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Enclyopedia of Vedas & Upanishads

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The Vedas are the most sacred scriptures of Hinduism. According to tradition, when God creates the worlds, He reveals the Vedas for the welfare of the worlds and when He ends the creation, He takes them back again. Some people say that all human knowledge is available in the Vedas in symbolic form and that the knowledge of all our discoveries and inventions is already contained in the Vedas. It is true that the Vedas are not mere books of some magical chants. They are loaded with spiritual knowledge, which reveals itself to the degree we are spiritually advanced.

/images/graemlins/smile.gif Jai Shri Krishna

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Hymns from the Vedas

The Vedas are very exhaustive scriptures. Each veda contains several sections and thousands of hymns. Some of the Vedic hymns, especially the hymns of the Rig veda, are considered to be at least 6000-8000 years old.


The Vedas are believed to be revealed scriptures, because they are considered to be divine in origin. Since they were not written by any human beings but were only heard in deep meditative states, they are commonly referred as "srutis" or "those that were heard".


The principal Vedas were originally only three in number, namely, the Rig veda, the Yajur veda and the Sama veda. Atharva veda, the fourth one was added later on. Together the first three were called "trayi vidya", which constituted the threefold knowledge. The name 'Rig veda' was derived from the root word 'Rik' which means 'to worship'. The name Yajur Veda came from the root word 'Yaj' which also means the same. But in course of time the Rig Vedic hymns became popular as hymns for chanting and recitation, while the hymns of the Yajur veda came to be associated more with the sacrificial ritualistic aspects of yajna worship.


The name 'Sama veda ' came from the root word 'saman' meaning music. Most of the 1549 hymns of the Sama Veda are derived from the Rig veda. But in the Sama veda they acquired musical connotation. During the yajna or sacrificial worship, the priest would chant hymns from all the three vedas in a systematic manner. The Hotr priest would chant hymns from the Rig veda. The Adhvaryu priest , would busy himself with the chanting of the hymns from the Yajur veda and the performance of various sacrificial acts according to detailed specifications, while the Udgatir priest would sit and sing the hymns from Sama veda to the accompaniment of some musical instrument such as the lute or vina.


The Atharva veda was recognized as the fourth veda during the later vedic period. It contains hymns which deal mostly with the practical and philosophic aspects of human existence The hymns deal with such themes as social conduct, success in trade and agriculture, relationships, human welfare and such practical matters.


Each Veda is divided into four parts. The first part is called the Samhita, which is the mantra proper. The second part is called the Aranyaka. The third part is called the Brahmana, which deals with the sacrificial and ritualistic aspects of the Vedas in prose form. The fourth part is called the Upanishad, which deals with the esoteric mystic aspects of the Supreme Self and the inner self.


The Vedas throw considerable light on the scope and nature of vedic religion and the life of the early Aryans. We have presented a few sample hymns from the Rig veda and also representative links to different vedas to acquaint the readers with the basic concepts of the four Vedas. We have also added the complete translation of the four Vedas to our sacred scriptures archives which you can now download into your computer and read at leisure.


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Symbolism in Sanatana Dharma: The Vedic Deities

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The vedic deities are not only forces of nature, but also forces that exist in the physical body and help the individual in his spiritual progress to overcome certain impediments. Symbolic significance of the Vedic deities is discussed in detail by Shri Aurobindo in his book entitled, "The Secret of the Vedas." The views expressed here are based upon his interpretation.


According to Shri Aurobindo, one should not consider the vedic imagery as mere imagery. The gods, goddesses and the demons mentioned in the Vedas represent various cosmic powers. They play a significant role in the drama of creation not only in the external world but in the inner world of a human being.


When a person is making spiritual progress it is imperative that he has to ensure the development of these godheads in him also so that the required spiritual perfection is attained at all levels. The gods have to be strengthened and the demons have to be slain in order to attain perfection at all levels- "in the wideness of the earth, our physical being and consciousness"


According to the key provided by Shri Aurobindo, the outer form of a Vedic ritual has an inner corresponding ritual. A ritual is a sacrifice, an attempt to fulfill the purpose of creation, to elevate the status of man to that of a godhead or a cosmic man.


In such a ritual at the inner level, Agni is the divine spark in man, the inner soul. The ghee or the clarified butter that is offered to him is the mind. The sacrificial food or annam, consisting of grains, seeds etc, stands for the physical body which is but an altered state of annam or food only.


Once the divine spark (Agni) is invoked, he wakes up the latent energies or divine powers hidden in man, (the various gods and goddesses), to share the fruits of the sacrifice and assist the individual, (the performer of the sacrifice), in his spiritual awakening, transformation, purification and evolution.


The symbolic significance of the Vedic gods is further explained from here on. Indra is the awakened mind or the illumined mind, who in the mythology appears as the lord of the heavens and exists in the body as the Lord of the senses, one who has attained control over his senses. Vrata the snake demon, whom he slays in order to release the waters for the people of earth, is the dark mentality, the mass of negative and ignorant consciousness which hides all the cows( the rays of Truth) in the caves of panis or sense-driven life.


The Rudras and the Maruts are the positive forces which aid Indra in his fight against evil forces. The Ribhus are the seasons, which stand for the various stages or phases through which a person has to undergo the process of spiritual progress.


Once the senses are controlled and the mind is stabilized through slaying of all the dark powers, comes the awakening, the goddess of Usha, who brings along with her Ashwins into the world of inner consciousness. These Ashwins are the horses, the spiritual energies that enable the individual to make a swift progress towards enlightenment.


After Ushas appear Aditi, the Primal Sun, the God of Light, first as Savitr,who represents the Divine grace essential for all spiritual success, and then as Mitra, who as the Divine love is considered as a friend of the illumined mind(Indra)and his associates (the other gods.


After the Sun of Truth, appear Ritha (Truth in Action) and Ritachit (Truth consciousness. The various Goddesses also appear at this stage, Ila (Goddess of Truth vision), Saraswathi (Goddess of knowledge and wisdom), Sarama (the intuitive mind) and Dakshina (goddess of discernment and and ability).


The Vedic Yagna is therefore an act of supreme sacrifice, if performed well at the spiritual level would lead to enlightenment and salvation.


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The Vedic Pantheon

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By vedic gods we mean those divinities (devas) who are mentioned in the four Vedas. The principal Vedic gods are said to be 33 in number, namely eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapathi Brahma. These gods belong to the three regions of the earth (prithvi), the heavens (Dyaus) and the intermediate space (Antariksha).




Indra is the lord of the heavens. He is the most popular and powerful of the vedic deities. He is described as the god of the blue sky. He rides a white elephant called Airavata and wields the dazzling weapon of lightening called Vajrayudh made by another god Tvastur. He fought many battles to drive the demons away and ensure victory to the gods. He also destroyed many cities of his enemies. His most famous achievement was slaying of Vratasura. He killed the demon of the dark skies (symbolically the clouds) with his weapon (the lightning) and released the cows (waters) that were held in captivity by him.


Prone to drinking soma, often losing control over himself, mighty and sensuous, always concerned about his survival and status as the leader, at times scheming and at times troubled, Indra is more like a king upon the earth than of heavens. He has a spiritual side too. According to the Kena Upanishad, he is the only god to have gone nearest to Brahman and was to know Him as Brahman. This act of him earned him the right to become the ruler of heavens. In the Chandogya Upanishad we are told that he studied under Prajapathi Brahma and learned the secrets of immortality. in the images, Indra is generally shown with four arms and as riding on a while elephant. Sometimes he is shown with his wife, Sachidevi, but mostly alone. With the emergence of Saivism and Bhagavatism in the post Vedic period, the importance of Indra gradually declined.




