SRI AUROBINDO AND VEDIC RIKS
By Dr.Sampadananda Mishra
There have been several attempts to find the true sense of the Vedic Mantras. But the secret of the Veda is yet to be discovered. A proper understanding of the key words of the Vedas and the symbolism underlying the Vedic hymns can lead to discover the experiences of the Vedic Rishis expressed so lucidly and elegantly and symbolically through the hymns. This article presents an explanation of some of the important aspects of the Veda purely in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s vision so as to get into the true sense of the Vedic Riks and to enter into the heart of the Sanatana Dharma. –Ed.
Sri Aurobindo, while writing on Sanatana Dharma, says: ―I seek not science, not religion, not Theosophy, but Veda—the truth about Brahman, not only about His essentiality, but about His manifestation, not a lamp on the way to the forest, but a light and a guide to joy and action in the world, the truth which is beyond opinion, the knowledge which all thought strives after—yasmin vijnate sarvam vijnatam. I believe that 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. I believe the future of India and the world to depend on its discovery and on its application, not to the renunciation of life, but to life in the world and among men.‖1 The ultimate goal of Sanatana Dharma is to realize God in our inner life and outer existence. It aims at uplifting the man human to the level of man Divine. For this a bridge has to be built between the man and the God. And it is the Veda that can do so. But the Veda has been misunderstood, misinterpreted and has been presented to the humanity not in its true sense. So it is needed to be presented in all its purity, and the Truth hidden in the Veda has to be brought into the front.
THE COMMENTARIES ON THE VEDAS
There have been many attempts to fix the sense of the Vedic Mantras. The Brhmaas and the Upaniads were the first attempts to interpret the Vedas. The second was that of Yaskacharya‘s Nirukta. It belongs to the period of the Brhmaas.2 Next to Yska came the name of gvedabhya 3 of Skandaswami (6th century A.D). He commented upon the 1st Aaka of the gveda. Then came the garthadpik of Vekaamdhava.4 All these interpretations were partial. Long after the above-mentioned commentators, Mdhava Vidyraya5, popularly known as Syaa (1315-1387 A.D.6) wrote his famous commentary. The Indian tradition of Vedic interpretation reaches its acme in the commentary of Syaa. It is this commentary that has gained the widest popularity and considerably influenced both Western and Eastern scholars in their understanding of the scripture. Sayana was the one who interpreted all the four Vedas along with their Brahmana texts.
After Syaa there was a long gap in the field of Vedic interpretation. The interest in Vedic studies got revived when many missionaries and administrators from the West arrived in India during the British rule and got acquainted with Indian thought. Rudolf Roth (1821-1895) was the first and foremost to write on Vedic thought.7 Next to him comes Max Muller (1823-1904) who edited and translated the whole of the gveda.8 Besides Max 2
Muller’s work H.H. Wilson‘s effort of the translation of the entire gveda on the basis of Syaa‘s Bhya in six volumes is still commendable.9 After him R.T.H Griffith undertook the translation of the whole of the gveda which was published in two volumes in 1889.10 Apart from these scholars, Grassmann, Bothlingk, Geldner, Pischel, Bergaigne, Oldenberg, Ludder, Macdonnel, Luduig, Kaegie, Zimmermann, Benfey, Weber, Hillebrandt, Keith and many others contributed immensely to Vedic interpretation.
Apart from the European scholars there were many Indian scholars who attempted to interpret the Vedas from different viewpoints. For example there is the historical interpretation of the Veda by Abinash Chandra Das, the geographical interpretation by Umesh Chandra Vidyaratna, the astronomical interpretation by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the scientific interpretation by T. Paramasiva Aiyar.
The Brhmaas bring out the ritualistic significance of the Vedic hymns whereas the Upanishads point to their esoteric significance. Yaskacharya in his Nirukta, tries to interpret the Vedic hymns largely on the basis of grammar. Sayanacharya endeavoured to discover from the Veda the nature of sacrifice and gain a full account of the ceremonies to be performed in a sacrifice. However, his interpretation is full of inconsistencies. He has thrown the text into a narrow exoteric mould by bringing out forcefully the ritualistic sense. The deeper meaning and symbolism of the Vedic hymns are 3 completely lost in his commentary. It does not mean that Sayanacharya was not aware of the esoteric sense of the Vedic hymns. He has not ruled out any other interpretation. He has even admitted that a spiritual interpretation is quite possible. In a good number of places in his commentary he has appended alternative spiritual interpretations. However one gets the impression that he was as if committed to the ceremonial interpretation, and the process has distorted the true sense of the Vedic hymns. Some examples may lend clarity to the above facts.
