object:1.04 - The Gods of the Veda
book class:Vedic and Philological Studies
author class:Sri Aurobindo
subject class:Integral Yoga
The Gods of the Veda
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The beliefs and conclusions of today are, in these rapid and unsettled times, seldom the beliefs and conclusions of tomorrow. In religion, in thought, in science, in literature we march daily over the bodies of dead theories to enthrone fresh syntheses and worship new illuminations. The realms of scholarship are hardly more quiet and secure than these troubled kingdoms; and in that realm nowhere is the soil so boggy, nowhere does scholastic ingenuity disport itself with such light fantastic footsteps over such a quaking morass of hardy conjecture and hasty generalisation as in the Sanscrit scholarship of the last century. But the Vedic question at least seemed to have been settled. It was agreedfirmly enough, it seemedthat the Vedas were the sacred chants of a rude, primitive race of agriculturists sacrificing to very material gods for very material benefits with an elaborate but wholly meaningless & arbitrary ritual; the gods themselves were merely poetical personifications of cloud & rain & wind, lightning & dawn and the sky & fire to which the semi-savage Vedic mind attributed by crude personal analogy a personality and a presiding form, the Rishis were sacrificing priests of an invading Aryan race dwelling on the banks of the Panjab rivers, men without deep philosophical or exalted moral ideas, a race of frank cheerful Pagans seeking the good things of life, afraid of drought & night & various kinds of devils, sacrificing persistently & drinking vigorously, fighting the black Dravidians whom they called the Dasyus or robbers,crude prototypes these of Homeric Greek and Scandinavian Viking.All this with many details of the early civilisation were supposed to be supplied by a philologicaland therefore scientificexamination of the ancient text yielding as certain results as the interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyph and Persian inscription. If there are hymns of a high moral fervour, of a remarkable philosophical depth & elevation, these are later compositions of a more sophisticated age. In the earlier hymns, the vocabulary, archaic and almost unintelligible, allows an adroit & industrious scholarship waving in its hand the magic wand of philology to conjure into it whatever meaning may be most suitable to modern beliefs or preferable to the European temperament. As for Vedanta, it can be no clue to the meaning of the mantras, because the Upanishads represent a spiritual revolt against Vedic naturalism & ceremonialism and not, as has been vainly imagined for some thousands of years, the fulfilment of Vedic truth. Since then, some of these positions have been severely shaken. European Science has rudely scouted the claims of Comparative Philology to rank as a Science; European Ethnology has dismissed the Aryo-Dravidian theory of the philologist & tends to see in the Indian people a single homogeneous race; it has been trenchantly suggested and plausibly upheld that the Vedas themselves offer no evidence that the Indian races were ever outside India but even prove the contraryan advance from the south and not from the north. These theories have not only been suggested & widely approved but are gaining upon the general mind. Alone in all this overthrow the European account of Vedic religion & Vedic civilisation remains as yet intact & unchallenged by any serious questioning. Even in the minds of the Indian people, with their ancient reverence for Veda, the Europeans have effected an entire divorce between Veda & Vedanta. The consistent religious development of India has been theosophic, mystical, Vedantic. Its beginnings are now supposed to have been naturalistic, materialistic, Pagan, almost Graeco-Roman. No satisfactory explanation has been given of this strange transformation in the soul of a people, and it is not surprising that theories should have been started attributing to Vedanta & Brahmavada a Dravidian origin. Brahmavada was, some have confidently asserted, part of the intellectual property taken over by the Aryan conquerors from the more civilised races they dispossessed. The next step in this scholars progress might well be some counterpart of Sergis Mediterranean theory,an original dark, pacific, philosophic & civilised race overwhelmed by a fairskinned & warlike horde of Aryan savages.
The object of this book is to suggest a prior possibility,that the whole European theory may be from beginning to end a prodigious error. The confident presumption that religion started in fairly recent times with the terrors of the savage, passed through stages of Animism & Nature worship & resulted variously in Paganism, monotheism or the Vedanta has stood in the way of any extension of scepticism to this province of Vedic enquiry. I dispute the presumption and deny the conclusions drawn from it. Before I admit it, I must be satisfied that a system of pure Nature worship ever existed. I cannot accept as evidence Sun & Star myth theories which, as a play of ingenious scholastic fancy, may attract the imagination, but are too haphazard, too easily self-contented, too ill-combined & inconsequent to satisfy the scientific reason. No other religion of which there is any undisputed record or sure observation, can be defined as a system of pure Nature worship. Even the savage-races have had the conception of gods & spirits who are other than personified natural phenomena. At the lowest they have Animism & the worship of spirits, ghosts & devils. Ancestor-worship & the cult of snake & four-footed animal seem to have been quite as old as any Nature-gods with whom research has made us acquainted. In all probability the Python was worshipped long before Apollo. It is therefore evident that even in the lowest religious strata the impulse to personify Nature-phenomena is not the ruling cult-idea of humanity. It is exceedingly unlikely that at any time this element should have so far prevailed as to cast out all the others so as to create a type of cult confined within a pure & rigid naturalism. Man has always seen in the universe the replica of himself. Unless therefore the Vedic Rishis had no thought of their subjective being, no perception of intellectual and moral forces within themselves, it is a psychological impossibility that they should have detected divine forces behind the objective world but none behind the subjective.
These are negative and a priori considerations, but they are supported by more positive indications. The other Aryan religions which are most akin in conception to the Vedic and seem originally to have used the same names for their deities, present themselves to us even at their earliest vaguely historic stage as moralised religions. Their gods had not only distinct moral attributes, but represented moral & subjective functions. Apollo is not only the god of the sun or of pestilencein Homer indeed Haelios (Saurya) & not Apollo is the Sun Godbut the divine master of prophecy and poetry; Athene has lost any naturalistic significance she may ever have had and is a pure moral force, the goddess of strong intelligence, force guided by brain; Ares is the lord of battles, not a storm wind; Artemis, if she is the Moon, is also goddess of the free hunting life and of virginity; Aphrodite is only the goddess of Love & Beauty There is therefore a strong moral element in the cult & there are clear subjective notions attached to the divine personalities. But this is not all. There was not only a moral element in the Greek religion as known & practised by the layman, there was also a mystic element and an esoteric belief & practice practised by the initiated. The mysteries of Eleusis, the Thracian rites connected with the name of Orpheus, the Phrygian worship of Cybele, even the Bacchic rites rested on a mystic symbolism which gave a deep internal meaning to the exterior circumstances of creed & cult. Nor was this a modern excrescence; for its origins were lost to the Greeks in a legendary antiquity. Indeed, if we took the trouble to understand alien & primitive mentalities instead of judging & interpreting them by our own standards, I think we should find an element of mysticism even in savage rites & beliefs. The question at any rate may fairly be put, Were the Vedic Rishis, thinkers of a race which has shown itself otherwise the greatest & earliest mystics & moralisers in historical times, the most obstinately spiritual, theosophic & metaphysical of nations, so far behind the Orphic & Homeric Greeks as to be wholly Pagan & naturalistic in their creed, or was their religion too moralised & subjective, were their ceremonies too supported by an esoteric symbolism?
The immediate or at any rate the earliest known successors of the Rishis, the compilers of the Brahmanas, the writers of theUpanishads give a clear & definite answer to this question.The Upanishads everywhere rest their highly spiritual & deeply mystic doctrines on the Veda.We read in the Isha Upanishad of Surya as the Sun God, but it is the Sun of spiritual illumination, of Agni as the Fire, but it is the inner fire that burns up all sin & crookedness. In the Kena Indra, Agni & Vayu seek to know the supreme Brahman and their greatness is estimated by the nearness with which they touched him,nedistham pasparsha. Uma the daughter of Himavan, the Woman, who reveals the truth to them is clearly enough no natural phenomenon. In the Brihadaranyaka, the most profound, subtle & mystical of human scriptures, the gods & Titans are the masters, respectively, of good and of evil. In the Upanishads generally the word devah is used as almost synonymous with the forces & functions of sense, mind & intellect. The element of symbolism is equally clear. To the terms of the Vedic ritual, to their very syllables a profound significance is everywhere attached; several incidents related in the Upanishads show the deep sense then & before entertained that the sacrifices had a spiritual meaning which must be known if they were to be conducted with full profit or even with perfect safety. The Brahmanas everywhere are at pains to bring out a minute symbolism in the least circumstances of the ritual, in the clarified butter, the sacred grass, the dish, the ladle. Moreover, we see even in the earliest Upanishads already developed the firm outlines and minute details of an extraordinary psychology, physics, cosmology which demand an ancient development and centuries of Yogic practice and mystic speculation to account for their perfect form & clearness. This psychology, this physics, this cosmology persist almost unchanged through the whole history of Hinduism. We meet them in the Puranas; they are the foundation of the Tantra; they are still obscurely practised in various systems of Yoga. And throughout, they have rested on a declared Vedic foundation. The Pranava, the Gayatri, the three Vyahritis, the five sheaths, the five (or seven) psychological strata, (bhumi, kshiti of the Vedas), the worlds that await us, the gods who help & the demons who hinder go back to Vedic origins.All this may be a later mystic misconception of the hymns & their ritual, but the other hypothesis of direct & genuine derivation is also possible. If there was no common origin, if Greek & Indian separated during the naturalistic period of the common religion supposed to be recorded in the Vedas it is surprising that even the little we know of Greek rites & mysteries should show us ideas coincident with those of Indian Tantra & Yoga.