If we find in Indra the qualities of a war lord or a typical king, in Varuna we see the earliest signs of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and compassionate God, the precursor the Upanishadic Brahman. Varuna is the ruler of the worlds, the ordainer and enforcer of law and upholder of the world order. In one of the Rigvedic hymns he is described as the Lord of the earth and heaven who sustains the tree that has its roots in heaven and braches down below. This description reminds us of the famous Asvattha tree of the latter day scriptures.


Varuna is the knower of all and controller of all. He is the supreme God capable of controlling and dispensing justice. "He knows the path of birds that fly through heaven, and, Sovran of the sea. He knows the ships that are thereon. True to his holy law, he knows the twelve moons with their progeny. He knows the moon of later birth. He knows the pathway of the wind, the spreading, high, and mighty wind. He knows the Gods who dwell above. Varuna, true to holy law, sits down among his people; he, Most wise, sits there to govern. all." (R.V)


And how does he know all this? With innumerable spies (rays of light) who are spread every where acting as his eyes and ears, he knows all that goes on in this world. If two people talking together, beware that Varuna is there watching every thing that is going on. Born to Aditi, and friend and brother of Mitra, Varuna is the protector, "the Holy One, helper of all mankind, the law maker whose holy laws remain unweakened." Together with Mitra, he controls the world order, Rta and when people transgress the moral order and commit sin, he knows and punishes them. But if they repent and seek forgiveness, he forgives them too.


He causes the rains to come down and the sun to travel. He makes the rivers flow. The rivers that flows because of him know no weariness, nor they cease flowing. Many invocations of Varuna repeatedly beseech him to forgive sins, like this one," If we have sinned against the man who loves us, have ever wronged a brother, friend, or comrade, the neighbor ever with us, or a stranger, O Varuna, remove from us the trespass. If we, as gamesters cheat at play, have cheated, done wrong unwittingly or sinned of purpose, cast all these sins away like loosened fetters, and, Varuna let us be thine own beloved."


Varuna lost much of his importance as an omnipotent and omnipresent god after Indra assumed more prominence. He was subsequently relegated, or rather demoted to the position of a dikpala or ruler of a quarter (the western hemisphere) and lord of the oceans and water.


In the iconography he is depicted as the rider of a chariot drawn by seven swans, with four hands and an umbrella over his head. In some images the swans are replace by a crocodile, suggestive of his lordship over the aquatic life.



Agni is the chosen Priest, God, minister of sacrifice, the hotar, who lavishes wealth and dispels the darkness. Sapient-minded priest, truthful, most gloriously great, ruler of sacrifices, guard of Law eternal, radiant One, no sacrifice is complete without his presence. His presence verily ensures the success of a sacrifice, because whatever sacrifice he accepts goes to the gods. Agni is the messenger, the herald, master of all wealth, oblation-bearer, much beloved, who brings the willing Gods from the heavens and makes them sit on the grass with him near the sacrificial altar.


He is appointed by Manu as the priest. He is often invoked along with Indra, with whom he shares the passion for soma drink. He is also invoked along with Maruts probably to ward off the dangers of forest fires. Agni, was the earliest Angiras, a Seer. After his holy ordinance the Maruts, were born with their glittering spears. Addressed as immortal Jatavedas, many-hued effulgent gift of Dawn, bearer of offerings and the charioteer of sacrifice, Agni is the Lord of Red Steeds, who loves songs. Kind and bountiful giver of gifts, of wondrous fame, Agni is the friend of all, loved by many in their homes.


The Vedic Aryans were well aware of his destructive ability, as he sets the forests aflame. "Urged by the wind he spreads through dry wood as he lists, armed with his tongues for sickles, with a mighty roar. Black is thy path, Agni, changeless, with glittering waves! when like a bull thou rushes eager to the trees, with teeth of flame, wind-driven, through the wood he speeds, triumphant like a bull among the herd of cows, with bright strength roaming to the everlasting air: things fixed, things moving quake before him as he flies." We also know some thing about his origins. Matariswan brought him down from the heavens and handed him over to the Bhrigus for keeping.


In some of the hymns like the following ones, we see Agni being elevated to the status of a supreme god, " Agni is the Vaivashnara the center of all people ... He is in the sky as well as at the center of the earth." A similar notion can be found in this hymns also. "Commingling, restless, he ascends the sky, unveiling nights and all that stands or moves, as he the sole God is preeminent in greatness among all these other Gods."


In the images, Agni is depicted with two heads, long flowing hair, a pot belly, six eyes, seven hands, four horns and three legs. His seven hands represent the seven flames and the three legs represent the three worlds which he reigns. His pot belly denotes his love for rich oily food. His consorts are svaha and svadha. Being a dhoomaketu, smoke is his banner. The Ram is his vehicle, and the ram being a typical sacrificial animal, his association with it denotes his connection with sacrificial rituals.

Rudra and Rudras


The Rudra of the Rigveda is a militant god of storms and lightening and a "provider of medicines". Though he did not enjoy the same status as Indra, Rudra definitely enjoyed his own importance in the Vedic pantheon because of his tempestuous nature, his association with storms and storm gods called Maruts and his ability to bring medicines to the people to prolong their lives.


He is a fierce looking god, well built and golden in color, with braided hair, "of firm limbs, multiform, strong, tawny, who adorns himself with bright gold decorations. The strength of Godhead never departs from Rudra." Father of Maruts, the Rigvedic hymns describe him eloquently, "Of your pure medicines ... those that are most wholesome and health bestowing, those which our father Manu hath selected, I crave from. Rudra for our gain and welfare."


He wields the thunder bolt, bow and arrow, and sends down streaks of lightening shaking the worlds, making people nervous with fear and trepidation and disturbing the cattle in the cow pens. Intelligent, and benevolent, he protects people from their enemies. We do not know whether the Rigvedic Rudra was a precursor to the Rudra of later times. But the resemblance in some fundamental traits between the two and the appeal to both in prayers and supplications not to harm the cattle and the people with their anger, is too evident to be ignored.


The following hymn is one such example, which in many ways sounds like a verse from the Svetavatara Upanishad, "O Rudra, harm not either great or small of us, harm not the growing boy, harm not the full-grown man. Slay not a sire among us, slay no mother here, and to our own dear bodies, Rudra, do not harm. Harm us not, Rudra, in our seed and progeny, harm us not in the living, nor in cows or steeds, Slay not our heroes in the fury of thy wrath. Bringing oblations evermore we call to thee. Even as a herdsman I have brought thee hymns of praise: O Father of the Maruts, give us happiness, Blessed is thy most favoring benevolence, so, verily, do we desire thy saving help."


Some times the hymns refer to not just one Rudra but a group of Rudras eleven in number. According to some this is a symbolic reference to the ten vital breaths and the mind or suggestive of his association with the Maruts.



Mitra and Varuna are both lords of the heaven. Together they uphold the law, cause the cows to stream, the plants to flourish, and, "scattering swift drops, send down the rain-flood". Both are Adityas and mostly are invoked together probably because of their close friendship. The watchful twain, most potent, together uphold Rta or the moral order. "Firmly set in heaven is Mitra's home, and Aryaman's and Varuna's. Thence they give forth great vital strength which merits praise, high power of life that men shall praise." We are informed from the hymns that Mitra stirs men to action and sustains both earth and heaven. Both Mitra and Varuna are guardians of the world, who sit in a gold hued chariot from day break and behold the infinity. In course of time, Mitra came to be associated with morning light, while Varuna with night sky.



Vayu is a described in the Rigveda as a beautiful god, ideally the first partaker of soma juice which he seems to be especially fond of. He is a friend of Indra and a hero who shares the glory of victory with the latter. He is swift as mind, the thousand-eyed and the Lords of thought. He drives a chariot yoked with steeds, whose color vary from from red to purple and the number from two to hundreds and even thousands, depending upon the occasion. He is praised in the hymns as the Intelligence, who illumines the earth and heaven and makes the Dawn to shine.