In verse 1.2.7 of Rigveda there is a phrase which reads .Literally means ‗pure intellect‘, the word has come from the root ‗to make something shine‘. So the plain meaning of will be ‗enlightened intellect‘. But Sayana does not interpret it in this manner. He goes far astray from the straightforward meaning and drives us into a world of confusion and intricacy. He takes as a synonym of Karma or the act of showering, as rain or water and says that means ‗the rain that pours water‘. The following example gives a clear impression as to what extent a simple idea can be twisted. In another part of the Veda there is the phrase ―‖, which should convey to all the essence of the Veda. It can simply be translated as ―the message of immortality‖. Any common man having some knowledge of Sanskrit will be completely at ease with this. But Sayana translates it as the ―current of water‖. This should be sufficient to clarify the terrible injustice the Veda has suffered in the hands of a commentator like Sayana.
In this manner, as Sri Aurobindo puts it – ―The Veda became to the later scholastic and ritualistic idea of Indian Priests and Pundits nothing better than a book of mythology and sacrificial ceremonies; European scholars seeking in it for what was alone to them of any rational interest, the history, myths and popular religious notions of a primitive people, have done yet worse wrong to the Veda and by insisting on a wholly external rendering still farther stripped it of its spiritual interest and its poetic greatness and beauty.
On the other hand, ―The real character of the Veda can best be understood by taking it anywhere and rendering it straightforwardly according to its own phrases and images.
But for this an understanding of some important aspects related to the Vedas is necessary and along with these the words which give the key to the esoteric sense of the Vedas have to be understood in their true sense. The symbols and images used in the hymns are also equally important. And finally the secret of the Vedic sacrifice has to be revealed.
What is this Veda then, to which so much importance has been attached? The Veda is a Mantric expression of the spiritual experiences of the ancient Indian seers. These seers were intuitive in their approach and they possessed a symbolical mentality. To these seers or great poets or illuminates or mystics the Supreme Reality was a concrete experience, sensible and vivid. These experiences can never be expressed by precise intellectual thoughts. So they presented them symbolically through words charged with spiritual and occult power. These words are symbolic as well as secret. To these words the name Mantra has been given. The Veda is full of these Mantras inspired from hidden planes of universal, eternal and impersonal Truth, which the ancient seers received in their illuminated minds. Therefore the Veda is not an intellectual composition but a rhythm ―heard, a divine Word that came vibrating out of the Infinite to the inner audience of the man who had previously made himself fit for the impersonal knowledge. These are words of power and light. According to Sri Aurobindo ―they come from the overmind inspiration, from some very high plane of intuition.
MANTRA -THE RIKS
A Mantra, as Sri Aurobindo’s puts it, ―is a word of power and light that comes from the overmind inspiration or from a very high plane of intuition.
The Mantra is thus an inspired and intuitive utterance and at the same time rhythmic. It is an inspired and revealed seeing. It came out of the 5
―realisation of some inmost truth of God and self and man and Nature and cosmos and life and thing and thought and experience and deed.
In another significant passage Sri Aurobindo says that the Mantra ―is a direct and most heightened rhythmic Word which embodies an intuitive and revelatory inspiration and ensouls the mind with the sight and the presence of the very self, the inmost reality of things and with its truth and with the divine soul-forms of it, the godheads which are born from the living Truth. Or, let us say, it is a supreme rhythmic language which seizes, holds upon all that is finite and brings into each the light and voice of its own infinite. This shows that Mantra is a powerful tool to bring transform as it contains the ascending creative vibration that brings about all transformations. Such is the power of the Mantra. But what is a Mantra?