When we go back to the Veda itself, we find in the hymns which are to us most easily intelligible by the modernity of their language, similar & decisive indications. The moralistic conception of Varuna, for example, is admitted even by the Europeans. We even find the sense of sin, usually supposed to be an advanced religious conception, much more profoundly developed in prehistoric India than it was in any other old Aryan nation even in historic times. Surely, this is in itself a significant indication. Surely, this conception cannot have become so clear & strong without a previous history in the earlier hymns. Nor is it psychologically possible that a cult capable of so advanced an idea, should have been ignorant of all other moral & intellectual conceptions reverencing only natural forces & seeking only material ends. Neither can there have been a sudden leap filled up only by a very doubtful henotheism, a huge hiatus between the naturalism of early Veda and the transcendentalism of the Vedic Brahmavada admittedly present in the later hymns. The European interpretation in the face of such conflicting facts threatens to become a brilliant but shapeless monstrosity. And is there no symbolism in the details of the Vedic sacrifice? It seems to me that the peculiar language of the Veda has never been properly studied or appreciated in this connection. What are we to say of the Vedic anxiety to increase Indra by the Soma wine? Of the description of Soma as the amritam, the wine of immortality, & of its forces as the indavah or moon powers? Of the constant sense of the attacks delivered by the powers of evil on the sacrifice? Of the extraordinary powers already attributed to the mantra & the sacrifice? Have the neshtram potram, hotram of the Veda no symbolic significance? Is there no reason for the multiplication of functions at the sacrifice or for the subtle distinctions between Gayatrins, Arkins, Brahmas? These are questions that demand a careful consideration which has never yet been given for the problems they raise.
The present essays are merely intended to raise the subject, not to exhaust it, to offer suggestions, not to establish them. The theory of Vedic religion which I shall suggest in these pages, can only be substantiated if it is supported by a clear, full, simple, natural and harmonious rendering of the Veda standing on a sound philological basis, perfectly consistent in itself and proved in hymn after hymn without any hiatus or fatal objection. Such a substantiation I shall one day place before the public. The problem of Vedic interpretation depends, in my view, on three different tests, philological, historic and psychological. If the results of these three coincide, then only can we be sure that we have understood the Veda. But to erect this Delphic tripod of interpretation is no facile undertaking. It is easy to misuse philology. I hold no philology to be sound & valid which has only discovered one or two byelaws of sound modification and for the rest depends upon imagination & licentious conjecture,identifies for instance ethos with swadha, derives uloka from urvaloka or prachetasa from prachi and on the other [hand] ignores the numerous but definitely ascertainable caprices of Pracritic detrition between the European & Sanscrit tongues or considers a number of word-identities sufficient to justify inclusion in a single group of languages. By a scientific philology I mean a science which can trace the origins, growth & structure of the Sanscrit language, discover its primary, secondary & tertiary forms & the laws by which they develop from each other, trace intelligently the descent of every meaning of a word in Sanscrit from its original root sense, account for all similarities & identities of sense, discover the reason of unexpected divergences, trace the deviations which separated Greek & Latin from the Indian dialect, discover & define the connection of all three with the Dravidian forms of speech. Such a system of comparative philology could alone deserve to stand as a science side by side with the physical sciences and claim to speak with authority on the significance of doubtful words in the Vedic vocabulary. The development of such a science must always be a work of time & gigantic labour.
But even such a science, when completed, could not, owing to the paucity of our records be, by itself, a perfect guide. It would be necessary to discover, fix & take always into account the actual ideas, experiences and thought-atmosphere of the Vedic Rishis; for it is these things that give colour to the words of men and determine their use. The European translations represent the Vedic Rishis as cheerful semi-savages full of material ideas & longings, ceremonialists, naturalistic Pagans, poets endowed with an often gorgeous but always incoherent imagination, a rambling style and an inability either to think in connected fashion or to link their verses by that natural logic which all except children and the most rudimentary intellects observe. In the light of this conception they interpret Vedic words & evolve a meaning out of the verses. Sayana and the Indian scholars perceive in the Vedic Rishis ceremonialists & Puranists like themselves with an occasional scholastic & Vedantic bent; they interpret Vedic words and Vedic mantras accordingly. Wherever they can get words to mean priest, prayer, sacrifice, speech, rice, butter, milk, etc, they do so redundantly and decisively. It would be at least interesting to test the results of another hypothesis,that the Vedic thinkers were clear-thinking men with at least as clear an expression as ordinary poets have and at least as high ideas and as connected and logical a way of expressing themselvesallowing for the succinctness of poetical formsas is found in other religious poetry, say the Psalms or the Book of Job or St Pauls Epistles. But there is a better psychological test than any mere hypothesis. If it be found, as I hold it will be found, that a scientific & rational philological dealing with the text reveals to us poems not of mere ritual or Nature worship, but hymns full of psychological & philosophical religion expressed in relation to fixed practices & symbolic ceremonies, if we find that the common & persistent words of Veda, words such as vaja, vani, tuvi, ritam, radhas, rati, raya, rayi, uti, vahni etc,an almost endless list,are used so persistently because they expressed shades of meaning & fine psychological distinctions of great practical importance to the Vedic religion, that the Vedic gods were intelligently worshipped & the hymns intelligently constructed to express not incoherent poetical ideas but well-connected spiritual experiences,then the interpreter of Veda may test his rendering by repeating the Vedic experiences through Yoga & by testing & confirming them as a scientist tests and confirms the results of his predecessors. He may discover whether there are the same shades & distinctions, the same connections in his own psychological & spiritual experiences. If there are, he will have the psychological confirmation of his philological results.
Even this confirmation may not be sufficient. For although the new version may have the immense superiority of a clear depth & simplicity supported & confirmed by a minute & consistent scientific experimentation, although it may explain rationally & simply most or all of the passages which have baffled the older & the newer, the Eastern & the Western scholars, still the confirmation may be discounted as a personal test applied in the light of a previous conclusion. If, however, there is a historical confirmation as well, if it is found that Veda has exactly the same psychology & philosophy as Vedanta, Purana, Tantra & ancient & modern Yoga & all of them indicate the same Vedic results which we ourselves have discovered in our experience, then we may possess our souls in peace & say to ourselves that we have discovered the meaning of Veda; its true meaning if not all its significance. Nor need we be discouraged, if we have to disagree with Sayana & Yaska in the actual rendering of the hymns no less than with the Europeans. Neither of these great authorities can be held to be infallible. Yaska is an authority for the interpretation of Vedic words in his own age, but that age was already far subsequent to the Vedic & the sacred language of the hymns was already to him an ancient tongue. The Vedas are much more ancient than we usually suppose. Sayana represents the scholarship & traditions of a period not much anterior to our own. There is therefore no authoritative rendering of the hymns. The Veda remains its own best authority.
But all this triple labour is a work of great responsibility, minute research and an immense & meticulous industry. Meanwhile I hold myself justified in opening the way by a purely hypothetical entrance into the subject, suggesting possibilities for the present rather than seeking to enforce a settled opinion. There is a possible theory that may be proposed, certain provisional details of it that may be formulated. A few initial stones may be laid down to help in crossing by a convenient ford this great stream of the Veda.
The statement of a few principal details of the Vedic system according to the theory I wish to suggest, a simple enumeration without comments, may help the reader to find his way through the following pages.
(1) Vedic religion is based on an elaborate psychology & cosmology of which the keyword is the great Vedic formula OM, Bhur Bhuvah Swah; the three vyahritis and the Pranava. The three Vyahritis are the three lower principles ofMatter, Life & Mind, Annam, Prana & Manas of the Vedanta. OM is Brahman or Sacchidananda of whom these three are the expressions in the phenomenal world. OM & the vyahritis are connected by an intermediate principle, Mahas, Vijnanam of the Vedanta, ideal Truth which has arranged the lower worlds & on which amidst all their confusions they rest.
(2) Corresponding roughly to the vyahritis are three worlds, Bhurloka (Prana-Annam, the material world), Bhuvarloka (Prana-Manas, the lower subjective world), Swarloka (Manas- Buddhi, the higher subjective world). These are the tribhuvana of Hinduism.
(3) Corresponding to Mahas is Maharloka or Mahi Dyaus, the great heavens (pure Buddhi or Vijnana, the ideal world). The Pranava in its three essentialities rules over the three supreme worlds, the Satyaloka (divine being), Tapoloka (divine Awareness & Force), Anandaloka (divine Bliss) of the Puranas, which constitute Amritam, immortality or the true kingdom of heaven of the Vedic religion. These are the Vedic sapta dhamani & the seven different movements of consciousness to which they correspond are the sapta sindhu of the hymns.
