"IN GOD WE TRUST", "E PLURIBUS UNUM" AND "SATYAMEVA JAYATE"
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, MARCH 2012)
All Hindu-Americans should be quite conversant with the two National Mottoes one from India, their country of origin and the other from USA, their country of adoption. India adopted "Satyameva Jayate" as its National Motto after independence in 1947 based on a Vedic Mantra of Mundakopanishad. This motto also appears in all currency notes and coins of India. US Congress passed two laws in 1956. One law declared: "In God We Trust" as the National Motto of USA. The second law mandated the use of that motto on all US coins and paper currency. It took almost ten years after passage of the law to modify all US coin and paper money designs, but now the motto appears on all of US money.
The Motto, E pluribus Unum was suggested to the Committee responsible for developing the National Seal by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere in 1776. This motto adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782 was never codified by Law and was considered de facto motto of the US until 1956. E pluribus Unum is included in most US currency and in official documents, US Passport and seals of President, Vice -President, US House of Representatives and United States Senate Members. Originally this motto meant for the Nation USA "Out of Many Colonies or States emerges a Single Nation". In recent years it has come to mean out of many peoples, races, religions and ancestries USA has emerged "Single Nation of all People" to reflect the spirit Bill of Rights. Spiritually inclined Hindu Americans would interpret it as repetition of Veda's saying "Eko Viprah bahudaa vadanti", "The One the learned call by many names" meaning all religions and faiths lead to One Supreme Principle and therefore all men are created equal. India is a secular country and Satyemeva Jayate is universal and meant for all humans. In fact when Satyameva Jayate was revealed to humanity, Sanskrit language had no word Religion in its Vedic dictionary. It was all one Universal Dharma called Sanatana dharma for all humanity. Even today religion at best can be translated as "sampradaaya" or "mata" in Sanskrit but that does not convey the exact meaning of religion in the otherwise most perfect language in the world. Religion means a personal set or institutionalized system of the service and worship of supernatural based on faith. Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Tradition does not fit into this definition. Sanatana Dharma later became known as Hinduism to others and Hinduism is not a religion.
There is a big history behind this National Motto "In God We Trust" of our adopted land USA. The Civil War left amazing footprints on US history in so many ways. At no other time in the relatively short history of US republic had such uncertainty reigned. As the news of each major battle reached the citizens, fear and trepidation reigned supreme. The doubt existed in every- one's minds as to whether the North would take control and restore the Union or the South would split the country! Would it disintegrate and a foreign power takes control or the South would prevail and split the country were the other doubts in everybody's mind! At the height of all this uncertainty, the faithful across the nation began to pray openly in all churches for Divine intervention. The country turned very religious when in deep distress. In the spring of 1864, the US Congress passed an act authorizing the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" to appear for the first time on a brand new denomination of coinage, the Two Cent Piece. Two Cent pieces were made of copper and featured a shield under a banner in which the motto appeared. The Two Cent series was short lived, only being produced for 10 years, but he public, and Congress liked the motto appearing on coins. But there was an on-again and off again trend in between till 1956 when it was finally settled and became a permanent feature enacted by a law.
After the stopping of the minting of Two Cent coins, "In God We Trust" appeared in some denominations of US Coinage, but not in all of them. In 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt hired renowned French sculptor August St. Gaudens to design a new $20 Gold coin for circulation. Roosevelt felt that having God's name on a coin was blasphemous and chose not to have this motto on the new design. But in India we have more freedom. A popular beedi (country cigarette) is called Ganesh Beedi and a famous snuff is called Ambaal (Devi) Snuff. One of the Ten Commandments says: "Do not use the name of thy Lord in vain". St. Gaudens' design was approved and minting of the newly designed coins began in 1907. While the new design was well appreciated for its beauty, Congress soon acted to over-ride Roosevelt's decision and had the "In God We Trust" motto added to the coin. In early 1908 the coins were struck without the motto, but later in that year it was added, and it stayed as a part of the design until production of the coins ceased in 1933. A vast majority of Americans of Christian Faith support the invocation of God's name, and in mid 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance was modified, adding "under God". Encouraged by this support The US Congress passed the law as stated above.
In 2007, a new controversy arose when Presidential Dollar series began production and "In God We Trust" was not visible on the coins. These were condemned as atheist coins when they began circulating, and the internet was abuzz with the talk. What the critics missed here was that they did not realize at that time the coin's date and the motto had been moved to the edge of the coin and one must look at the coin closely from the side to see it. Yet many from the Christian Faith feel that the divine motto has been removed from prominent visibility. To a spiritual Hindu-American thinker this appears to be more logical and reminds one of Aatma Linga. The Lord is concealed in all creatures as Antaryamin (inner-self) and one has to put in right effort to visualize the same. Probably this aspect is brought home in making the divine motto not easily visible in the American coin.