Another name for Mantra in the Veda is rik. This word Rik has come from the root which means ‗to shine‘, ‗to gleam‘. So Rik means words of illumination. This illumination is another characteristic of the Riks. Sri Aurobindo considers the Rik as a power of Realisation in the illuminating mind. This ―brings with it illumination and ―lights up the mind with the rays of knowledge‖. They are the ―most effective vehicles of transmission of the highest revelations of the Rishis. They are packets of luminous vibration implosive of great inner experiences. They are sound formulations of spiritual illuminations.‖ The gveda calls them ―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 Mantra or the Rik, as Yaskacharya observes in his Nirukta, reveals itself to the Rishis in tapas, and not in any other way. In the words of Yaskacharya, ―the Mantra came to the Rishis who were doing tapas, therefore they became Rishis, in that lies the Rishihood of the Rishis.
Elsewhere he observes that the purport of the Mantras ―has to be reached by tapas alone‖,27 . Shaunaka supports Yaskacharya’s viewpoint when he says in his Bhaddevat, ―The Mantra is not perceptible to one who is not a Rishi‖28 . He further declares, ―He knows the gods who knows the Riks. The Mantras to be approached through Yoga with self-control and skill, understanding, general knowledge and above all tapasya.
But who then is a Rishi to whom the Rik reveals itself?
RISHI – THE VEDIC SEERS
The Rishi is the one through whom the secret words of the Vedas were revealed. The Rishi is the one who had the inner sight to see the Mantra. Sri Aurobindo says that a Rishi ―sees or discovers an inner truth and puts it into self-effective language – the Mantra.
He is the seer – . He has seen the Mantras. According to Sri Aurobindo, ―The Rishi was not the individual composer of the hymns but the seer (draD,) of an eternal truth and an impersonal knowledge.‖31 He does not merely see, he also hears. He possesses a supernatural faculty of hearing. To his inner audience ―the divine word came vibrating out of the Infinite‖. So he is called Kavi ―‖, the hearer of Truth. He is the possessor of great spiritual and occult knowledge, the complete inner knowledge. The Rishis ―were seers as well as sages, they were men of vision who saw things in their meditation in images, often symbolic images, which might precede an experience and put it in a concrete form.‖ So it was possible for the Rishis ―to see at once the inner experience and in image its symbolic happenings.
It must not be understood that all those who lived in the Vedic age were Rishis, or all the Rishis and common people of that time had attained an all round prosperity – spiritual and material. Rather it has to be understood thus: The Rishis, the seers of the Mantra, devoted to a life of Spirit, discovered a certain line of development beyond the range of sensory perception by means of their strength of self-discipline and achieved a many-sided inner progress. Whatever they achieved by their tapasy they then cast into a veiled language which they called ‗Mantra‘.
DEVATA – THE VEDIC DEITIES
Each hymn in the Veda is dedicated to a particular deity. Presiding deities of the hymns in the Veda are invoked with the aim that the invokers be enlightened, be raised to the truth and immortality, be lifted to the higher planes of consciousness and be guided in their inner growth with light, strength and beauty. To the Vedic Rishis, Gods are not the givers of material things or ―poetical personifications of abstract ideas or of psychological and physical functions of Nature.‖ To them they are ―forms and personalities of one Godhead‖, ―living realities‖, ―Children of Light‖, ―Sons of the Infinite.
According to Sri Aurobindo, ―The Vedic deities are names, powers, personalities of universal Godhead and they represent each some essential puissance of the Divine Being. They manifest the cosmos and are manifest in it.‖ The word derived from the root ‗to shine‘, ‗to gleam‘ etc. suggests that gods are ‗those who play in Light‘. According to Sri Aurobindo, in the proper homes of Gods ‗matter is jyotirmaya‘. Every thing is luminious by its own inherent lustre. Life here is an ordered lila or play.
Sri Aurobindo says that the outer sacrifice of the Vedic Rishis ‗represent an inner sacrifice of self-giving and communion with the gods.‘ He further adds, ―These gods are outwardly powers of physical nature and inwardly powers of psychical nature.‖ For example, Agni outwardly represents the physical principle of fire, but inwardly he is the god of ‗the psychic God-ward Flame, Force, Will, Tapas‘. Surya outwardly represents the solar light.