(4) According to the Vedanta, man has five koshas or sheaths of existence, the material (Annamaya), vital (Pranamaya), mental (Manomaya) which together make up the aparardha or lower half of our conscious-being; the ideal (vijnanamaya) which links the lower to the parardha or higher half; the divine or Anandamaya in which the divine existence (Amrita) is concentrated for communion with our lower human being. These are the pancha kshitis, five earths or rather dwelling places of the Veda. But in Yoga we speak usually of the five koshas but the sapta bhumis, seven not five. The Veda also speaks of sapta dhamani.
(5) In each of the seven strata of consciousness all the other six work under the law of the stratum which houses them. This means seven sub-strata in each; in the three vyahritis there are therefore thrice seven, trih saptani.
(6) Man, although living here in Bhu, belongs to Swar & Bhuvar. He is manu, the Thinker,the soul in him is the manomayah pranasarira neta of the Upanishad, the mental captain & guide of life & body. He has to become vijnanamaya (mahan) and anandamaya, to become in a word immortal, divine in all his laws of being (vrata & dharman). By rising to Mahas in himself he enters into direct touch with ideal Truth, gets truth of knowledge by drishti, sruti & smriti, the three grand ideal processes, and by that knowledge truth of being, truth of action (satyadharma), truth of bliss (satyaradhas) constituting amritam, swarajyam & samrajyam, immortality, self-rule & mastery of the world. It is this evolution which the Vedic hymns are intended to assist.
(7) In his progress man is helped by the gods, resisted by the Asuras & Rakshasas. For the worlds behind have their own inhabitants, who, the whole universe being inextricably one, affect & are affected by the activities of mankind. The Bhuvar is the great place of struggle in which forces work behind the visible movements we see here and determine all our actions & fortunes. Swar is mans resting place but not his final or highest habitation which is Vishnus highest footing, Vishnoh paramam padam, high in the supreme parardha.
(8) The 33 great gods belong to the higher worlds but rest in Swar & work at once in all the strata of consciousness, for the world is always one in its complexity. They are masters of the mental functions, masters also of the vital & material. Agni, for instance, governs the actions of the fiery elements in Nature & in man, but is also the vehicle of pure tapas, tu, tuvis or divine force. They are therefore mankinds greatest helpers.
(9) But in order that they may help, it is necessary to reinforce them in these lower worlds, which are not their own, by self-surrender, by sacrifice, by a share in all mans action, strength, being & bliss, and by this mutual help mans being physical, vital, mental, spiritual is kept in a state of perfect & ever increasing force, energy & joy favourable to the development of immortality. This is the process of Yajna, called often Yoga when applied exclusively to the subjective movements & adhwara when applied to the objective. The Vritras, Panis etc of the Bhuvarloka who are constantly preventing mans growth & throwing back his development, have to be attacked and slain by the gods, for they are not entirely immortal. The sacrifice is largely a battle between evolutionary & reactionary powers.
(10) A symbolic system of external sacrifice in which every movement is carefully designed & coordinated to signify the subjective facts of the internal Yajna, aids the spiritual aspirant by moulding his material sheath into harmony with his internal life & by mastering his external surroundings so that there too the conditions & forces may be all favourable to his growth.
(11) The Yajna has two parts, mantra & tantrasubjective & objective; in the outer sacrifice the mantra is the Vedic hymn and the tantra the oblation; in the inner the mantra is the meditation or the sacred formula, the tantra the putting forth of the power generated by mantra to bring about some successful spiritual, intellectual, vital or mental activity of which the gods have their share.
(12) The mantra consists of gayatra, brahma and arka, the formulation of thought into rhythmic speech to bring about a spiritual force or result, the filling of the soul (brahma) with the idea & name of the god of the mantra, the use of the mantra for effectuation of the external object or the activity desired.
(13) The tantra is composed of neshtra, savanam, potra & hotra, the intensifying of the vasu or material (internal or external) so as to prepare it for activity, the production of it in a of it to the god or for action.
(14) The Veda proper is karmakanda, not jnanakanda; its aim is not moksha, but divine fulfilment in this life & the next. Therefore the Vedic Rishis accepted plenty & fullness of physical, vital & mental being, power & joy as the pratistha or foundation of immortality & did not reject it as an obstacle to salvation.1
(15) The world being one in all its parts every being in it contains the universe in himself. Especially do the great gods contain all the others & their activities in themselves, so that Agni, Varuna, Indra, all of them are in reality one sole-existent deity in many forms. Man too is He, but he has to fulfil himself here as man, yet divine (that being his vrata & dharma) through the puissant means provided for him [by] the Veda.
It is supposed that in the Kaliyuga this is no longer possible, or possible only by direct self-surrender to the Supreme Deity. Therefore the complexity of the Vedic system has been removed from the domain of our religious practice and in its place there has been increasingly substituted the worship of the Supreme Deity through Love.
Saraswati and the Great ocean
One of the greatest deities of the Vedic Pantheon is a woman, Gna,a feminine power whether of material or moral nature,whether her functions work in the subjective or the objective. The Hindu religion has always laid an overpowering stress on this idea of the woman in Nature. It is not only in the Purana that the Woman looms so large, not only in the Shakta cult that she becomes a supreme Name. In the Upanishads it is only when Indra, in his search for the mysterious and ill-understood Mastering Brahman, meets with the Woman in the heaven of thingstasminn evakashe striyam ajagama UmamHaimavatim, In that same sky he came to the Woman, Uma, daughter of Himavan,that he is able to learn the thing which he seeks. The Stri, the Aja or unborn Female Energy, is the executive Divinity of the universe, the womb, the mother, the bride, the mould & instrument of all joy & being. The Veda also speaks of the gnah, the Women,feminine powers without whom the masculine are not effective for work & formation; for when the gods are to be satisfied who support the sacrifice & effect it, vahnayah, yajatrah, then Medhatithi of the Kanwas calls on Agni to yoke them with female mates, patnivatas kridhi, in their activity and enjoyment. In one of his greatest hymns, the twenty-second of the first Mandala, he speaks expressly of the patnir devanam, the brides of the Strong Ones, who are to be called to extend protection, to breathe a mighty peace, to have their share the joy of the Soma wine. Indrani, Varunani, Agnayi,we can recognise these goddesses and their mastering gods; but there are threein addition to Mother Earthwho seem to stand on a different level and are mentioned without the names of their mates if they have any and seem to enjoy an independent power and activity. They are Ila,Mahi&Saraswati, the three goddesses born of Love or born of Bliss, Tisro devir mayobhuvah.
Saraswati is known to us in the Purana,the Muse with her feet on the thousand leaved lotus of the mind, the goddess of thought, learning, poetry, of all that is high in mind and its knowledge. But, so far as we can understand from the Purana, she is the goddess of mind only, of intellect & imagination and their perceptions & inspirations. Things spiritual & the mightier supra-mental energies & illuminations belong not to her, but to other powers. Well, we meet Saraswati in the Vedas;and if she is the same goddess as our Puranic & modern protectress of learning & the arts, the Personality of the Intellect, then we have a starting pointwe know that the Vedic Rishis had other than naturalistic conceptions & could call to higher powers than the thunder-flash & the storm-wind. But there is a difficultySaraswati is the name of a river, of several rivers in India, for the very name means flowing, gliding or streaming,and the Europeans identify it with a river in the Punjab. We must be careful therefore, whenever we come across the name, to be sure which of these two is mentioned or invoked, the sweet-streaming Muse or the material river.
The first passage in which Saraswati is mentioned, is the third hymn of the first Mandala, the hymn of Madhuchchhanda Vaisvamitra, in which the Aswins, Indra, the Visve devah and Saraswati are successively invokedapparently in order to conduct an ordinary material sacrifice? That is the thing that has to be seen,to be understood. What is Saraswati, whether as a Muse or a river, doing at the Soma-offering? Or is she there as the architect of the hymn, the weaver of the Riks?
The passage devoted to her occupies the three final & culminating verses of the sacred poem. Pavaka nah Saraswati vajebhir vajinivati Yajnam vashtu dhiyavasuh. Chodayitri sunritanam chetanti sumatinam Yajnam dadhe Saraswati. Maho arnas Saraswati prachetayati ketuna Dhiyo visva vi rajati. Now there is here mention in the last verse of a flowing water, arnas, whether sea or river, but this can be no material stream, since plainly the rest of the passage can only refer to a goddess whose functions are subjective. She is dhiyavasuh, stored or rich with understanding, she is the impelling power of truths, she is the awakener of or to right thoughts. She awakens something or brings it forward into consciousness (pra-chetayati) by the perceptive intelligence and she governs or shines through all the movements of the fixing & discerning mind. There are too many words here that do ordinarily & ought here to bear a purely subjective sense for any avoidance of the clear import of the passage. We start then with the conception of Saraswati as a goddess of mind, if not the goddess of mind and we have then to determine what are her functions or activities as indicated in this important passage and for what purpose she has been summoned by the son of Visvamitra to this sacrifice.