Many of us may not be aware that "Satyameva Jayate" is a Vedic phrase taken from a Vedic Mantra in Mundakopanishad meaning Truth alone wins. To an ordinary mind somewhat educated in Sanskrit it means simple meaning of the word as truth. But then this could have been Satayam Jayati, meaning truth triumphs. But then why the suffix "eva" added to Satyam? Evidently Satyam here stands for Brahman, Supreme Reality. Everything else is false (or Maayaa). Brahman is described in Vedas "Om tad Brahma, Om tat Satyam" meaning Om is Brahmna and that is Truth or Reality. We shall see the full meaning of the mantra later. Just as in modern US coins this phrase is also somewhat concealed just appearing in small letters below the Ashoka Pillar emblem of four lions adopted as National Symbol. Since Jinnah moved away with a piece of cake at the time of partition he did not pay much attention to this Vedic Mantra being adopted as National motto. Probably he was also ignorant of it. Many were illiterates as for as Apara Vidya (Knowledge of Supreme) was concerned and majority of politicians who took over the regime from the British had no knowledge of Vedas. Few who had the knowledge (Rajaaji, Valabbhai Patel etc) were silent on it and wanted this to be the National Motto. Probably they were the initiates. So the phrase from the powerful Vedic Mantra became the National Motto without much trouble. The prominent Ashoka pillar symbol of Buddhism completely concealed the Vedic mantra from critics. Some even think it is from Buddhism and also think that India wants to show how it cares for even very minor religious group of India as an expression of spirit of tolerance. Today India is trying to be a politically correct society ignoring the spiritual path and the population is asked to endorse all beliefs and the mischief makers and offenders go unpunished or un-noticed. Recently Islam leaders in India issued fatwa against Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) which Madhya Pradesh was trying to mass promote for all citizens as a general health improvement Yoga scheme. It is a mystery how this powerful Vedic Mantra used as National motto continues, without being challenged by those who are opposed to Sanatana Dharma. Probably it is the power of the Mantra itself which is making it unchallenged and acceptable to all. We all know how "Vande Mataram" was not adopted as National Anthem with a wrong religious prejudice and strongly opposed by those who were not Hindus.
This Vedic Mantra in Mundakopanishad runs as follows:
Satyameva jayate naanritam satyena pantha vitatoe devayaanah | Yena-akramanti rishayo hi aapta-kaamaah yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhaanam || (III-1-6)
Truth alone wins. By Truth is laid out the path divine along which the Seers, free from desires, ascend to the Supreme abode of Truth (Brahman). [The seekers free from deceit and delusion, pride and vanity, criminality and falsehood, and having no desire, enthusiastically seek and surely discover the realm of Truth which leads to God-head.]
Brihaccha tad divyam-achintya roopam sookshmac-cha
tat sookshma-taram vibhaati | Dooraat sadoore tad–ihaantike cha pasyatsvi-haiva nihitam guhaayaam ||(III-1-7)
It is vast and is the supreme ether; its form is so beautiful that it is not accessible to speech or thought. It shines the Truth of Brahman-subtler than subtlest, farther than the farthest. It is here within the body (Self). The sages realize this Truth. It is within the cave of the heart among the seers of Truth (Brahman). Brahman is the Supreme Reality, all pervading. [Brahman means that which pervades all and which is pervaded by nothing.]
It is this Truth that is meant by the word Satyam in "Satyameva Jayate", which is the National Motto of India. The Universal Truth on realizing which will lead us all to victory from all the struggles in this world. The Truth that Hindus sustained from age immemorial and gifted to the world today in a capsule form is contained in four words of Modern Indian motto: "Satyam Eva
Jayate Naanritam"--Truth alone prevails, not Unreality.
"In God We Trust" seems to be a statement of belief or faith promoted by those of Christian Faiths who were passing through a tough period in their lives. Though it is equally applicable to all, this National Motto meets with some resistance or desire to change on and off. God here also signifies Truth. Some of you who are Vedantic in spiritual pursuit know that Brahman is meditated upon as "Om Tat Satyam"—Brahman (represented by symbol OM) is Truth.
In their hour of Distress Christians came out with the Prayer to the Supreme Principle: "In God We Trust" which later became the National Motto. Those of you who are familiar with the Holy Bible should be familiar with the sayings of Jesus for those who are in bondage to forces beyond their control thus: "You can know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, I am the Truth". If the Son of God says he is Truth, Holy Father who is God is Absolute TRUTH. Jesus again said: "I am the Way" and "I am the Light of the World". Jesus meant only the "path divine" (Panthaa devayaanah) mentioned above in the Mantra of the Upanishad that quotes the phrase "Satyameva Jayate". Devayaanah means the path of Devas or Divines. The word Deva comes from the root 'div' to shine in Sanskrit. Deva therefore means those that shine implying those illuminated by Supreme Light. Jesus was divine and therefore he said he was light. Thus the Holy Bible just reminds or echoes the Vedic Mantras earlier delivered to humanity. So to me "In God We Trust" is just an echo of the mantra "Satyameva Jayate"
Our Rishis were the Light on the Earth before the modern so called civilization. We were then the followers of Sanatana Dharma. We later acquired our new name Hindus when foreigners invaded India and we started drifting away from the path of Dharma. In our lives we will radiate whatever that is consuming our hearts and our minds—despite our circumstances and whatever they be good or bad. That is what our Puranas teach us. If our mind and heart is full of spiritual thoughts, we can't help but have that overflow into everyday living. This is what our Rishis taught us in their messages from Upanishads. The maxims "Satyameva Jayate", "In God
We Trust" and "E
pluribus Unum" constantly remind us of this spiritual message through our currencies as we handle them every day in our lives if you care to look at them closely and think deeply. This spiritual message is not a tranquilizer that blinds us to this world as the Reality as assured in many slokas we chant in our prayers. Rather, it offers a new way to live, an opportunity to change our lifestyle. It has the power to transform us, to shape and fit us for life making us whole and well physically, mentally and spiritually.
Considerable assistance has been drawn from the following publications in the preparation of this discourse for the Vedanta Class in Nashville and for the Oversees Participants:
- N.S. Ananta Rangacharya, Mundakopanishad, Bangalore, India
- Swami Chinmayaananda, Mundakopanishad, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
- Eknath Easwaran, The Upanishads, Nilgiri Press, India.
- Jack Williams, An Encouraging Word, Nashville Christian Family, February 2012.
- Mike Mouret, In God We Trust, Nashville Christian Family, February 2012.
- The Holy Bible, King James Version.