Inwardly he is the ‗illuminating revelatory knowledge‘. Soma outwardly represents the moon. Inwardly he is the god of ‗the spiritual ecstasy, Ananda‘. As per the psychological interpretation of Sri Aurobindo the Vedic godhead Vayu is ‗the master of the life-energies‘, Brihaspati is ‗the power of the soul within‘. Thus, according to Sri Aurobindo, Saraswati represents ‗truth audition‘, Ila ‗truth vision‘, and Mahi or Bharati ‗the largeness of the Truth-consciousness‘. Surya represents ‗the illumination of the Ritam rising upon the mind‘, Indra ‗the mind-power‘. For him Usha is the ‗symbol of new openings of divine illuminations on man‘s physical consciousness‘ and Soma is ‗a figure for the divine ananda, the very substance of immortality‘; Aditi is ‗Infinite Consciousness‘; Mitra is ‗the luminous power of love leading to harmony in thought, impulse and action‘; Varuna is ‗the Vast Expanse, the oceanic wideness and unity of infinite Truth‘; Aryaman is ‗the immortal puissance of clear discerning aspiration leading beyond‘; Ashwins represent the swiftness and effectiveness of action in the great journey to Truth and illumination‘.
Thus when one looks at the Vedic Godheads one learns that the psychological science of the transformation of the human into the Divine, the mental into the supramental, the falsehood into the Truth, the darkness into the light, mortality into the immortality, is portrayed richly in the poetic hymns of the ancient Indian Rishis. So, all these godheads are both intuitive of, and a psychological and spiritual guide to a Divine Life on Earth which is the ultimate goal of the Sanatana Dharma or the Perennial Truth.
CHANDAS – THE METRICAL RHYTHM
Sri Aurobindo says ―The Chandas – poetic measure of the sacred hymns or Mantras – Anuup, Triup, Jagat, Gyatr etc. are treated as symbolic of the rhythms in which the Universal movement of things is cast.
For the Rishis, metre or Chandas was not a lifeless formal construction but the reproduction of great creative world rhythm. Sri Aurobindo believed like the Vedic Rishis that ―the spirit of creation framed all movements of the world by Chandas, in certain fixed rhythm of the formative word, and it is because they are faithful to the cosmic metres that the basic world movements unchangingly endure. A balanced harmony maintained by a system of subtle recurrences is the foundation of immortality in created things, and metrical movement is simply creative sound grown conscious of this secret of its own powers.
A metre is generally regulated by several elements such as, the number of metrical lines, number of syllables and their arrangement or the number of syllabic instants, the arrangement of pauses etc. In the case of Sanskrit Chandas or metres it is seen that the main principle governing the metres of the Vedas is measurement by number of syllables. This also was extended to the classical Sanskrit metres. But the classical Sanskrit metres differ in many cases from that of the Vedic ones. In Vedic metres it is the number of syllables that only matters. But in classical Sanskrit metres the arrangement of syllables by short and long plays an important role. In Vedic Sanskrit it is not necessary that all the GDyatri Chandas should have the same arrangement of syllables, but the number of syllables should be the same in all the quarters.
In classical Sanskrit the metres regulated by the number of syllables (Akaravttas) are divided into three categories such as: Samavtta or metres having same number of syllables in each line with same arrangement; Ardhasamavttas or metres where each alternate line is same in arrangement of sounds; Viamavttas or metres having uneven stanzas with different arrangements. Based on the arrangement of syllables, a particular metre differs from another. So we have a large variety of metre. In case of the above metres if any quarter of a metre has one or two syllables less or more than the prescribed number then the metre is considered to be defective. This is called Chandobhaga (or breaking the rules of the metre) and is not allowed by the prosodians. But in the case of Vedic metres the abscence or excess of one or two syllables in a quarter of any Chanda is neither considered to be a defect nor by this a Chanda changes into another. But to recognise the places where more or less syllables occur the Vedic prosodians used some terms before the name of the Chanda. For example in a Gyatr metre if one syllable is less in a quarter then it is called Nicd Gyatr, if two syllables are less then it is Vir Gyatr ; if one syllable is more it is called Bhurik Gyatr, if two syllables are more then it is Svar Gyatr. So is the case for other metres. The Vedic prosodians also have prescribed how to fill the metre by means of Vyha (which ordinarily means breaking sandhi in case of ya and va). For example the first line of the famous Gyatr Mantra (tat savitur vareyam) has one syllable less. So to fill it one can break ya in vareyam into i and a or i and ya and in stead of vareyam can chant varei-am or varei-yam. These are some cases where the Vedic metres are more flexible than that of the classical ones.
