Sri Aurobindo, while writing on Sanatana Dharma, muses: “I believe Veda to be the foundation of the Sanatan Dharma; I believe it to be the concealed divinity within Hinduism—but a veil has to be drawn aside, a curtain has to be lifted. I believe it to be knowable and discoverable.” The ultimate goal of Sanatana Dharma is to realize God in our inner life and outer existence. It aims to build a bridge between man and the God—and it is the Veda that can do so. But, the Veda has been misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout history by both Indian and European scholars and religious figures. In order for the Veda to be fully understood, one must examine it spiritually and poetically, and straightforwardly through its phrases and images. But what is the Veda?
The Veda is a Mantric expression of the spiritual experiences of the ancient Indian seers. These seers, also known as the Rishi, “see or discover an inner truth and puts it into the self-effective language” according to Sri Aurobindo. The Rishi both saw and heard Truth through their supernatural faculties: they “were seers as well as sages, they were men of vision who sat things in their meditation in images, often symbolic images, which might precede an experience and put it in a concrete form.” This concrete form became the veiled language called Mantra.
A Mantra, or Rik, is the “first and foremost speech that the sages sent giving names to their vision. These were the stainless, greatest words and they revealed with love the divine mystery within the sages.” The Riks of the Veda possess a double significance, one exoteric (for the general public to understand) and esoteric (for only a select few, the Rishis, to comprehend). Sri Aurobindo states: “The words of the Veda could only be known in the their true meaning by one was himself a seer or mystic; from others the verses withhold their knowledge.” The language of the Vedas is symbolic; fortunately, the symbols can be interpreted at the spiritual, cosmic, psychological, and physical levels. What each level reveals is that there is one essential law in this universe that repeats itself and works itself out differently at each level.
The Veda is a complex topic that goes beyond Rishis and Mantra to include Vedic deities, Chandas, and sacrifice. But, the core of the Vedic teaching lies in the Rishis’ prayer:
Lead me from falsehood to the Truth
Lead me from darkness to the Light
Lead me from death to Immortality
Whatever the Hindus have done, thought, and said through thousands of years, and behind all we are and seek to be, there lies concealed “the bedrock of our religions, the kernel of out thought, the explanation of our ethics and society, the explanation of our civilization, the rivet of our nationality, a small body of speech, Veda.”