching closer to such an understanding. But how is one to communicate these truths that were discovered through yogas? Perhaps if they were mathematicians like the mystic Pythagoras or Ramanuja they would have complex mathematical formulas to express it. Most of these formulas would have appeared abracadabra to the novice who would have accepted only because they trust the man who discovered it and later when they saw some practical application of it. But what about those who are not mathematicians but artists. they would express it through their art or dance or music as did happen in ancient India wherein everything was linked to some Deity or the other. Still other were philosophers and expressed what they felt and understood, however imperfectly through a logical system of thought, the darshanas. Still others expressed them through stories, myths and legends, because this too is a beautiful medium to convey certain truths, especially of an occult and subtle nature to a certain group of humanity. Quite naturally not all will be able to decode it just as the unchaste student in kindergarten may take Einstein’s or Max Plank’s famous formula to be simply some alphabetical signs and mathematical numerals without anything profound in it. Something similar applies to the myths and legends. One needs the trained discerning intelligence that often develops through yoga to be able to decode them, to understand their language and most importantly the subtle, symbolic or occult truth that is being conveyed through them. It may be noted in the passing that there are different directions in which human intelligence can develop. Scientific reasoning is one of them, philosophical reasoning is yet another. So too there is a spiritual and mystic intelligence that can develop if we turn and use our intelligence in that direction.
It is with background that we can come to a deeper understanding of some of the events that seems fantastic to our normal scientific and rational thinking. What to the cold, dry, analytical intellect is a cold, dead, inert satellite of the Earth, would be to an artist a vision of delight. To a mystic it is the symbol of the waxing and waning spiritual consciousness that draws its light from a still higher unseen source, the Sun of a supramental illumination. However, this spiritual light is not steady and needs the Peace of Shiva to hold it without losing it. A mystic would immediately understand the symbol having experienced the waxing and waning of the new born spiritual illumination within him. But a material scientist may well see in it a mass of superstitious thinking and in the artist’s vision a romantic fancy. But imagine a world governed purely by the dead and cold intellect of the scientist and see how much precious treasures would we lose.
Our nature is complex and many-sided and our demand from life is also a many-sided Truth and not simply as seen from one little window and declare it to be the final and ultimate. Take for example, the story of Barbaric, as told in the Mahabharata. It is evidently not a scientific truth or a unique surgical process that is being described here. Seer Vyasa is not a surgeon and he does not claim to be one unlike many scientists who claim to be omnibuses interpreting mystic and occult truths as if a training in one field automatically gives them the right to understand every other field. He is conveying a profound truth of oneness through the story of Barbaric, the truth of the Mahabharata as witnessed by him and revealed at the end of the War. One can see in Barbaric a state of consciousness that is like a disengaged witness that watches the whole inner truths of the great action. The denial of outer action gives him this possibility to watch the whole play as if from a vantage point. Was Vyasa trying to reveal some scientific truth? Most certainly not, for then he would not be Vyasa and his name would not outshine the rise and fall of civilisations. After all there is something about this epic that has endured the rub and change of time, something that has compelled great minds to appreciate it. To think that all these people were silly and stupid and ignorantly superstitious will close to us the doors if a profound truth. But when we approach the epic with true humility and see an incident in the totality of its message then all its fantastic stories reveal themselves as self-evident symbolic or occult truths. We come back enriched.
Having said that I would also add that science itself is not a closed book and what we think of as fantastic today may well be a possible and even an everyday truth of the future. Even head transplants are being attempted because the surgeons think that it is possible. Who could imagine in the rationalistic period of enlightenment that there will be satellites and air travel and instant means of communication and much more? I am in no way implying that we should view the story of Barbaric or Ganesh as some kind of fantastic surgery. That would rob the story of its truths, its charm and wonder and the message it conveys. Nor have I dealt with many other sides of just this one Barbaric tale, a warrior who was well verse in occult weaponry. I have only touched upon some aspects of this and other myths. At the same time, as I said in the beginning, religion is not about myths but about the spiritual truths that are within it and which one can still discover through the science of yoga. If one can thus discover these profound truths so invaluable to human life then one should go ahead and do it. If one cannot then one is free to discard them as something needless.
In many religions such truths have been unfortunately lost having turned into a belief system. That is why young generation is rightly denying it. However, it is best if this denial is a luminous one, knowing what it contains. Then we can leave aside the outer skin and keep the kernel that is being shown to us in an age that was less rational and more intuitive. Perhaps this was the best way to communicate certain truths that had to be guarded against zealous misuse. But now we can discuss them more freely and in another language. But even as we cast aside the bath water let us not wash the baby along with it. The baby is the spiritual truths hiding behind all these stories and legends and philosophies. That we must uncover, since to discover them again through a herculean tapasya or great personal effort is near impossible in our modern age with such short life spans and a thoroughly materialistic orientation.