The seven major Chandas of the Veda are:
1. Gyatr (24 syllables) 4. Bhat (36 syllables)
2. Uik (28 syllables) 5. Pakti (40 syllables)
3. Anuup (32 syllables) 6. Triup (44 syllables)
7. Jagat (48 syllables)
The Rigveda begins with an invocation to Agni. Here Agni has been addressed as ―hota‖ – the priest, ―Kavikratuh‖– whose will towards action is that of the seer, ―gopam ritasya‖– the guardian of the Truth and so on and so forth. The Rishi here praises Agni with the aspiration that Agni accepts his adoration and reciprocates by looking to the Rishi’s spiritual good. Now ―who is this god Agni that the Vedic Rishi addresses him with such a language? What is the truth that he guards? What good he brings for the invoker? Is it gold and horses and cattle that he brings or is it something that is divine?
It is certainly not the sacrificial fire or any material flame or principle of physical heat and light that is capable of these functions. So there must be a mystic symbolism in these Riks to which ―the fire, the sacrifice, the priest are only outward figures of a deeper teaching and yet figures which it was thought necessary to maintain and to hold constantly in front.
Similarly there are many words like tam, dh, ravas etc., which are not only symbolic but they are the key words which provide clues to the true sense of the Vedic Riks. One such important word that has been used in the first hymn, is ―svam damam‖. The straightforward meaning of this word is ―one‘s own house‖. When it is used for Agni, Sayana interprets it as ―the fire-room‖ of the Vedic householder. But Sri Aurobindo after having examined many Mantras came to a point where he found that ‗tam‘ ‗bhat‘ and ‗sva damam‘ are similar in their expressive sense. Therefore he says that the Truth, the Vast, and Agni‘s own home are identical. Agni is frequently spoken of as being born in the Truth, dwelling in the Wide or the Vast.
These not only give us an indication of the principal ideas of the Vedic Rishis but they also reveal the fact that the Riks of the Veda in their import have a double significance, one exoteric and the other esoteric. The symbols too have their own esoteric significance. The gods are not simply poetical personifications of some abstract ideas or functions of Nature, but the representatives of the psychological states of consciousness experienced by the Rishis, ‗some essential puissance of the divine being‘.
All these must not be mistaken as mere imagery. They have to be understood in their proper esoteric import. This esoteric sense can be discovered only by giving a consistent and straightforward meaning to the words and formulas employed by the Rishis. If this is not done then the true knowledge of the Veda cannot be grasped. And this is possible only by the one who himself is a Rishi. All cannot enter into the secret chambers of the Veda and know the real Truth. So Rishi Vamadeva declares:
―All these are secret words that I have uttered to thee who knowest, O Agni, O Disposer, words of leading, words of seer knowledge that express their meaning to the seer; I have spoken them illumined in my words and my thinking.
In Sri Aurobindo‘s words, ―The words of the Veda could only be known in their true meaning by one who was himself a seer or mystic; from others the verses withhold their hidden knowledge.‖39
Indeed, the language of the Vedas is symbolic. The rich spiritual experiences and realizations of the Vedic Rishis have been recorded here through images and symbols. But the symbols can be interpreted at the spiritual, cosmic, psychological and physical levels. At the highest spiritual level the Vedas reveal the highest spiritual truth, powers, and laws of the transcendent Reality. At the cosmic level they reveal laws and processes of the occult or cosmic forces in the play of their interaction and harmony. At the psychological level the Vedas reveal the manifestations and workings of these cosmic forces in the psychological being of the men. At the physical level it reveals the deeper laws of the physical nature. It all shows that there is in this universe only one essential Law which repeats itself and works itself out differently at each level of the cosmos according to the energy and substance of that level. Sri Aurobindo explains this ancient conception in the following words: ―…it is one Law and Truth acting in all, but very differently formulated according to the medium in which the work proceeds and its dominant principle. The same gods exist on all the planes and maintain the same essential laws, but with a different aspect and mode of working and to ever wider results.