For him the dawn spreads her radiant garments in the dark and distant skies. Invisible, he moves in the heavens as well as in the human body as the vital breath, like Rudra, Vayu also brings medicines to cure people. For his sake the cows yield milk, and to him the coward prays for luck. He is a protector of people whom he protects from every world and from the highest world of Gods (their wrath). In the post Vedic period, Vayu became the lord of the north western quarters and father of Hanuman and Bhima, symbols of immense strength, loyalty and brotherhood, which were the original qualities of Vayu as a trusted friend of Indra and protector of people. Blue in color, he is depicted with four hands. He holds a fan and a flag in two hands while the other two are held in abhaya and varada mudras (postures).



Surya is the blazing sun. He is one of the Adityas, god among gods, the light that is most excellent, golden colored, who rides the skies in his golden chariot, drawn by seven bay horses, who are described in the hymns as the daughters of heaven. He is said to be extremely brilliant, with radiant hair, who files in the skies like a bird and shines brightly like a jewel. Giver of power and strength, destroyer of laziness and darkness, with bright light radiating from him, he knows all that lives. Before him, the constellations pass away, like thieves, together with their beams. Swift and all beautiful , Surya is the maker of the light, who illumines the radiant realm, who goes to the hosts of Gods as well as to the world of mankind with his light. like Varuna, he is ever watchful. Because of his power and golden color, he is also depicted as provider of good health, who removes the heart disease and takes away the yellow hue (jaundice) to be given to the parrots, starlings and haritala trees.



The Vishnu in Rigveda, is the Supreme god,. He is also chief of the Adityas, with some qualities of the Vishnu of Bhagavatism. Like the Vishnu of Bhagavatism, he is a lover and protector of devotees in whose loved mansion all god loving creatures live happily. Like the Vishnu in his incarnation as Vamana, who strode the earth and the heaven in two paces and then crushed the demon king Bali with his third pace, the Vedic Vishnu is also a god of three strides, who upholds the threefold existence, the earth, the heaven and all living creatures and in whose three wide-extended paces inhabit all living creatures.


The Rigveda says that a mortal man, can behold two steps of him, who looks upon the light, but his third step no one venture to approach, not even the feathered birds of air that fly with wings. Described as the dweller of mountains and a bull with wide strides, who like a rounded wheel, sets in swift motion his ninety racing steeds together with the four, Vishnu is the ancient and the last, the primeval germ, with power supreme. Together with his spouse, he ordains and as a ruler of the three worlds, he helps the Aryan man, giving the worshipper his share of Holy Law.




Savitr is an Aditya who is described as golden eyed, golden handed and golden tongued. A solar deity, he is regarded as the sun before sun rise, but sometimes distinguished from the sun. He not only represents the golden sun of the morning, but the hidden sun of dark night also. Riding a golden chariot he comes, looking on everyone. In Bhagavatism Savitr is regarded as Narayana himself ie., Surya Narayana.


He moves both ways, upward and downward, and travels along "ancient dustless paths in the air's mid region with two bright adorable bays." From far away he comes to chases away all distress and sorrow, the rakshasas and the Yatudhanas and illumines the worlds. Mounting his golden chariot that is decked with colorful pearls and lofty with golden pole, he goes to darksome regions to illumine them.


Drawing the gold-yoked car with his white footed Bays, he manifests light to all the peoples. Held in his lap all men and all beings attain immortality. The golden-handed Savitar, far-seeing, goes on his way between the earth and heaven, drives away sickness, bids the Sun approach us, and spreads the bright sky through the darksome region.


Like other Adityas, he is an upholder of law and forgiver of penitent sinner. Some times he is described as superior to all the other gods, whose statutes none disobeys. "Him whose high law neither Varuna nor Indra, not Mitra, nor Aryaman, nor Rudra breaketh" The Gayatri mantra is addressed to Savitr of adorable splendor for the enlightenment of human consciousness.


Savitr is the most adorable, mysterious and effulgent god of mystic realms, who is considered to be the goal, the purpose and the object of meditation. When he descends into the consciousness, a golden disc with bright pointed rays, the inner world is lit up with the splendor of God and indescribable beauty. This author has been told by experienced people that whenever and wherever the Gayatri mantra is uttered with devotion and sincerity, the whole atmosphere and the auras of the people who participate in the chanting are lit up in this splendorous manner by the golden rays that descend from above.



Pusan is a pastoral god. He is the lord of the paths, who protects people from wild animals and makes their paths in solitary places pleasant to tread. He is described variously as a cloud born god, lord of the path, wonder worker, lord of all prosperity and wielder of golden sword. Pusan is the guardian of cattle who shows the way carrying a goad with a horny point to rich meadows where the grass is thick and temperature moderate. He is often associated with Soma as the whole world protectors, one from above and the other from below. Pusan stirs our thoughts, drives away the enemies, inspires the miserly to make generous donations. In some hymns he is also invoked along with Indra, his friend, whom he helps to generate ripe warm milk from the young raw cows. In some hymns he is described as the goat borne and as the god who travels across the oceans in golden ships to meet the Sun.



Usha is dawn, the daughter of the sky, lady of the light, who rouses all life. She stirs all creatures that have feet, and makes the birds of air fly up. Borne on a hundred chariots, she yokes her steed before the arrival of the sun and is never late. Loved by the Asvins, sister of gods, she eludes the Sun who is always eager to catch her. She brings not just light to the sleeping mankind, but hope, happiness, riches and all the good things. Goddess of light and beauty, whom the Rsis of old time invoked for their protection and help, Usha is the gods' beloved sister, whom she brings to the earth for enjoying drops of the soma juice offered by the worshippers. . Some of the hymns speak of not one dawn but many the dawns that have gone before. The hymns addressed to Usha in the Vedas are among the most poetic and beautiful hymns found in the Vedas. The following verses illustrates this point.


"She, like a dancer, puts her broidered garments on: as a cow yields her udder so she bares her breast, creating light for all the world of life..."


" The Gotamas have praised Heaven's radiant Daughter, the leader of the charm of pleasant voices."


"Bending her looks on all the world, the Goddess shines, widely spreading with her bright eye westward. Waking to motion every living creature, she understands the voice of each adorer. Ancient of days, again and again born newly, decking her beauty with the self-same raiment, the Goddess wastes away the life of mortals, like a skilled hunter cutting birds in pieces."


" In pride of beauty like a maid thou goest, O Goddess, to the God who longs to win thee, and smiling youthful, as thou shinest brightly, before him thou discoverest thy bosom. Fair as a bride embellished by her mother thou showest forth thy form that all may see it. Blessed art thou O Dawn. Shine yet more widely. No other Dawns have reached what thou attainest."


Both night and dawn are sisters, dutiful in their movements. " Akin, immortal, following each other, changing their colours both the heavens move onward. Common, unending is the Sisters' pathway; taught by the Gods, alternately they travel. Fair-formed, of different hues and yet one-minded, Night and Dawn clash not, neither do they travel."




Soma is the god of inspiration, the intoxicant who stirs the minds, lures the gods and brings them to the place of worship. One of the most popular gods of the Rigvedic hymns, the entire 9th Mandala of the scripture is dedicated to him. Also known as Indu or Soma Pavamana, he brings joy into the lives of people, cures them from diseases and leads them to the worlds of bliss and immortality. He gives strength not only to mortals, but to the gods as well. Because of him, Indra was able to slay Vrata. Because of him Agni maintains his sway.


He is also known as Lord of the speech (Vachspati), because of his intoxicating influence on the movement of speech. On the physical plane Soma is some kind of intoxicating juice. It was probably extracted from some leaves, or mushrooms or some other substance by pressing them between two stones. We have completely lost the knowledge of its preparation. People have been trying for the last several centuries to know the exact ingredients with which the Vedic people used to make Soma juice, but have not succeeded so far.