What exact sense are we to apply to vajebhir vajinivati when it is spoken of a subjective Power? It is a suggestion I shall make and work out hereafter by application to all the hundreds of passages in which the word occurs that vaja in the Veda means a substantial, firm & copious condition of being, well-grounded & sufficient plenty in anything material, mental or spiritual, any substance, wealth, chattels, qualities, psychological conditions.
Saraswati has the power of firm plenty, vajini, by means of or consisting in many kinds of plenty, copious stores of mental material for any mental activity or sacrifice. But first of all she is purifying, pavaka. Therefore she is not merely or not essentially a goddess of mental force, but of enlightenment; for enlightenment is the mental force that purifies. And she is dhiyavasu, richly stored with understanding, buddhi, the discerning intellect, which holds firmly in their place, fixes, establishes all mental conceptions. First, therefore she has the purifying power of enlightenment, secondly, she has plenty of mental material, great wealth of mental being; thirdly, she is powerful in intellect, in that which holds, discerns, places. Therefore she is asked, as I take it, to control the Yajnavashtu from Root vash, which bore the idea of control as is evident from its derivatives vasha,vashya & vashin.
But greater capacities, mightier functions are demanded of Saraswati.Mind and discerning intelligence, however active and well-stored, may give false interpretation and mistaken counsel. But Saraswati at the sacrifice is chodayitri sunritanam chetanti sumatinam. It is she who gives the impulsion to the truths that appear in the mind, it is she who, herself conscious of right thoughts and just processes of thinking, awakens to them the mental faculties. Therefore, because she is the impelling force behind intellectual Truth, and our awakener to right thinking, she is present at the sacrifice; she has established and upholds it, yajnam dadhe. This sacrifice, whatever else it may be, is controlled by mental enlightenment and rich understanding and confirmed in & by truth and right-thinking. Therefore is Saraswati its directing power & presiding goddess.
But by what power of Saraswatis are falsehood & error excluded and the mind and discerning reason held to truth & right-thinking? This, if I mistake not, is what the Rishi Madhuchchhanda, the drashta of Veda has seen for us in his last and culminating verse. I have said that arnas is a flowing water whether river or sea; for the word expresses either a flowing continuity or a flowing expanse. We may translate it then as the river of Mah or Mahas, and place arnas in apposition with Saraswati. This goddess will then be in our subjective being some principle to which the Vedic thinkers gave the names of Mah and Mahas for it is clear, if the rest of our interpretation is at all correct, that there can be no question of a material stream & arnas must refer to some stream or storehouse of subjective faculty. But there are strong objections to such a collocation. We shall find later that the goddess Mahi and not Saraswati is the objectivising feminine power and divine representative of this Vedic principle Mahas; prachetayati besides demands an object and maho arnas is the only object which the structure of the sentence and the rhythm of the verse will allow. I translate therefore Saraswati awakens by the perceptive intelligence the ocean (or, flowing expanse) of Mahas and governs diversely all the movements (or, all the faculties) of the understanding.
What is Mah or Mahas?The word means great, embracing, full, comprehensive. The Earth, also, because of its wideness & containing faculty is called mahi,just as it is called prithivi, dhara, medini, dharani, etc. In various forms, the root itself, mahi, mahitwam, maha, magha, etc, it recurs with remarkable profusion and persistence throughout the Veda. Evidently it expressed some leading thought of the Rishis, was some term of the highest importance in their system of psychology. Turning to the Purana we find the term mahat applied to some comprehensive principle which is supposed itself to be near to the unmanifest, avyaktam but to supply the material of all that is manifest and always to surround, embrace and uphold it. Mahat seems here to be an objective principle; but this need not trouble us; for in the old Hindu system all that is objective had something subjective corresponding to it and constituting its real nature. We find it explicitly declared in the Vishnu Purana that all things here are manifestations of vijnana, pure ideal knowledge, sarvani vijnanavijrimbhitaniideal knowledge vibrating out into intensity of various phenomenal existences each with its subjective reason for existence and objective case & form of existence. Is ideal knowledge then the subjective principle of mahat? If so, vijnanam and the Vedic mahas are likely to be terms identical in their philosophical content and psychological significance. We turn to the Upanishads and find mention made more than once of a certain subjective state of the soul, which is called Mahan Atma, a state into which the mind and senses have to be drawn up as we rise by samadhi of the instruments of knowledge into the supreme state of Brahman and which is superior therefore to these instruments. The Mahan Atma is the state of the pure Brahman out of which the vijnana or ideal truth (sattwa or beness of things) emerges and it is higher than the vijnana but nearer us than the Unmanifest or Avyaktam (Katha: III.10, 11,13 & VI.7). If we understand by the Mahan Atma that status of soul existence (Purusha) which is the basis of the objective mahat or mahati prakriti and which develops the vijnanam or ideal knowledge as its subjective instrument, then we shall have farther light on the nature of Mahas in the ancient conceptions. We shall see that it is ideal knowledge, vijnanam, or is connected with ideal knowledge.
But we have first one more step in our evidence to notice,the final & conclusive link. In the Taittiriya Upanishad we are told that there are three vyahritis, Bhur, Bhuvar, Swar, but the Rishi Mahachamasya insisted on a fourth, Mahas. What is this fourth vyahriti? It is evidently some old Vedic idea and can hardly fail to be our maho arnas. I have already, in my introduction, outlined briefly the Vedic, Vedantic & Puranic system of the seven worlds and the five bodies. In this system the three vyahritis constitute the lower half of existence which is in bondage to Avidya. Bhurloka is the material world, our dwelling place, in which Annam predominates, in which everything is subject to or limited by the laws of matter & material consciousness. Bhuvar are the middle worlds, antariksha, between Swar & Bhur, vital worlds in which Prana, the vital principle predominates and everything is subject to or limited by the laws of vitality & vital consciousness. Swarloka is the supreme world of the triple system, the pure mental kingdom in which manaseither in itself or, as one goes higher, uplifted & enlightened by buddhipredominates & by the laws of mind determines the life & movements of the existences which inhabit it. The three Puranic worlds Jana, Tapas, Satya,not unknown to the Vedaconstitute the Parardha; they are the higher ranges of existence in which Sat, Chit, Ananda, the three mighty elements of the divine nature predominate respectively, creative Ananda or divine bliss in Jana, the power of Chit (Chich-chhakti) or divine Energy in Tapas, the extension [of] Sat or divine being in Satya. But these worlds are hidden from us, avyaktalost for us in the sushupti to which only great Yogins easily attain & only with the Anandaloka have we by means of the anandakosha some difficult chance of direct access. We are too joyless to bear the surging waves of that divine bliss, too weak or limited to move in those higher ranges of divine strength & being. Between the upper hemisphere & the lower is Maharloka, the seat of ideal knowledge & pure Truth, which links the free spirits to the bound, the gods who deliver to the gods who are in chains, the wide & immutable realms to these petty provinces where all shifts, all passes, all changes. We see therefore that Mahas is still vijnanam and we can no longer hesitate to identify our subjective principle of mahas, source of truth & right thinking awakened by Saraswati through the perceptive intelligence, with the Vedantic principle of vijnana or pure buddhi, instrument of pure Truth & ideal knowledge.