Another unique feature of the Vedic symbolism is that the symbols and images used in here are not the outcome of a deliberate creation of the mind but a direct and spontaneous expression of a higher supramental consciousness and knowledge. The Mother explains this as follows:
―They used an imaged language. Some people say that it was because they wanted it to be an initiation which would be understood only by the initiates. But it could also be an absolutely spontaneous expression without a precise aim to veil things, but which could not be understood except by those who had the experience. For it is quite obviously something that is not mental, which came spontaneously—as though it sprang from the heart and the aspiration—which was the completely spontaneous expression of an experience or knowledge, and naturally, an expression which was poetic, which had its own rhythm, its own beauty, and could be accessible only to those who had an identical experience. So it was veiled of itself, there was no need to add a veil upon it. It is more than likely that it happened like that.
―When one has a true experience which is not the result of a preliminary thought constructing and obtaining the experience by a special effort, when it is a direct and spontaneous experience, an experience that comes from the very intensity of the aspiration, it is spontaneously formulated into words. When it is total and complete enough, it is formulated into words… which are not thought out, which are spontaneous, which come out spontaneously from the consciousness. Well, it is more than likely that the Vedas were like that. But only those who have had the experience, had the same state of consciousness, can understand what it means.
―There are those sentences which seem absolutely banal and ordinary, in which things seem to be said in an almost childish way, and which are written out or heard and then noted down, like that. Well, when read with an ordinary consciousness, they seem sometimes even altogether banal. But if one has the experience, one sees that there is a power of realisation and a truth of expression which give you the key to the experience itself.
Sri Aurobindo was a Rishi of this stature who could see the real Truth of the Vedic Mantras. In the course of his interpretation of the Veda he offered his own luminious perception to dispel the obscurity in symbolism and clear any ambiguity in phrase.
Sacrifice is the central principle of the Vedic Yoga. But the Vedic sacrifice in all its aspects and details is purely symbolic. It is preeminently esoteric not exoteric, psychological and not ritualistic in its conception.
The Rishis had this knowledge that the only right path towards the evolutionary progress is mutual self-giving or sacrifice. So the path pursued by the Vedic seers was not a path of renunciation of life but a path of self-giving and surrender. In this path the life of body, vital and mind is not denied or rejected but offered as a sacrifice to the divine powers of the spirit. As a result there is a gradual and integral expansion, fulfillment, perfection and divine participation of the whole being of man in the higher life and nature of the Spirit.
The Vedic ritual of the sacrifice is an expressive symbol of the inner psychological process of the Vedic Yoga. All the various parts of the Vedic sacrifice are within us – the fire, the altar, the offering, and the priest. The individual soul is the performer of the sacrifice, the heart is the altar, the Divine Will burning within the form of human aspiration for the Divine is the priest, and all the activities of the body, life, and mind are the oblations. The clear stream of the mental and intellectual light corresponds to the clarified butter or ghrita. The offering, however, includes all the various states of consciousness. In fact, all the actions undertaken and performed in the pursuit of the truth are nothing but offerings. And the fruit of this sacrifice is the shower of grace in the form of light, peace, strength, truth, delight and immortality, the plenitude of divine fulfillment. Light in the mind, Energy in the vitality and Joy in emotions and sensations are the three bounties for which the Vedic sages prayed. These are the fruits of the Vedic sacrifices which the Vedic sages consistently hymned in the symbolic figure of the Cow, the Horse, the Wine, go, ashva, soma. In the symbolism of the Vedic mystics go and ashva represent the two aspects of the divine consciousness: light and energy or knowledge and force. And soma is the mystic wine which flows into the spiritually prepared, illumined and purified human vessel from the supreme Delight inherent in the one eternal Existence.