Even during the Vedic period the preparation of the Soma juice was probably a complicated affair. The hymns suggests that the success of extracting the soma juice depended upon the cooperation of gods, which means that its preparation was not an easy affair and depended upon several extraneous factors. Since the production of juice was central to many invocations, the god of soma was invoked to ensure that the juice flew abundantly and the ceremony would be successful.


We see this concern explicit in the following hymns from the Rigveda.


"Indu as, Indra's Friend, pour on us with a stream of sweetness, like Parjanya sender of the rain." (The coming of rain is uncertain. So is the extraction of soma.)


"May they in flowing give us wealth in thousands, and heroic power, these Godlike Soma-drops effused like coursers by their drivers urged, they were poured forth, for victory, swift through the woolen straining-cloth, noisily flow the Soma-drops, like milch-kine lowing to their calves they have run forth from both the hands." (The prayer is for soma to flow swiftly and noisily through the cloth.)


" THE pressers from the Soma-press send forth thy juice for rapturous joy the speckled sap runs like a flood. With strength we follow through the sieve him who brings might and wins the kine, enrobed in water with his juice. Pour on the sieve the Soma, ne'er subdued in waters, waterless, and make it pure for Indra's drink. Moved by the purifier's thought, the Soma flows into the sieve. By wisdom it hath gained its home. With humble homage, Indra, have the Soma-drops flowed forth to thee, contending for the glorious prize." (Note the emphasis on the need for the purity of the juice for Indra's happiness.)



The Asvins are twin deities whose origin is shrouded in myth, mystery and symbolism. A number of hymns are addressed to them because of their healing and curative powers. They said descend to earth thrice a day to help the mankind with their restorative and curative powers. The Asvins are considered to be the brothers of Usha, the goddess of dawn and may actually represent twilight, when darkness and light appear intertwined on the horizon just before dawn as well as before dusk. They are praised in the hymns as wonder workers, with nimble hands and miraculous healing powers.


The Rigvedic hymns describe them as lords of hundred powers, who can make the blind and lame see and walk, the injured recover quickly from their afflictions, help men produce offspring or the cows yield more milk. They can reduce the heat in the human body, cure the septic sores, store the germ of life in female creatures and perform even surgery. Traveling in a chariot with three spokes, they come down to the earth thrice a day carrying with them heavenly medicines.



Maruts are powerful and destructive storm gods, who lash the world from end to end, make the mountains rock and reel, rend the forest-kings apart, make the earth tremble, and drench the earth with heavy rains. They are considered to be the progeny of Rudra, the bulls of heaven, radiant men in serried rank and free from spots and stains. But no one truly knows from where they sprang, for they only know each other's birth. Bright is their spirit and wrathful their minds. (In Bhagavatham Maruts are said to be created by Indra).


Mighty and well-armed, impetuous in their haste, decked in glittering gold ornaments, they send their windless rain even on the desert places. When they inundate the earth they spread forth darkness even in day time, with the water filled rain clouds. Loud roarers, giving strength, devourers of the foe, they make the winds and the lightning with their powers.


Restless shakers, they drain the udders of the sky, and ever wandering around, fill the earth full with milk. The Maruts are positively destructive forces of the heave, ferocious but not wicked. They are divine beings, who work for the welfare of the world and men, though they do it in their quite noisy way. The Maruts give strength to the worshippers to make them invincible in battle, bring wealth to the people, increase their progeny and prolong life.




The word Visvadevas means lords of the universe. In the Vedas a number of hymns are addressed to them. The Visvadevas are none but the popular gods of the Vedas. When they were collectively invoked through a common ritual, they were addressed as Visvadevas. In the hymns of the Visvadevas, we generally find the names of such popular gods as Bhaga, Daksa, Mitra, Aditi, Aryaman, Varuna, Soma, the Asvins, Saraswathi, Vayu, Prithvi, Father Heaven, Soma, Pusan, Indra, Tarksya, Maruts, Agni , Varuna, Mitra, Rta, and the dikpalas.


According to some scholars hidden in the hymns of the Visvadevas are the seeds of monotheism. By addressing various gods collectively, the Vedic people acknowledged the unity of these gods and their inter relationships. The Rigvedic people believed that the devas sprang from a common parentage and were helpful in nature, in contrast to the demons who were wicked and troublesome. Although each god in the pantheon was endowed with specific qualities and responsibilities, the Vedic Aryans did not miss the larger picture and their underlying connection in the order (Rta) of things.


The concept of Visvadevas changed during the post Vedic period especially with the emergence of the Puranas and its rich lore of mythology. The list was reduced to just ten gods namely Vasu, Satya, Kratu, Daksa, Kala, Dhriti, Kuru, Pururavas, and Madravas.

Eight Vasus


Dhara (the earth), Anala (the fire), Apa (waters), anila (the wind), Dhruva (the pole star), soma (the moon), Prabhasa (the light) are the eight vasus who are described to be attendants of Indra, the lord of the heavens. In course of time these deities attained popularity in different areas. Dhruva became a symbol of austerity, determination and a popular name in the Hindu pantheon because of his association with the polestar. The earth became a mother deity, bearing the burden of the beings, a symbol of patience and fortitude. Soma came to be associated with soma juice and attained popularity because of his significance in the Vedic rituals. (In Vaishnavam, Dhruva is considered as a supreme devotee of Lord Vishnu)

12 Adityas


"Bright and pure as streams of water, free from all guile and falsehood, blameless, perfect," these are gods of light, with many eyes (rays) corresponding to the 12 months of the year and described as the 12 spokes of the wheel of time. The Adityas are upholders of Laws. " Upholding that which moves and that which moves not, Adityas, Gods, protectors of all beings, provident, guarding well the world of spirits, true to eternal Law, the debt-exactors," they illuminate the world, drive away darkness, nourish the beings, regulate relationships and personify the laws of the universe and mankind. "Golden and splendid, pure like streams of water, they hold aloft the three bright heavenly regions. Ne'er do they slumber, never close their eyelids, faithful, far-ruling for the righteous mortal." Originally six in the Rigveda, their number increased to 12 during the later Vedic period. The 12 Adityas are: Mitra, Varuna, Aryaman, Daksha, Bhaga, Amsa, Tvastr, Savitr, Pusan, Sakra, Vivasvat and Visnu. We have given a general description of some of the Adityas already above.




Vashistha is not a god but a sage, or the head of a particular class of brahmin priests, who is described in a hymn as born to Urvasi and Varunamitra out of their conjugal love. He is also described as born from grass and as a fallen drop, whom gods in heavenly fervor laid in a lotus blossom. He is also described as the leader of the Bharatas, who brings the Saman. Indra has a great respect for him, whom he probably helped with this prayers and blessings or with his clan in the battle of ten kings. (In Vaishnavam, Vaishista is also considered as one of supreme devotee of Lord Vishnu)



Brahmanaspati, popularly known as Brihaspathi is eulogized in the Vedas as Indra's lovely friend who gives wisdom, the healer of disease, protector of bodies, who gives wealth, increases the agricultural produce and protects the heroes in the battle field from enemy heroes. He is the priest of heaven who makes the oblation prosper. He promotes the course of sacrifice. Without Brahmanaspati, no sacrifice is complete. He is the leader of the songs and also the Law maker, whom both gods and mortals listen. He inspires the heroes with his gifts and his blessings.


Addressed as the father of all sacred prayers, Brihaspati was invoked by the Vedic Aryans, through prayers and sacrifice, probably during war times, to quell the foe, slay demons, cleave the stall of kine, and find the light. He is the upholder of justice, who protects the worshippers from the evil-minded, arrogant, rapacious man and would not allow the unworthy to ascend to the heavens. The consumer of the foe, the sin's true avenger, he tames the fierce enemy and protects his worshippers from the ambush and their enemy's deadly blows. Brihaspati is also known as Ganapathi Brahmanaspati and considered by some scholars as a precursor to the latter period Ganapathi.