We do not find that the Rishi Mahachamasya succeeded in getting his fourth vyahriti accepted by the great body of Vedantic thinkers. With a little reflection we can see the reason why. The vijnana or mahat is superior to reasoning. It sees and knows, hears and knows, remembers & knows by the ideal principles of drishti, sruti and smriti; it does not reason and know.Or withdrawing into the Mahan Atma, it is what it exercises itself upon and therefore knowsas it were, by conscious identity; for that is the nature of the Mahan Atma to be everything separately and collectively & know it as an object of his Knowledge and yet as himself. Always vijnana knows things in the whole & therefore in the part, in the mass & therefore in the particular. But when ideal knowledge, vijnana, looks out on the phenomenal world in its separate details, it then acquires an ambiguous nature. So long as it is not assailed by mind, it is still the pure buddhi and free from liability to errors. The pure buddhi may assign its reasons, but it knows first & reasons afterwards,to explain, not to justify. Assailed by mind, the ideal buddhi ceases to be pure, ceases to be ideal, becomes sensational, emotional, is obliged to found itself on data, ends not in knowledge but in opinion and is obliged to hold doubt with one hand even while it tries to grasp certainty by the other. For it is the nature of mind to be shackled & frightened by its data. It looks at things as entirely outside itself, separate from itself and it approaches them one by one, groups them & thus arrives at knowledge by synthesis; or if [it] looks at things in the mass, it has to appreciate them vaguely and then take its parts and qualities one by one, arriving at knowledge by a process of analysis. But it cannot be sure that the knowledge it acquires, is pure truth; it can never be safe against mixture of truth & error, against one-sided knowledge which leads to serious misconception, against its own sensations, passions, prejudices and false associations. Such truth as it gets can only be correct even so far as it goes, if all the essential data have been collected and scrupulously weighed without any false weights or any unconscious or semi-conscious interference with the balance. A difficult undertaking! So we can form reliable conclusions,and then too always with some reserve of doubt,about the past & the present.Of the future the mind can know nothing except in eternally fixed movements, for it has no data. We try to read the future from the past & present and make the most colossal blunders. The practical man of action who follows there his will, his intuition & his instinct, is far more likely to be correct than the scientific reasoner. Moreover, the mind has to rely for its data on the outer senses or on its own inner sensations & perceptions & it can never be sure that these are informing it correctly or are, even, in their nature anything but lying instruments. Therefore we say we know the objective world on the strength of a perpetual hypothesis. The subjective world we know only as in a dream, sure only of our own inner movements & the little we can learn from them about others, but there too sure only of this objective world & end always in conflict of transitory opinions, a doubt, a perhaps. Yet sure knowledge, indubitable Truth, the Vedic thinkers have held, is not only possible to mankind, but is the goal of our journey. Satyam eva jayate nanritam satyena pantha vitato devayanah yenakramantyrishayo hyaptakama yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhanam. Truth conquers and not falsehood, by truth the path has been extended which the gods follow, by which sages attaining all their desire arrive where is that Supreme Abode of Truth. The very eagerness of man for Truth, his untameable yearning towards an infinite reality, an infinite extension of knowledge, the fact that he has the conception of a fixed & firm truth, nay the very fact that error is possible & persistent, mare indications that pure Truth exists.We follow no chimaera as a supreme good, nor do the Powers of Darkness fight against a mere shadow. The ideal Truth is constantly coming down to us, constantly seeking to deliver us from our slavery to our senses and the magic circle of our limited data. It speaks to our hearts & creates the phenomenon of Faith, but the heart has its lawless & self-regarding emotions & disfigures the message. It speaks to the Imagination, our great intellectual instrument which liberates us from the immediate fact and opens the mind to infinite possibility; but the imagination has her pleasant fictions & her headlong creative impulse and exaggerates the truth & distorts & misplaces circumstances. It speaks to the intellect itself, bids it criticise its instruments by vichara and creates the critical reason, bids it approach the truth directly by a wide passionless & luminous use of the pure judgment, and creates shuddha buddhi or Kants pure reason; bids it divine truth & learn to hold the true divination & reject the counterfeit, and creates the intuitive reason & its guardian, intuitive discrimination or viveka. But the intellect is impatient of error, eager for immediate results and hurries to apply what it receives before it has waited & seen & understood. Therefore error maintains & even extends her reign. At last come the logician & modern rationalist thinker; disgusted with the exaggeration of these movements, seeing their errors, unable to see their indispensable utility, he sets about sweeping them away as intellectual rubbish, gets rid of faith, gets rid of flexibility of mind, gets rid of sympathy, pure reason & intuition, puts critical reason into an ill lightened dungeon & thinks now, delivered from these false issues, to compass truth by laborious observation & a rigid logic. To live on these dry & insufficient husks is the last fate of impure vijnanam or buddhi confined in the data of the mind & sensesuntil man wronged in his nature, cabined in his possibilities revolts & either prefers a luminous error or resumes his broadening & upward march.
It was this aspect of impure mahas, vijnanam working not in its own home, swe dame but in the house of a stranger, as a servant of an inferior faculty, reason as we call it, which led the Rishi Mahachamasya to include mahas among the vyahritis. But vijnana itself is an integral part of the supreme movement, it is divine thought in divine being,therefore not a vyahriti. The Veda uses to express this pure Truth &ideal knowledge another word, equivalent in meaning to mahat,the word brihat and couples with it two other significant expressions, satyam & ritam. This trinity of satyam ritam brihatSacchidananda objectivisedis the Mahan Atma. Satyam is Truth, the principle of infinite & divine Being, Sat objectivised to Knowledge as the Truth of things self-manifested; Ritam is Law, the motion of things thought out, the principle of divine self-aware energy, Chit-shakti objectivised to knowledge as the Truth of things selfarranged; Brihat is full content & fullness, satisfaction, Nature, the principle of divine Bliss objectivised to knowledge as the Truth of things contented with its own manifestation in law of being & law of action. For, as the Vedanta tells us, there is no lasting satisfaction in the little, in the unillumined or half-illumined things of mind & sense, satisfaction there is only in the large, the self-true & self-existent. Nalpe sukham asti bhumaiva sukham. Bhuma, brihat, mahat, that is God. It is Ananda therefore that insists on largeness & constitutes the mahat or brihat. Ananda is the soul of Nature, its essentiality, creative power & peace. The harmony of creative power & peace, pravritti & nivritti, jana & shama, is the divine state which we feelas Wordsworth felt itwhen we go back to the brihat, the wide & infinite which, containing & contented with its works, says of it Sukritam, What I have made, is good. Whoever enters this kingdom of Mahat, this Maho Arnas or great sea of ideal knowledge, comes into possession of his true being, true knowledge, true bliss. He attains the ideal powers of drishti, sruti, smritisees truth face to face, hears her unerring voice or knows her by immediate recognising memoryjust as we say of a friend This is he and need no reasoning of observation, comparison, induction or deduction to tell us who he is or to explain our knowledge to ourselvesthough we may, already knowing the truth, use a self-evident reasoning masterfully in order to convince others. The characteristic of ideal knowledge is first that it is direct in its approach, secondly, that it is self-evident in its revelation, swayamprakasha, thirdly, that it is unerring fact of being, sat, satyam in its substance. Moreover, it is always perfectly satisfied & divinely pleasurable; it is atmarati & atmastha, confines itself to itself & does not reach out beyond itself to grasp at error or grope within itself to stumble over ignorance. It is, too, perfectly effective whether for knowledge, speech or action, satyakarma, satyapratijna, satyavadi. The man who rising beyond the state of the manu, manishi or thinker which men are now, becomes the kavi or direct seer, containing what he sees,he who draws the manomaya purusha up into the vijnanamaya,is in all things true. Truth is his characteristic, his law of being, the stamp that God has put upon him. But even for the manishi ideal Truth has its bounties. For from thence come the intuitions of the poet, the thinker, the artist, scientist, man of action, merchant, craftsman, labourer each in his sphere, the seed of the great thoughts, discoveries, faiths that help the world and save our human works & destinies from decay & dissolution. But in utilising these messages from our higher selves for the world, in giving them a form or a practical tendency, we use our intellects, feelings or imaginations and alter to their moulds or colour with their pigments the Truth. That alloy seems to be needed to make this gold from the mines above run current among men. This then is Maho Arnas.The psychological conceptions of our remote forefathers concerning it have so long been alien to our thought & experience that they may be a little difficult to follow & more difficult to accept mentally. But we must understand & grasp them in their fullness if we have any desire to know the meaning of the Veda. For they are the very centre & keystone of Vedic psychology. Maho Arnas, the Great Ocean, is the stream of our being which at once divides & connects the human in us from the divine, & to cross over from the human to the divine, from this small & divided finite to that one, great & infinite, from this death to that immortality, leaving Diti for Aditi, alpam for bhuma, martyam for amritam is the great preoccupation & final aim of Veda & Vedanta.
We can now understand the intention of the Rishi in his last verse and the greatness of the climax to which he has been leading us. Saraswati is able to give impulsion to Truth and awaken to right thinking because she has access to the Maho Arnas, the great ocean. On that level of consciousness, we are usually it must be remembered asleep, sushupta. The chetana or waking consciousness has no access; it lies behind our active consciousness, is, as we might say, superconscious, for us, asleep. Saraswati brings it forward into active consciousness by means of the ketu or perceptive intelligence, that essential movement of mind which accepts & realises whatever is presented to it. To focus this ketu, this essential perception on the higher truth by drawing it away from the haphazard disorder of sensory data is the great aim of Yogic meditation. Saraswati by fixing essential perception on the satyam ritam brihat above makes ideal knowledge active and is able to inform it with all those plentiful movements of mind which she, dhiyavasu, vajebhir vajinivati, has prepared for the service of the Master of the sacrifice. She is able to govern all the movements of understanding without exception in their thousand diverse movements & give them the single impression of truth and right thinkingvisva dhiyo vi rajati. A governed & ordered activity of soul and mind, led by the Truth-illuminated intellect, is the aim of the sacrifice which Madhuchchhanda son of Viswamitra is offering to the Gods.
For we perceive at once that the yajna here can be no material sacrifice, no mere pouring out of the Soma-wine on the sacred flame to the gods of rain & cloud, star & sunshine.
Saraswati is not even here the goddess of speech whose sole function is to inspire & guide the singer in his hymn. In other passages she may be merely Bharati,theMuse. But here there are greater depths of thought & soul-experience. She has to do things which mere speech cannot do. And even if we were to take her here as the divine Muse, still the functions asked of her are too great, there is too little need of all these high intellectual motions, for a mere invitation to Rain&Star Gods to share in a pouring of the Soma-wine. She could do that without all this high intellectual & spiritual labour. Even, therefore, if it be a material sacrifice whichMadhuchchhanda is offering, its material aspects can be no more than symbolical. Unless indeed the rest of the hymn contradicts the intellectual & spiritual purport which we have discovered in these closing verses, fullon the face of them & accepting the plainest & most ordinary meaning for each single word in themof deep psychological knowledge, moral & spiritual aspiration & a supreme poetical art.