So for the Vedic mystics the outer ritual is only a symbol of the inner sacrifice of the human being to the gods who are outwardly symbolized as forces of Nature and inwardly as subjective powers of consciousness.
The following words of Sri Aurobindo explains very beautifully the psychological significance of the Vedic sacrifice: ―The Vedic sacrifice is, psychologically, a symbol of cosmic and individual activity become self-conscious, enlightened and aware of its goal. The whole process of the universe is in its very nature a sacrifice, voluntary or involuntary. Self-fulfilment by self-immolation, to grow by giving is the universal law. That which refuses to give itself, is still the food of the cosmic Powers. ‗The eater eating is eaten‘ is the formula, pregnant and terrible, in which the Upanishad sums up this aspect of the universe, and in another passage men are described as the cattle of the gods. It is only when the law is recognised and voluntarily accepted that this kingdom of death can be overpassed and by the works of sacrifice Immortality made possible and attained. All the powers and potentialities of the human life are offered up, in the symbol of a sacrifice, to the divine Life in the Cosmos.
These are some insights which help us to take an entirely new approach to the study of the Vedic Riks.
The individual seeking after Truth has to rise beyond the state subject to death and falsehood. He has to turn from the falsehood to the Truth. He has to turn from the darkness to the Light. He has to turn from death to Immortality. This is possible only by communing with the divine powers and thereby receiving their aid. And the way to call down this aid was the secret of the Vedic Rishis. That is why they sincerely prayed:
Lead me from falsehood to the Truth
Lead me from darkness to the Light
Lead me from death to Immortality
This was the core of the Vedic teaching and the greatest power of it lay in its application to the inner life of man. This is the reason for which the Veda is regarded to be the source of all later Indian Philosophies, religions, and systems of Yoga etc. Whatever the Hindus have done, thought and said through these many thousands of years, and behind all we are and seek to be, there lies concealed, ―the bedrock of our religions, the kernel of our thought, the explanation of our ethics and society, the explanation of our civilization, the rivet of our nationality, a small body of speech, Veda.
Sri Aurobindo is of the strong opinion that all the religions of the world, whether it is Buddhism or Jainism or Christianity or Judaism or Sufism or Confucianism or Islam, have their root in the Veda. In his words – ―There is no part of the spirituality, of the world‘s religion, of the world‘s thought which would be what it is today, if the Veda had not existed.
To conclude we can summarize the Vedic experience in the following way: The core of the teaching of the Veda is fourfold. First, it says that there is a world of Truth, Light and Immortality higher and superior to the world of human existence and that man has to inwardly ascend into it and live in it. Second, man has to discover the path to this great world of Light, Truth and Immortality. Third, our life is a battle between the powers of Light and Truth and the Powers of Darkness and Falsehood. Man can establish Truth and Light within him and attain victory over Darkness and Falsehood by constantly invoking the Divine powers and manifesting them within him. The fourth and final teaching is the supreme secret which reveals Reality as One. The Veda declares: ekam sat or tad ekam. Reality is one but spoken of as many by the learned ones eka sad vipr bahudh vadanti. In Sri Auorbindo‘s words: ―The secret knowledge of the Veda is the seed which is evolved later on to the Vedanta. The thought around which all is centered is the seeking after Truth, Light, and Immortality. There is a Truth deeper and higher than the truth of outward existence, a Light greater and higher than the Light of human understanding which comes by revelation and inspiration, an immortality towards which the soul has to rise. We have to find our way to that, to get into touch with this Truth and Immortality, sapanta ritam amritam, to be born into the Truth, to grow in it, to ascend in spirit into the world of Truth and to live in it. To do so is to unite ourselves with the godhead and to pass from mortality to immortality.