He is also an Aditya, son of Aditi, a god of bright light. He is a giver and supporter and bestower of bliss, who discovers treasures and whose gifts are faithful. Since he grants boons, horses and heroes, he is approached by the rich and poor alike for abundance and happiness. People forgot Bhaga, but his name remains even today hidden in the name of Bhagavan.



Rta is the rhythmic pattern of the universe. It is the orderly way in which the world regulates itself. Rta determines the usual paths by which the heavenly objects, the sun, the moon, the stars, the nine planets, conduct themselves. Rta is responsible for many other things: the manner in which the seasons (ritus) come and go, the way the rains fall upon the earth, the way the crops are harvested, the way the people live and die, and the cattle yield wealth through milk and progeny.


The Vedic people believed this universal order to be the work of gods. They uphold Rta by virtue of their strength, unity and upholding of the Law that governs the heaven and the earth. The battle between god and demons was basically the battle between order and chaos, between light and darkness, truth and falsehood. The order prevails because of the strength and will of gods, especially the Adityas, Indra, and Agni. In course of time the concept of Rta gave way to the concept of Dharma and God as the upholder of dharma.



The Rbhus are wise and skilful craftsmen, dexterous-handed, deft in work and gracious, who are said to be the sons of Sudhavan. They were generally believed to possess special powers with which they were able to make a cow out of a hide, give youth to their old parents, shape tawny steeds for Indra and make four wondrous cups out of a single chalice for gods. Rbhus bring prosperity and were probably associated with the craft of chariot making and the earlier methods of fire making. The hymns addressed to Rbhus generally mention the names of Rbhu, Vibhvan, Vaja and speak of their craftsmanship and how they were promoted to the rank of gods because of their skills and their "cunning".


Heaven and Earth


In the hymns addressed to heaven and earth, they are referred as two great mothers. Between them the God, the effulgent sun, travels by fixed decree. These two, the Heaven and the Earth bestow prosperity on all and sustain the region. They are holy, wise and the spirited. They keep the truth of all that stands and all that moves and were made beautiful by the sun with his garment of light.



Kapinjala is a bird of good omen with sweet and flute like melodious voice whose sounds are compared to the utterances of a Sama-chanter. The invokers of this bird of heaven pray for the protection of the bird from the attacks of falcon, eagle and hunter's arrows. Associated with good luck and happy omens, there are at least two hymns in the Rigveda addressed to this mystic bird of melodious notes.



Dadhivakran is a mighty stallion that was given to Puru by gods. It is swift of foot and shines bright. It is described as the giver of many gifts, who visiteth all people, impetuous hawk, swift and of varied color, like a brave King. Some hymns in the Rigveda are entirely addressed to Dadhivakran.


Rati or Love


There is a hymn in the Rigveda addressed to sage Agastya by his wife Lopamudra as an invocation to Ratidevi to come to the aid of the aging couple and rekindle love in their bodies. (In puranas, Agasthiya is considered as incarnation of Agni)




Yama is the controller, god of justice and ruler of the dead and departed who go to the region of hell. Two fierce dogs, described as Sarama's offspring, with four eyes and wide nostrils, look on men and guard the pathway that leads the world of Yama. Yama is master of knowledge. He taught young Nachiketa the secrets of Brahman, fire sacrifice and immortality. In the Hindu mythology Yama is shown as riding a he-buffalo, carrying a mace as his weapon and holding a noose. He uses the noose to drag the deceased beings to the hells. Sitting on a throne he reviews the deeds of men and accords punishment. He is aided in this task by Chitragupta who keeps an account of the deeds of the mortals when they were alive on earth. He is also the ruler of the southern quarter, wears red garments and carries a mace as his weapon.


The Rigveda describes Yama as Vivasvan's Son, who gathers men together, who traveled to the lofty heights above men and who searches out and shows the path to many. Dark-hued, insatiate, with distended nostrils, Yama's two envoys said roam among the People and keep a watch. "Into the six Expanses flies the Great One in Trkadrukas. The Gayatri, the Trstup, all metres in Yama are contained."



There are some hymns in the Rigveda which are addressed to Manyu a war god, wielder of thunder, slayer of foes, of Vrtra, and of Dasyu, of surpassing vigor, fierce, queller of the foe, and self-existent. He is beseeched to bring wealth and health. Manyu is a war god, who is considered to be Indra himself. Probably the Abhimanyu of the Mahabharata fame derived his name from this war hero.



The famous Purusha Sukta speaks of the Universal Purusha, of a A THOUSAND heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet who pervading earth from every side fills a space ten fingers wide. "This Purusha is all that yet hath been and all that is to be; the Lord of Immortality which waxes greater still by food. So mighty is his greatness; yea, greater than this is Purusa. All creatures are one-fourth of him, three-fourths eternal life in heaven."


From this Purusha was born Viraj (world soul) and from Viraj again a second Purusha (hiranyagarbha) was born. As soon as he was born, the gods gathered and sacrificed him. From that great sacrifice, from his various bodily parts were born all the animals, the Riks, Sama hymns and Yajus, the sun and the moon and all the four castes, Indra, Agni, Vayu, the earth and the sky and all the regions. The Purusha Sukta is very controversial hymn. It raises a number of interesting questions, about which we can only speculate but cannot give a definite answer.


One interesting question is who were the gods who gathered and sacrificed the second Purusha? Probably the original Purusha Sukta referred to the origin of the gods, the heaven and the earth, the various beings, elements, worlds and objects. It must have been conveniently altered to justify the origin of the castes and perpetuate a system that was alien to the Rigvedic Aryans. (In Mahabharata, Purusha Suktha is identified with Lord Vishnu thus clearly stating Lord Vishnu as origin of all)




Prajanya is a rain god, ferocious, whom all life fears, the bull who lays in the plant, the seed, who smites the trees apart with lightning and slays the demons. All life fears him and the sight of his mighty weapon. He is the slayer of demons, who sends the rains down. He made the desert places fit for travel probably by bringing the rains.


When Parjanya fills the sky with rain-cloud, the winds burst forth, the lightning flashes, the plants shoot up, food springs abundantly for all creatures and earth bows low before him. At his command the cattle fly in terror, the plants assume all colors and the floods descend in torrents. Not just a god of rain and thunder, Prajanya is also upholder of law who punishes the sinners and protect the people. According to S. Radhakrishnan, " Prajanya is a sky god. He seems to have become Indra, for Indra is unknown to other members of the Aryan family. In the Vedas Prajanya is another name for the sky."




In the Rigvedic hymn addressed to Saraswathi, she is depicted as a river goddess, who slays the Parvathas with her might, casts down those who scorn the gods and makes poison flow away from the waters. She is the giver of opulence, strength and wealth. She has seven sisters, sprung from three fold source, who is invoked in every deed of might and sought for treasures.


In the hymn addressed to her, she is beseeched to keep flowing gracefully and not to spurn people, so that they would not be forced to go to far away countries. Saraswathi subsequently became a goddess of learning and consort of Brahma. But in the Rigveda, she is a river goddess with seven sisters, who helps the gods, destroys their enemies and provides waters to the five tribes. There is no association with either Brahma or with learning.

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The Rigveda consists of 1,017 or, counting eleven others of the eighth Book which are recognized as later additions, 1,028 hymns. These contain a total of about 10,600 stanzas, which give an average Of ten stanzas to each hymn. The shortest hymn has only one stanza, while the longest has fifty-eight. If printed continuously like prose in Roman characters, the Samhita text would fill an octavo volume of about 600 pages of thirty-three lines each.