I do not propose to study the earlier verses of the hymn with the same care as we have expended on the closing dedication to Saraswati,that would lead me beyond my immediate purpose. A rapid glance through them to see whether they confirm or contradict our first results will be sufficient. There are three passages, also of three verses each, consecrated successively to the Aswins, Indra & the Visve Devah. I shall give briefly my own view of these three passages and the gods they invoke.
The master word of the address to the Aswins is the verb chanasyatam, take your delight. The Aswins, as I understand them, are the masters of strength, youth, joy, swiftness, pleasure, rapture, the pride and glory of existence, and may almost be described as the twin gods of youth and joy. All the epithets applied to them here support this view. They are dravatpani subhaspati, the swift-footed masters of weal, of happiness and good fortune; they are purubhuja, much enjoying; their office is to take and give delight, chanasyatam. So runs the first verse, Aswin yajwaririsho dravatpani subhaspati, Purubhuja chanasyatam. O Aswins, cries Madhuchchhanda, I am in the full rush, the full ecstasy of the sacrificial action, O swift-footed, much-enjoying masters of happiness, take in me your delight. Again they are purudansasa, wide-distributing, nara, strong. O strong wide-distributing Aswins, continues the singer, with your bright-flashing (or brilliantly-forceful) understanding take pleasure in the words (of the mantra) which are now firmly settled (in the mind). Aswina purudansasa nara shaviraya dhiya, Dhishnya vanatam girah. Again we have the stress on things subjective, intellectual and spiritual. The extreme importance of the mantra, the inspired & potent word in the old Vedic religion is known nor has it diminished in later Hinduism. The mantra in Yoga is only effective when it has settled into the mind, is asina, has taken its seat there and become spontaneous; it is then that divine power enters into, takes possession of it and the mantra itself becomes one with the god of the mantra and does his works in the soul and body. This, as every Yogin knows, is one of the fundamental ideas not only in the Rajayogic practice but in almost all paths of spiritual discipline. Here we have the very word that can most appropriately express this settling in of the mantra, dhishnya, combined with the word girah. And we know that the gods in the Veda are called girvanah, those who delight in the mantra; Indra, the god of mental force, is girvahas, he who supports or bears the mantra. Why should Nature gods delight in speech or the god of thunder & rain be the supporter or bearer of any kind of speech? The hymns? But what is meant by bearing the hymns? We have to give unnatural meanings to vanas & vahas, if we wish to avoid this plain indication. In the next verse the epithets are dasra, bountiful, which, like wide-distributing is again an epithet appropriate to the givers of happiness, weal and youth, rudravartani, fierce & impetuous in all their ways, and Nasatya, a word of doubtful meaning which, for philological reasons, I take to mean gods of movement.As the movement indicated by this and kindred words n, (natare), especially meant a gliding, floating, swimming movement, the Aswins came to be especially the protectors of ships & sailors, and it is in this capacity that we find Castor & Polydeuces (Purudansas) acting, their Western counterparts, the brothers of Helen (Sarama), the swift riders of the Roman legend. O givers, O lords of free movement, runs the closing verse of this invocation, come to the outpourings of my nectar, be ye fierce in action;I feel full of youthful vigour, I have prepared the sacred grass,if that indeed be the true & early meaning of barhis. Dasra yuvakavah suta nasatya vriktabarhishah, Ayatam rudravartani. It is an intense rapture of the soul (rudravartani) which Madhuchchhandas asks first from the gods.Therefore his first call is to the Aswins.
Next, it is to Indra that he turns. I have already said that in my view Indra is the master of mental force. Let us see whether there is anything here to contradict the hypothesis. Indra yahi chitrabhano suta ime tu ayavah, Anwibhis tana putasah. Indrayahi dhiyeshito viprajutah sutavatah Upa brahmani vaghatah. Indrayahi tutujana upa brahmani harivah Sute dadhishwa nas chanah. There are several important words here that are doubtful in their sense, anwi, tana, vaghatah, brahmani; but none of them are of importance for our present purpose except brahmani. For reasons I shall give in the proper place I do not accept Brahma in the Veda as meaning speech of any kind, but as either soul or a mantra of the kind afterwards called dhyana, the object of which was meditation and formation in the soul of the divine Power meditated on whether in an image or in his qualities. It is immaterial which sense we take here. Indra, sings the Rishi, arrive, O thou of rich and varied light, here are these life-streams poured forth, purified, with vital powers, with substance. Arrive, O Indra, controlled by the understanding, impelled forward in various directions to my soul faculties, I who am now full of strength and flourishing increase. Arrive, O Indra, with protection to my soul faculties, O dweller in the brilliance, confirm our delight in the nectar poured. It seems to me that the remarkable descriptions dhiyeshito viprajutah are absolutely conclusive, that they prove the presence of a subjective Nature Power, not a god of rain & tempest, & prove especially a mind-god. What is it but mental force which comes controlled by the understanding and is impelled forward by it in various directions? What else is it that at the same time protects by its might the growing & increasing soul faculties from impairing & corrupting attack and confirms, keeps safe & continuous the delight which the Aswins have brought with them? The epithets chitrabhano, harivas become at once intelligible and appropriate; the god of mental force has indeed a rich and varied light, is indeed a dweller in the brilliance. The progress of the thought is clear. Madhuchchhanda, as a result of Yogic practice, is in a state of spiritual & physical exaltation; he has poured out the nectar of vitality; he is full of strength & ecstasy This is the sacrifice he has prepared for the gods. He wishes it to be prolonged, perhaps to be made, if it may now be, permanent. The Aswins are called to give & take the delight, Indra to supply & preserve that mental force which will sustain the delight otherwise in danger of being exhausted & sinking by its own fierceness rapidly consuming its material in the soul faculties. The state and the movement are one of which every Yogin knows.
But he is not content with the inner sacrifice. He wishes to pour out this strength & joy in action on the world, on his fellows, on the peoples, therefore he calls to the Visve Devah to come, A gata!all the gods in general who help man and busy themselves in supporting his multitudinous & manifold action. They are kindly, omasas, they are charshanidhrito, holders or supporters of all our actions, especially actions that require effort, (it is in this sense that I take charshani, again on good philological grounds), they are to distribute this nectar to all or to divide it among themselves for the action,dasvanso may have either force,for Madhuchchhanda wishes not only to possess, but to give, to distribute, he is dashush. Omasas charshanidhrito visve devasa a gata, daswanso dashushah sutam. He goes on, Visve devaso apturah sutam a ganta turnayah Usra iva swasarani. Visve devaso asridha ehimayaso adruhah, Medham jushanta vahnayah. O you all-gods who are energetic in works, come to the nectar distilled, ye swift ones, (or, come swiftly), like calves to their own stalls,(so at least we must translate this last phrase, till we can get the real meaning, for I do not believe this is the real or, at any rate, the only meaning). O you all-gods unfaltering, with wide capacity of strength, ye who harm not, attach yourselves to the offering as its supporters. And then come the lines about Saraswati. For although Indra can sustain for a moment or for a time he is at present a mental, not an ideal force; it is Saraswati full of the vijnana, of mahas, guiding by it the understanding in all its ways who can give to all these gods the supporting knowledge, light and truth which will confirm and uphold the delight, the mental strength & supply inexhaustibly from the Ocean of Mahas the beneficent & joy-giving action,Saraswati, goddess of inspiration, the flowing goddess who is the intermediary & channel by which divine truth, divine joy, divine being descend through the door of knowledge into this human receptacle. In a word, she is our inspirer, our awakener, our lurer towards Immortality. It is immortality that Madhuchchhandas prepares for himself & the people who do sacrifice to Heaven, devayantah. The Soma-streams he speaks of are evidently no intoxicating vegetable juices; he calls them ayavah, life-forces; & elsewhere amritam, nectar of immortality; somasah, wine-draughts of bliss & internal well being. It is the clear Yogic idea of the amritam, the divine nectar which flows into the system at a certain stage of Yogic practice & gives pure health, pure strength & pure physical joy to the body as a basis for a pure mental & spiritual vigour and activity.
We have therefore as a result of a long and careful examination the clear conviction that certainly in this poem of Madhuchchhanda, probably in others of his hymns, perhaps in all we have an invocation to subjective Nature powers, a symbolic sacrifice, a spiritual, moral & subjective effort & purpose. And if many other suktas in this & other Mandalas confirm the evidence of this third hymn of the Rigveda, shall we not say that here we have the true Veda as the Rishis understood it and that this was the reason why all the ancient thinkers looked on the hymns with so deep-seated a reverence that even after they came to be used merely as ceremonial liturgies at a material sacrifice, even after the Buddha impatiently flung them aside, the writer of the Gita had to look beyond them & Shankara respectfully put them on the shelf of neglect as useless for spiritual purposes, even after they have ceased to be used and almost to be read, the most spiritual nation on the face of the earth still tenaciously, by a sort of divine instinct, clings to them as its supreme Scriptures & refers back all its spirituality and higher knowledge to the Vedas? Let us proceed and see whether this is not the truest as well as the noblest reading of the riddlethe real root of Gods purpose in maintaining this our ancient faith and millennial tradition.