The Vedic Riks have no essential and living meaning for the one who does not realise this Supreme Truth. On the other hand the one who does realise this Truth comes close to the Riks and understands their true sense. Thus the Rigveda declares:
DR. SAMPADANANDA MISHRA , Sri Aurobindo Society,Pondicherry – 605001
Telephone: 0413- 2336396 (Off)
1. Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine and Human, Vol. 12 [CWSA], P. 62
2. The actual date of Yska, the author of the Nirukta is not yet clear. But all scholars unanimously agree that he lived in an age not later than 500 B.C. (see Laksman Sarup, Nirukta and Nighau, p. 54)
3. Edited by C.K. Raja and published by Adyar Library and Research Institute, 1939.
4. Edited by C.K. Raja and published by Adyar Library and Research Institute, 1939.
5. There is a controversy over whether Mdhava and Syaa were the same individuals or different individuals. On the relationship between Mdhava and Syaa, see Baladev Upadhyaya‘s crya Syaa aur Mdhava.
6. Aufrecht, Catalogue Catalogorum, p. 711
7. In the year 1846, he published Zur-Literature und Genschichte des weds. This book is on the literature and the history of theVeda. The English translation of this book was published from Calcutta in the year 1880.
8. gveda, with the commentary of Syaa, was edited by Max Muller and was published in six different volumes in the series of ‗Sacred Books of the East‘ in between the year 1849-73.
9. These Volumes were published between the year 1925-28, from Poona.
10. The second Edition of this was published from Benaras in the year 1896, and a third in the year 1926.
11. For more details see: A History of Indian Literature, M. Winternitz, Vol. 1, Section 1; ‗A companion to Sanskrit Literature by S.C Benarji, Appendix II.
12. Rigvedic India which was first published in the year 1920, from Calcutta and Rigvedic Culture which was published from Calcutta in 1935 as an extension of Rigvedic India are the two books where Abinasha Chandra Das gives a historical interpretation of the Veda.
13. Rigveda Samhita by Umesh Chandra Vidyaratna was first published from Calcutta. This book is the introduction to his complete commentary on the Veda which he wanted to publish in several volumes along with the commentaries of Syaa, Uvvaa, Mahdhara, R.C. Dutta etc. In this introductory part he has clearly mentioned about his new way of interpreting theVeda.
14. The Arctic Home of the Veda, published from Poona in 1903, and Vedic Chronology and Vedaga Jyotisha, published from Poona in 1925, are the two books where Bal Gangadhar Tilak interprets the Veda on the basis of Astronomical facts.
15. The Riks, published from Bangalore in 1911 records T. Paramasiva Aiyar‘s views on the Veda.
16. The Foundations of Indian Culture, SABCL, Vol. 14, P. 260
17. The Foundations of Indian Culture, SABCL, Vol. 14, P. 194
18. The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL), Vol. 10, P. 8
19. The Upanishads, SABCL, Vol. 12, P. 168
20. The Future Poetry, SABCL, Vol. 9, P. 199
21. The Future Poetry, SABCL, Vol. 9, P. 200
22. Secret of the Veda, SABCL, Vol. 10, P. 310
23. Secret of the Veda, SABCL, Vol. 10, P. 467
24. The Essays on the Gita SABCL, Vol. 13, P. 314
25. Rigveda 10.71.1
26. Nirukta of Yska 2.11
27. Nirukta of Yaska 13.13
28. Brihaddevata of Shaunaka 8.129
29. Brihaddevata of Shaunaka 8.130
30. The Future Poetry, SABCL, Vol. 9, P. 517
31. The Secret of the Veda, SABCL, Vol. 10, P. 8
32. The Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Vol. 11, P. 12
33. The Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Vol. 11, P. 453
34. The Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Vol. 11, P. 466
35. The Secret of the Veda, SABCL, Vol. 10, P. 258
36. The Future Poetry, SABCL, Vol. 9, P. 19
37. The Secret of the Veda, SABCL, Vol. 10, P. 60
38. Rigveda, 4.3.16
39. The Hymns to the Mystic Fire, SABCL, Vol. 11, P. 5
40. The Supramental Manifestation, SABCL, Vol. 16, P. 228
41. Complete Works of the Mother, Vol. 7, pp. 359-60
42. The Secret of the Veda, SABCL, Vol. 10, P. 266 15
43. Brihadaranyakopanishad, 1.3.28
44. Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, 1977, Vol. 1. Part 1, P. 31
45. Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, 1977, Vol. 1, Part 1, P. 31
46. The Hymns to the Mystic Fire, SABCL, Vol. 11, PP. 16-17
47. Rigveda, 1.164.39