There is a twofold division of the RV. into parts. One, which is purely mechanical, is into Astakas or 'eighths' of about equal length, each of which is subdivided into eight Adhyayas or 'lessons', while each of the latter consists of Vargas or 'groups' of five or six stanzas. The other division is into ten Mandalas or 'books' (lit. 'cycles') and Suktas or 'hymns'. The latter method is an historical one, indicating the manner in which the collection came into being. This system is now invariably followed by Western Scholars in referring to or quoting from the Rigveda.



The hymns of the RV. are without exception metrical. They contain on the average ten stanzas, generally of four verses or lines, but also of three and sometimes five. The line, which is called Pada, ('quarter') and forms the metrical unit, usually consists of eight, eleven, or twelve syllables. A stanza is, as a rule, made up of lines of the same type; but some of the rarer kinds of stanza are formed by combining lines of different length. There are about fifteen metres, but only about seven of these are at all common. By far the most common are the Tristubh (4 x 11 syllables), the Gayatri (3 x 8), and the Jagati (4 x 12), which together furnish two-thirds of the total number of stanzas in the RV. The Vedic metres, which are the foundation of the Classical Sanskrit metres except two, have a, quantitative rhythm in which short and long syllables alternate and, which is of a generally iambic type. It is only the rhythm of the last four or five syllables (called the cadence) of the line that is rigidly determined, and the lines of eleven and twelve syllables have a caesura as well. In their structure the Vedic metres thus come half way between the metres of the Indo-Iranian period, in which, as the Avesta shows, the principle is the number of syllables only, and) those of Classical Sanskrit, in which (except the sloka) the quantity of every single syllable in the line is fixed. Usually a hymn of the Rigveda consists of stanzas in the same metre throughout; a typical divergence from this rule is to mark the conclusion of a hymn with a stanza in a different metre. Some hymns are strophic in their construction. The strophes in them consist either of three stanzas (called trca) in the same simple metre, generally Gayatri, or of two stanzas in different mixed metres. The latter type of strophe is called Pragatha and is found chiefly in the eighth book.



This is concerned with the worship of gods that are largely personifications of the powers of nature. The hymns are mainly invocations of these gods, and are meant to accompany the oblation of Soma juice and the fire sacrifice of melted butter. It is thus essentially a polytheistic religion, which assumes a pantheistic colouring only in a few of its latest hymns. The gods are usually stated in the RV. to be thirty-three in number, being divided into three groups of eleven distributed in earth, air, and heaven, the three divisions of the Universe. Troops of deities, such as the Maruts, are of course not included in this number. The gods were believed to have had a beginning. But they were not thought to have all come into being at the same time; for the RV. occasionally refers to earlier gods, and certain deities are described as the offspring of others. That they were considered to have been originally mortal is implied in the statement that they acquired immortality by drinking Soma or by receiving it as a gift from Agni and Savitr.


The gods were conceived as human in appearance. Their bodily parts which are frequently mentioned, are in many instances simply figurative illustrations of the phenomena of nature represented by them. Thus the arms of the Sun are nothing more than his rays; and the tongue and limbs of Agni merely denote his flames. Some of the gods appear equipped as warriors, especially Indra, others are described as priests, especially Agni and Brhaspati. All of them drive through the air in cars, drawn chiefly by steeds, but sometimes by other animals. The favourite food of men is also that of the gods, consisting in milk, butter, grain, and the flesh of sheep, goats, and cattle. It is offered to them in the sacrifice, which is either conveyed to them in heaven by the god of fire, or which they come in their cars to partake of on the strew of grass prepared for their reception. Their favourite drink is the exhilarating juice of the Soma plant. The home of the gods is heaven, the third heaven, or the highest step of Visnu, where cheered by draughts of Soma they live a life of bliss.


Attributes of the gods.--Among these the most prominent is power, for they are constantly described as great and mighty. They regulate the order of nature and vanquish the potent powers of evil. They hold sway over all creatures; no one can thwart their ordinances or live beyond the time they appoint; and the fulfilment of desires is dependent on them. They are benevolent beings who bestow prosperity on mankind; the only one in whom injurious traits appear being Rudra. They are described as 'true' and 'not deceitful', being friends and protectors of the honest and righteous, but punishing sin and guilt. Since in most cases the gods of the RV. have not yet become dissociated from the physical phenomena which they represent, their figures are indefinite in outline and deficient in individuality. Having many features, such as power, brilliance, benevolence, and wisdom in common with others, each god exhibits but very few distinctive attributes. This vagueness is further increased by the practice of invoking deities in pairs-a practice making both gods share characteristics properly belonging to one along. When nearly every power can thus be ascribed to every god, the identification of one deity with another becomes easy. There are in fact several such identifications in the RV. The idea is even found in more than one late passage that various deities are but different forms of a single divine being. This idea, however, never developed into monotheism, for none of the regular sacrifices in the Vedic period were offered to a single god. Finally, in other late hymns of the RV. we find the deities Aditi and Prajapati identified not only with all the gods, but with nature as well. This brings us to that pantheism which became characteristic of later Indian thought in the form of the Vedanta philosophy.


The Vedic gods may most conveniently be classified as deities of heaven, air, and earth, according to the threefold division suggested by the RV. itself. The celestial gods are Dyaus, Varuna, Mitra, Surya, Savitr, Pusan, the Asvins, and the goddesses Usas, Dawn, and Ratri, Night. The atmospheric gods are Indra, Apam napat, Rudra, the Maruts, Vayu, Parjanya, and the Waters. The terrestrial deities are Prthivi, Agni, and Soma. This Reader contains hymns addressed to all these gods, with detailed introductions describing their characters in the words, as far as is possible, of the RV. itself. A few quite subordinate deities are not included, partly because no entire hymn is addressed to them. Two such belong to the celestial sphere. Trita, a somewhat obscure god, who is mentioned only in detached stanzas of the RV., comes down from the Indo-Iranian period. He seems to represent the 'third' or lightning form of fire. Similar in origin to Indra, be was ousted by the latter at an early period. Matarisvan is a divine being also referred to only in scattered stanzas of the RV. He is described as having brought down the hidden fire from heaven to men on earth, like the Prometheus of Greek mythology. Among the terrestrial deities are certain rivers that are personified and invoked in the RV. Thus the Sindhu (Indus) s celebrated as a goddess in one hymn (x. 75, 2. 4. 6), and the Vipas (Bïas) and the Sutudri (Sutlej), sister streams of the Panjab, in another (iii. 33). The most important and oftenest lauded is, however, the Sarasvati (vi. 61; vii. 95). Though the personification goes much further here than in the case of other streams, the connexion of the goddess with the river is never lost sight of in the RV.


Abstract deities.--One result of the advance of thought during the period of the RV. from the concrete towards the abstract was the rise of abstract deities. The earlier and more numerous class of these seems to have started from epithets which were applicable to one or more older deities, but which came to acquire an independent value as the want of a god exercising the particular activity in question began to be felt. We find here names denoting either an agent (formed with the suffix tr or tar), such as Dhatr 'Creator', or an attribute, such as Prajapati, 'Lord of Creatures'. Thus Dhatr, otherwise an epithet of Indra, appears also as an independent deity who creates heaven and earth, sun and moon. More rarely occur Vidhatri the 'Disposer', Dhartr, the 'Supporter', Tratr, the Protector', and Netr, the 'Leader'. The only agent god mentioned at all frequently in the RV. is Tvastr, the 'Artificer', though no entire hymn is addressed to him. He is the most skilful of workmen, having among other things fashioned the bolt of Indra and a new -drinking-cup for the gods. He is a guardian of Soma, which is called the 'food of Tvastr', and which Indra drinks in Tvastr's house. He is the father of Saranyu, wife of Vivasvant and mother of the primaeval twins Yama and Yami. The name of the solar deity Savitr the 'Stimulator', belongs to this class of agent gods (cf. p. 11).