Varuna and The Law
The characteristics of Varuna in the Veda have given pause even to its naturalistic interpreters and compelled them to admit the presence of moral ideas and a subjective element in the Rishis conception of their divinities. They admit it grudgingly and attempt to give it as crude and primitive an appearance as possible, but the moral & supernatural functions of Varuna are undeniable. Yet Varuna is the Greek Ouranos, which is simply & plainly the sky, Akasha. Ouranos in Greek myth is a colourless presence, parent by his union with Earth, Akasha with Prithivi, of all beings but especially of Kronos & the Titans, the elder gods, the first masters of heaven. There is no resemblance here to Varuna. Farther to complicate the task of the modern mythologists, Varuna in later Sanscrit has fallen from his skies & become the god of the Ocean. By what extraordinary chemical process of the imagination was the god of the sky converted into the god of the Ocean? Because both are blue, one is driven to suppose! That would be material enough and crude enough to satisfy the firmest believer in the intellectual crudity & semi-savagery of the Vedic Rishis. But let us leave aside the shadowy Greek Ouranos and look a little from our own standpoint at this mighty Vedic Varuna.
We get our first mention of Varuna at the end of the second hymn in the Rigveda, the hymn of Madhuchchhandas in which he calls, as in the third, on several gods, first to Vayu, then to Vayu and Indra together, last, Varuna and Mitra. Arrive, he says, O Vayu, O beautiful one, lo these Soma-powers in their array (is it not a battle-array?), protect them, hear their call! O Vayu, strongly thy lovers woo thee with prayers (or, desires), they have distilled the nectar, they have found their strength (or, they know the day?). O Vayu, thy abounding stream moves for the giver, it is wide for the drinking of the Soma-juice. O Indra & Vayu, here are the outpourings, come to them with outputtings of strength, the powers of delight desire you both. Thou, O Vayu, awake, and Indra, to the outpourings of the Soma, you who are rich in power of your plenty; so (that is, rich in power) come to me, for the foe has attacked. Come O Vayu, and Indra, to the distiller of the nectar, expel the foe, swiftly hither strong by the understanding. And then comes the closing call to Mitra & Varuna. I call Mitra of purified discernment and Varuna who destroys the foe, they who effect a bright and gracious understanding. By Law of Truth, Mitra and Varuna, who by the Truth increase and to the Truth attain, enjoy a mighty strength. Mitra and Varuna, the seers, born in Force, dwellers in the Vast, uphold Daksha (the discerning intelligence) at his work.
There are here a number of words whose exact meaning is exceedingly important for any fruitful enquiry into the religious significance of the Vedas. The most important, the decisive & capital word in the passage is Ritam. Whatever it may be held to mean, it will decide for us the essential character of Varuna & his constant comradeMitra. I have already suggested in my first chapter the sense in which I understand Ritam. It is its ordinary sense in Sanscrit. Ritam is Truth, Law, that which is straight, upright, direct, rectum; it is that which gives everything its place & its motion (ritu), that which constitutes reason (ratio) in mind and rectitude in morals,it is the rightness or righteousness which makes the stars move in their orbits, the seasons occur in their order, thought & speech move towards truth, trees grow according to their seed, animals act according to their species & nature, & man walk in the paths which God has prescribed for him. It is that in the Akashathe Akasha where Varuna is lordwhich develops arrangement & order, it is the element of law in Nature. But not only in material Nature, not only in the moral akasha even,the akasha of the heart of which the Rishis spoke, but on higher levels also. I have pointed out that Ritam is the law of the Truth, of vijnana. It is this ideal Truth, the Truth of being, by which everything animate or inanimate knows in its fibres of being & serves in action & feeling the truth of itself, in which Law is born. This Law which belongs to Satyam, to the Mahas, is Ritam. Neither of the English words,Law & Truth, gives the idea; they have to be combined in order to be equivalent to ritam. Well, then Varuna is represented to us as increasing in his nature by this Truth & Law, attaining to it or possessing it; Law & Truth are the source of his strength, the means by which he has arrived at his present force & mightiness.
But he is more than that; he is tuvijata, urukshaya. Uru, we shall find in other hymns, the Vast, is a word used as equivalent to Brihat to describe the ideal level of consciousness, the kingdom of ideal knowledge, in its aspect of joyous comprehensive wideness and capacity. It is clearly told us that men by overcoming & passing beyond the two firmaments of Mind-invitality, Bhuvar, & mind in intellectuality, Swar, arrive in the Vast, Uru, and make it their dwelling place. Therefore Uru must be taken as equivalent to Brihat; it must mean Mahas. Our Vedic Varuna, then, is a dweller in Mahas, in the vastness of ideal knowledge. But he is not born there; he is born or appears first in tuvi, that is, in strength or force. Since Uru definitely means the Vast, means Mahas, means a particular plane of consciousness, is, in short, a fixed term of Vedic psychology, it is inevitable that tuvi thus coupled with it and yet differentiated, must be another fixed term of Vedic psychology & must mean another plane of consciousness. We have found the meaning of Mahas by consulting Purana & Vedanta as well as the Veda itself. Have we any similar light on the significance of Tuvi? Yes. The Puranas describe to us three worlds above Maharloka,called, respectively, in the Puranic system, Jana, Tapas and Satya. By a comparison with Vedantic psychology we know that Jana must be the world of Ananda of which the Mahajana Atma is the sustaining Brahman as the Mahan Atma is the sustaining Brahman of the vijnana, and we get this light on the subject that, just as Bhur, Bhuvah, Swar are the lower or human half of existence, the aparardha of the Brahmanda, (the Brahma-circle or universe of manifest consciousness), and answer objectively to the subjective field covered by Annam, Prana & Manas, just as Mahas is the intermediate world, link between the divine & human hemispheres, and corresponds to the subjective region of Vijnana, so Jana, Tapas & Satya are the divine half of existence, & answer to the Ananda with its two companion principles Sat andChit, the three constituting the Trinity of those psychological states which are, to & in our consciousness, Sacchidananda,God sustaining from above His worlds. But why is the world of Chit called Tapoloka? According to our conceptions this universe has been created by & in divine Awareness by Force, Shakti, or Power which [is] inherent in Awareness, Force of Awareness or Chit Shakti that moves, forms & realises whatever it wills in Being. This force, this Chit-shakti in its application to its work, is termed in the ancient phraseology Tapas. Therefore, it is told us that when Brahma the Creator lay uncreative on the great Ocean, he listened & heard a voice crying over the waters OM Tapas! OM Tapas! and he became full of the energy of the mantra & arose & began creation. Tapas & Tu or Tuvi are equivalent terms. We can see at once the meaning. Varuna, existing no doubt in Sat, appears or is born to us in Tapas, in the sea of force put out in itself by the divine Awareness, & descending through divine delight which world is in Jana, in production or birth by Tapas, through Ananda, that is to say, into the manifest world, dwells in ideal knowledge & Truth and makes there Ritam or the Law of the Truth of Being his peculiar province. It is the very process of all creation, according to our Vedic&Vedantic Rishis. Descending into the actual universe we find Varuna master of the Akash or ether, matrix and continent of created things, in the Akash watching over the development of the created world & its peoples according to the line already fixed by ideal knowledge as suitable to their nature and purposeyathatathyato vihitam shashwatibhyah samabhyahand guiding the motion of things & souls in the line of theritam. It is in his act of guidance and bringing to perfection of the imperfect that he increases by the law and the truth, desires it and naturally attains to it, has the spriha & the sparsha of the ritam. It is from his fidelity to ideal Truth that he acquires the mighty power by which he maintains the heavens and orders its worlds in their appointed motion.
Such is his general nature and power. But there are also certain particular subjective functions to which he is called. He is rishadasa, he harries and slays the enemies of the soul, and with Mitra of pure discernment he works at the understanding till he brings it to a gracious pureness and brightness. He is like Agni, a kavih, one of those who has access to and commands ideal knowledge and with Mitra he supports and upholds Daksha when he is at his works; for so I take Daksham apasam. Mitra has already been described as having a pure daksha. The adjective daksha means in Sanscrit clever, intelligent, capable, like dakshina, like the Greek . We may also compare the Greek , meaning judgment, opinion etc & , I think or seem, and Latin doceo, I teach, doctrina etc. As these identities indicate, Daksha is originally he who divides, analyses, discerns; he is the intellectual faculty or in his person the master of the intellectual faculty which discerns and distinguishes. Therefore was Mitra able to help in making the understanding bright & pure,by virtue of his purified discernment.
So much Varuna does but what is he actually?We cannot tell with accuracy until we have separated him from his companion Mitra. We come across him next no longer in company withMitra, but still not by himself, accompanied this time by Indra and helping him in his work, in the seventeenth sukta of the first Mandala, a hymn of Medhatithi Kanwa, a hymn whose burden is joy, calm, purity & fulfilment. Of Indra & Varuna, the high rulers, I choose the protection, may they be gracious to us in this our state (of attainment). For ye are they who come to the call of the enlightened soul that can contain you; you are they who are upbearers of his actions. Take ye your pleasure to your hearts content in the felicity, O Indra, O Varuna; so we desire you utterly near to us. May we gain the full pitch of the powers, the full vigour of the right thoughts that give men the assured plenty.Indra is the desirable Strength of all that gives force, Varuna of all that is ample & noble. By their protection may we remain in safety and meditate, may there be indeed an utter purification. Indra and Varuna, I call you for rich and varied ecstasy, do ye render us victorious. Indra and Varuna, now may our understandings be entirely obedient to you, that in them you may give to us peace. May the good praise be grateful to you, O Indra & Varuna, which I call aloud to you, the fulfilling praise which you bring to prosperity.
We are no longer with Madhuchchhanda Vaiswamitra. It is Medhatithi of the Kanwas who has taken the word, a soul of great clearness & calmness who is full of a sort of vibrating peace. Yet we find the same strain, the same fixed ideas, the same subjective purpose & spiritual aspiration. A few words here & there in my translation may be challenged and given a different meaning. Throughout the Veda there are words like radhas etc to which I have given a sense based on reasons of context & philology but which must be allowed to remain conjectural till I am able to take up publicly the detailed examination of the language & substance of the Rigveda. But we have sumati again and the ever recurring vaja, the dhartara charshaninam, holders of actions, & rayah which certainly meant felicity in the Veda. It is clear from the third verse that Varuna and Indra are called to share in the felicity of the poets soul,that felicity is his material of sacrifice,anukamam tarpayetham, he says, Delight in it to your hearts content; and again in the seventh shloka he tells them, Vam aham huve chitraya radhase, a phrase which, in view of verse 3, I can only translate I call you for rich and varied ecstasy; for it is evidently meant to describe that felicity, that heart-filling satisfaction which he has already offered in the third sloka. In return he asks them to give victory. Always in the Veda there is the idea of the spiritual battle as well as the outer struggles of life, the battle with the jealous forces of Nature, with Vala, the grudging guardian of light, with the great obscuring dragon Vritra & his hosts, with the thieving Panis, with all the many forces that oppose mans evolution & support limitation and evil. A great many of the words for sacrifice, mean also war and battle, in Sanscrit or in its kindred tongues.
Indra and Varuna are called to give victory, because both of them are samrat. The words samrat & swarat have in Veda an ascertained philosophical sense.One is swarat when, having self-mastery & self-knowledge, & being king over his whole system, physical, vital, mental & spiritual, free in his being, [one] is able to guide entirely the harmonious action of that being. Swarajya is spiritual Freedom. One is Samrat when one is master of the laws of being, ritam, rituh, vratani, and can therefore control all forces & creatures. Samrajya is divine Rule resembling the power of God over his world. Varuna especially is Samrat, master of the Law which he follows, governor of the heavens & all they contain, Raja Varuna, Varuna the King as he is often styled by Sunahshepa and other Rishis. He too, like Indra & Agni & the Visvadevas, is an upholder & supporter of mens actions, dharta charshaninam. Finally in the fifth sloka a distinction is drawn between Indra and Varuna of great importance for our purpose. The Rishi wishes, by their protection, to rise to the height of the inner Energies (yuvaku shachinam) and have the full vigour of right thoughts (yuvaku sumatinam) because they give then that fullness of inner plenty (vajadavnam) which is the first condition of enduring calm & perfection & then he says, Indrah sahasradavnam, Varunah shansyanam kratur bhavati ukthyah. Indra is the master-strength, desirable indeed, (ukthya, an object of prayer, of longing and aspiration) of one class of those boons (vara, varyani) for which the Rishis praise him, Varuna is the master-strength, equally desirable, of another class of these Vedic blessings. Those which Indra brings, give force, sahasram, the forceful being that is strong to endure & strong to overcome; those that attend the grace of Varuna are of a loftier & more ample description, they are shansya. The word shansa is frequently used; it is one of the fixed terms of Veda. Shall we translate it praise, the sense most suitable to the ritual explanation, the sense which the finally dominant ritualistic school gave to so many of the fixed terms of Veda? In that case Varuna must be urushansa, because he is widely praised, Agni narashansa because he is strongly praised or praised by men,ought not a wicked or cruel man to be nrishansa because he is praised by men?the Rishis call repeatedly on the gods to protect their praise, & Varuna here must be master of things that are praiseworthy. But these renderings can only be accepted, if we consent to the theory of the Rishis as semi-savage poets, feeble of brain, vague in speech, pointless in their style, using language for barbaric ornament rather than to express ideas. Here for instance there is a very powerful indicated contrast, indicated by the grammatical structure, the order & the rhythm, by the singular kratur bhavati, by the separation of Indra & Varuna who have hitherto been coupled, by the assignment of each governing nominative to its governed genitive and a careful balanced order of words, first giving the master Indra then his province sahasradavnam, exactly balancing them in the second half of the first line the master Varuna & then his province shansyanam, and the contrast thus pointed, in the closing pada of the Gayatri all the words that in their application are common at once to all these four separated & contrasted words in the first line. Here is no careless writer, but a style careful, full of economy, reserve, point, force, and the thought must surely correspond. But what is the contrast forced on us with such a marshalling of the stylists resources? That Indras boons are force-giving, Varunas praiseworthy, excellent, auspicious, what you will? There is not only a pointless contrast, but no contrast at all. No, shansa & shansya must be important, definite, pregnant Vedic terms expressing some prominent idea of the Vedic system. I shall show elsewhere that shansa is in its essential meaning self-expression, the bringing out of our sat or being that which is latent in it and manifesting it in our nature, in speech, in our general impulse & action. It has the connotation of self-expression, aspiration, temperament, expression of our ideas in speech; then divulgation, publication, praiseor in another direction, cursing. Varuna is urushansa because he is the master of wide self-expression, wide aspirations, a wide, calm & spacious temperament, Agni narashansa because he is master of strong self-expression, strong aspirations, a prevailing, forceful & masterful temperament;nrishansa had originally the same sense, but was afterwards diverted to express the fault to which such a temper is prone,tyranny, wrath & cruelty; the Rishis call to the gods to protect their shansa, that which by their yoga & yajna they have been able to bring out in themselves of being, faculty, power, joy,their self-expression. Similarly, shansya here means all that belongs to self-expression, all that is wide, noble, ample in the growth of a soul. It will follow from this rendering that Indra is a god of force, Varuna rather a god of being and as it appears from other epithets, of being when it is calm, noble, wide, self-knowing, self-mastering, moving freely in harmony with the Law of things because it is aware of that Law and accepts it. In that acceptance is his mighty strength; therefore is he even more than the gods of force the king, the giver of internal & external victory, rule, empire, samrajya to his votaries. This is Varuna.
We see the results & the conditions of the action ofVaruna in the four remaining verses. By their protection we have safety from attack, sanema, safety for our shansa, our rayah, our radhas, by the force of Indra, by the protecting greatness of Varuna against which passion & disturbance cast themselves in vain, only to be destroyed. This safety & this settled ananda or delight, we use for deep meditation, ni dhimahi, we go deep into ourselves and the object we have in view in our meditation is prarechanam, the Greek katharsis, the cleansing of the system mental, bodily, vital, of all that is impure, defective, disturbing, inharmonious. Syad uta prarechanam! In this work of purification we are sure to be obstructed by the powers that oppose all healthful change; but Indra & Varuna are to give us victory, jigyushas kritam. The final result of the successful purification is described in the eighth sloka. The powers of the understanding, its various faculties & movements, dhiyah, delivered from self-will & rebellion, become obedient to Indra & Varuna; obedient to Varuna, they move according to the truth & law, the ritam; obedient to Indra they fulfil with that passivity in activity, which we seek by Yoga, all the works to which mental force can apply itself when it is in harmony with Varuna & the ritam. The result is sharma, peace. Nothing is more remarkable in the Veda than the exactness with which hymn after hymn describes with a marvellous simplicity & lucidity the physical & psychological processes through which Indian Yoga proceeds. The process, the progression, the successive movements of the soul here described are exactly what the Yogin experiences today so many thousands of years after the Veda was revealed. No wonder, it is regarded as eternal truth, not the expression of any particular mind, not paurusheya but impersonal, divine & revealed.
This hymn differs greatly, interestingly & instructively, from the hymn in which Varuna first appears. There the object is to ensure the ananda, the rayah & radhas spoken of in this hymn by the advent of the gods of Vitality & Mind-Force, Indra & Vayu, to protect from the attack of disintegrating forces the Soma or Amrita, the juice of immortality expressed in the Yogins system. Varuna & Mitra are then called for a particular & restricted purpose to perfect the discernment & to uphold it in its works by the sustaining force of a calm, wide, comprehensive self-expression full of peace & love. The Rishi of that sukta is using the amrita to feed the activity of a sattwic state of mind for acquiring added knowledge. The present hymn belongs to a more advanced state of the Yoga. It is sadhastuti, a hymn of fulfilment or for fulfilment, in which peace & a calm, assured, untroubled activity of the soul are very near. Varuna here leads. He is here for Indras purposes, but his activity predominates; it is his spirit that pervades the action and purpose of the hymn.
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