There are a few other abstract deities whose names were originally epithets of older gods, but now become epithets of the supreme god who was being evolved at the end of the Rigvedic period. These appellations, compound in form, are of rare and late occurrence. The most important is Prajapati, 'Lord of Creatures' Originally an epithet of such gods as Savitr and Soma, this name is employed in a late verse of the tenth book to designate a distinct deity in the character of a Creator. Similarly, the epithet Visvakarman, 'all-creating', appears as the name of an independent deity to whom two hymns (x. 81. 82) are addressed. Hiranyagarbha, the 'Golden Germ', once occurs as the name of the supreme god described as the 'one lord of all that exists'. In one curious instance it is possible to watch the rise of an abstract deity of this type. The refrain of a late hymn of the RV. (x. 121) is kasmai devaya havisa vidhema? 'to what god should we pay worship with oblation?' This led to the word ká, 'who?' being used in the later Vedic literature as an independent name, Ka, of the supreme god. The only abstract deity of this type occurring in the oldest as well as the latest parts of the RV. is Brhaspati (p. 83).


The second and smaller class of abstract deities comprises personifications of abstract nouns. There are seven or eight of these occurring in the tenth book. Two hymns (83, 84) are addressed to Manyu, 'Wrath', and one (x. 161) to Sraddha, 'Faith'. Anumati, 'Favour (of the gods)', Aramati, 'Devotion', Sunrta, 'Bounty', Asuniti, 'Spirit-life', and Nirrti, 'Decease', occur only in a few isolated passages.


A purely abstract deity, often incidentally celebrated throughout the RV. is A-diti, 'Liberation', 'Freedom' (lit. 'un-binding'), whose main characteristic is the power of delivering from the bonds of physical suffering and moral guilt. She, however, occupies a unique position among the abstract deities, owing to the peculiar way in which the personification seems to have arisen. She is the mother of the small group of deities called Adityas, often styled 'sons of Aditi'. This expression at first most probably meant nothing more than 'sons of liberation', according to an idiom common in the RV. and elsewhere. The word was then personified, with the curious result that the mother is mythologically younger than some at least of her sons, who (for instance Mitra) date from the Indo-Iranian period. The goddess Diti, named only three times in the RV., probably came into being as an antithesis to Aditi, with whom she, is twice mentioned.


Godesses play an insignificant part in the RV. The only one of importance is Usas (p. 92). Next come Sarasvati, celebrated in two whole hymns (vi. 61; vii. 95) as well as parts of others, and Vac, 'Speech' (x, 71. 125). With one hymn each are addressed Prthivi, 'Earth' (v. 84), Ratri, 'Night' (x, 127, p. 203), and Aranyani, 'Goddess of the Forest' (x. 146). Others are only sporadically mentioned. The wives of the great gods are still more insignificant, being mere names formed from those of their consorts, and altogether lacking in individuality: such are Agnayi, Indrani, Varunani, spouses of Agni, Indra, and Varuna respectively.


Dual Divinities.--A peculiar feature of the religion of the RV. is the invocation of pairs of deities whose names are combined as compounds, each member of which is in the dual. About a dozen such pairs are celebrated in entire hymns, and about a dozen more in detached stanzas. By far the largest number of hymns is addressed to the couple Mitra-Varuna, though the names most frequently found as dual compounds are those of Dyava-prthivi, 'Heaven and Earth' (p. 36). The latter pair, having been associated as universal parents from the Indo-European period onwards, in all probability furnished the analogy for this dual type.


Groups of Deities.--There are also a few more or less definite groups of deities, generally associated with some particular god. The Maruts (p. 21), who attend on Indra, are the most numerous group. The smaller group of the Adityas, of whom Varuna is the chief, is constantly mentioned in company with their mother Aditi. Their number is stated in the RV. to be seven or, with the addition of Martanda, eight. One passage (ii. 27, 1) enumerates six of them Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Varuna, Daksa, Amsa: Surya was probably regarded as the seventh. A much less important group, without individual names or definite number, is that of the Vasus, whose leader is generally Indra. There are, finally, the Visve devas (p. 147), who, invoked in many hymns, form a comprehensive group, which in spite of its name is, strange to say, sometimes conceived as a narrower group associated with others like the Vasus and Adityas.


Lesser Divinities.--Besides the higher gods, a number of lesser divine powers are known to the RV. The most prominent of these are the Rbhus, who are celebrated in eleven hymns. They are a deft-handed trio, who by their marvellous skill acquired the rank of deities. Among their five main feats of dexterity the greatest consisted in transforming the bowl of Tvastr into four shining cups.


The bowl and the cups have been various interpreted a s the moon with its four phases or the year with its Seasons. The Rbhus further exhibited their skill in renewing the youth of their parents, by whom Heaven and Earth seem to have been meant.


Occasional mention is made in the RV. of an Apsaras, a celestial water-nymph, the spouse of a corresponding genius named Gandharva. In a few passages more Apsarases, than one are spoken of; but the only one mentioned by name is Urvasi. Gandharva is in the RV. a single being (like the Gandarewa of the Avesta), who dwells in the aerial sphere, guards the celestial Soma, and is (as in the Avesta) connected with the waters.


There are, lastly, a few divinities of the tutelary order, guardians watching over the welfare of house or field. Such is the rarely mentioned Vastospati, 'Lord of the Dwelling', who is invoked to grant a favourable entry, to remove disease, and to bestow protection and prosperity. Ksetrasya pati, 'Lord of the Field', is besought to grant cattle and horses and to confer welfare. Sita, the 'Furrow', is once invoked to dispense crops and rich blessings.


In addition to the great phenomena of nature, various features of the earth's surface as well as artificial objects are to be found deified in the RV. Thus besides Rivers and Waters (p. 115), already mentioned as terrestrial goddesses, mountains are often addressed as divinities, but only along with other natural objects, or in association with gods. Plants are regarded as divine powers, one entire hymn (x. 97) being devoted to their praise, chiefly with reference to their healing properties. Sacrificial implements, moreover, are deified. The most important of these is the sacrificial post which is praised and invoked in a whole hymn (iii. 8). The sacrificial grass (barhis) and the Divine Doors (dvaro devih), which lead to the place of sacrifice, are addressed as goddesses. The pressing stones (gravanas) are invoked as deities in three hymns (x. 76. 94. 175): spoken of as immortal, unaging, mightier than heaven, they are besought to drive away demons and destruction. The Mortar and Pestle used in pounding the Soma plant are also invoked in the RV. (i. 28, 6. 6). Weapons, finally, are sometimes deified: armour, bow, quiver, arrows, and drum being addressed in one of the hymns (vi. 75).


The Demons often mentioned in the hymns are of two kinds. The higher and more powerful class are the aerial foes of the gods. These, are seldom called asura in the RV., where in the older parts that word means a divine being, like ahura in the Avesta (cf. p. 134). The term dasa, or dasyu, properly the name of the dark aborigines, is frequently used in the sense of fiend to designate the aerial demons. The conflict is regularly one between a single god and a single demon, as exemplified by Indra and Vrtra. The latter is by far the most frequently mentioned. His mother being called Danu, he is sometimes alluded to by the metronymic term Danava. Another powerful demon is Vala, the personified cave of the cows, which he guards, and which are set free by Indra and his allies, notably the Angirases. Other demon adversaries of Indra are Arbuda, described as a wily beast, whose cows Indra drove out; Visvarapa, son of Tvastr, a three-headed demon slain by both Trita and Indra, who seize his cows; and Svarbhanu, who eclipses the sun. There are several other individual demons, generally described as Dasas and slain by Indra. A group of demons are the Panis ('niggards'), primarily foes of Indra, who, with the aid of the dog Sarama, tracks and releases the cows hidden by them.


The second or lower class of demons are terrestrial goblins, enemies of men. By far the most common generic name for them is Raksas. They are nearly always mentioned in connexion with some god who destroys them. The much less common term Yalu or Yatudhana (primarily 'sorcerer') alternates with Raksas, and perhaps expresses a species. A class of demons scarcely referred to in the RV., but often mentioned in the later Vedas, are the Pisacas, eaters of raw flesh or of corpses.


Not more than thirty hymns are concerned with subjects other than the worship of gods or deified objects. About a dozen of these, almost entirely confined to the tenth book, deal with magical practices, which properly belong to the sphere of the Atharvaveda. Their contents are augury (ii. 42. 43) or spells directed against poisonous vermin (i. 191) or disease (x. 163), against a demon destructive of children (x. 162), or enemies (x. 166), or rival wives (x. 145). A few are incantations to preserve life (x. 58. 60), or to induce sleep (v. 55), or to procure offspring (x. 183); while one is a panegyric of frogs as magical bringers of rain (vii. 103, p. 141).



Secular hymns.--Hardly a score of the hymns are secular poems. These are especially valuable as throwing direct light on the earliest thought and civilization of India. One of the most noteworthy of them is the long wedding hymn (x. 85). There are also five funeral hymns (x. 14-18). Four of these are addressed to deities concerned with the future life; the last, however, is quite secular in tone, and gives more information than any of the rest about the funeral customs of early Vedic India (cf. p. 164).


Dialogues. -Besides several dialogues in which the speakers are divine beings (iv. 62; x. 51. 52. 86. 108), there are two in which both agents are human. One is a somewhat obscure colloquy (x. 95) between a mortal lover Puraravas and the celestial nymph Urvasi, who is on the point of forsaking him. It is the earliest form of the story which much more than a thousand years later formed the subject of Kalidasa's drama Vikramorvasi. The other (x. 10) is a dialogue between Yama and Yami, the twin parents of the human race.


Didactic hymns.--Four hymns are of a didactic character. One of these (x. 34) is a striking poem, being a monologue in which a gambler laments the misery he has brought on himself and his home by his inability to resist the attraction of the dice. The rest which describe the various ways in which men follow gain (ix. 112), or praise wise speech (x. 71), or the value of good deeds (x. 117), anticipate the sententious poetry for which post-Vedic literature is noted.


Riddles.--Two of the hymns consist of riddles. One of these (viii. 29, p. 147) describes various gods without mentioning their names. More elaborate and obscure is a long poem of fifty-two stanzas (i. 164), in which a number of enigmas, largely connected with the sun, are propounded in mystical and symbolic language. Thus the wheel of order with twelve spokes, revolving round the heavens, and containing within it in couples 720 sons, means the year with its twelve months and 360 days and 360 nights.


Cosmogonic hymns.--About half a dozen hymns consist of speculations on the origin of the world through the agency of a Creator (called by various names) as distinct from any of the ordinary gods. One of them (x. 129, p. 207), which describes the world as due to the development of the existent (sat) from the non-existent (a-sat), is particularly interesting as the starting-point of the evolutional philosophy which in later times assumed shape in the Sankhya system.



The diction of the hymns is on the whole natural and simple, free from the use of compounds of more than two members. Considering their great antiquity, the hymns are composed with a remarkable degree of metrical skill and command of language. But as they were produced by a sacerdotal class and were generally intended to accompany a ritual no longer primitive, their poetry is often impaired by constant sacrificial allusions. This is especially noticeable in the hymns addressed to the two ritual deities Agni and Soma, where the thought becomes affected by conceits and obscured by mysticism. Nevertheless the RV. contains much genuine poetry. As the gods are mostly connected with natural phenomena, the praises addressed to them give rise to much beautiful and even noble imagery. The degree of literary merit in different hymns naturally varies a good deal, but the average is remarkably high. The most poetical hymns are those addressed to Dawn, equal if not superior in beauty to the religious lyrics of any other literature. Some of the hymns to Indra show much graphic power in describing his conflict with the demon Vrtra. The hymns to the Maruts, or Storm gods, often depict with vigorous imagery the phenomena of thunder and lightning, and the mighty onset of the wind. One hymn to Parjanya (v. 83) paints the devastating effects of the rain-storm with great vividness. The hymns in praise of Varuna describe the various aspects of his sway as moral ruler of the world in an exalted strain of poetry. Some of the mythological dialogues set forth the situation with much beauty of language; for example, the colloquy between Indra's messenger Sarama and the demons who stole the cows (x. 108), and that between the primaeval twins Yama and Yami (x. 10). The Gambler's lament (x. 34) is a fine specimen of pathetic poetry. One of the funeral hymns (x. 18) expresses ideas connected with death in language of impressive and solemn beauty. One of the cosmogonic hymns (x. 129) illustrates how philosophical speculation can be clothed in poetry of no mean order.



In dealing with the hymns of the RV. the important question arises, to what extent are we able to understand their real sense, considering that they have come down to us as an isolated relic from the remotest period of Indian literature? The reply, stated generally, is that, as a result of the labours of Vedic scholars, the meaning of a considerable proportion of the RV. is clear, but of the remainder many hymns and a great many single stanzas or passages are still obscure or unintelligible. This was already the case in the time of Yaska, the author of the Nirukta, the oldest extant commentary (c. 500 B.C.) on about 600 detached stanzas of the RV.; for he quotes one of his predecessors, Kautsa, as saying that the Vedic hymns we obscure, unmeaning, and mutually contradictory.



As the personification of the sacrificial fire, Agni is second in importance to Indra (ii. 12) only, being addressed in at least 200 hymns. The anthropomorphism of his physical appearance is only rudimentary, and is connected chiefly with the sacrificial aspect of fire. Thus he is butter-backed, flame-haired, and has a tawny beard, sharp jaws, and golden teeth. Mention is often made of his tongue, with which the gods eat the oblation. With a burning head he faces in all directions.


He is compared with various animals: he resembles a bull that bellows, and has horns which he sharpens; when born he is often called a calf; he is kindled like a horse that brings the gods, and is yoked to convey the sacrifice to them. He is also a divine bird; he is the eagle of the sky; as dwelling in the waters he is like a goose; he is winged, and he takes possession of the wood as a bird perches on a tree.


Wood or ghee is his food, melted butter his beverage; and he is nourished three times a day. He is the mouth by which the gods eat the sacrifice; and his flames are spoons with which he besprinkles the gods, but he is also asked to consume the offerings himself. He is sometimes, though then nearly always with other gods, invited to drink the Soma juice.


His brightness is much dwelt upon: he shines like the sun; his lustre is like the rays of the dawn and the sun, and like the lightnings of the rain-cloud. He shines even at night, and dispels the darkness with his beams. On the other hand, his path is black when he invades the forests and shaves the earth as a barber a beard. His flames are like roaring waves, and his sound is like the thunder of heaven. His red smoke rises up to the firmament; like the erector of a post he supports the sky with his smoke. 'Smoke-bannered' (dhuma-ketu) is his frequent and exclusive epithet.


He has a shining, golden, lightning car, drawn by two or more ruddy and tawny steeds. He is a charioteer of the sacrifice, and with his steeds he brings the gods on his car.


He is the child of Heaven (Dyáus), and is often called the son of Heaven and Earth (i. 160). He is also the offspring of the waters. The gods generated him as a light for the Aryan or for man, and placed him among men. Indra is called Agni's twin brother, and is more closely associated with him than any other god.


The mythology of Agni, apart from his sacrificial activity, is mainly concerned with his various births, forms, and abodes. Mention is often made of his daily production from the two kindling sticks (aránis), which are his parents or his mothers. From the dry wood Agni is born living; as soon as born the child devours his parents. By the ten maidens that produce him are meant the ten fingers of the kindler. Owing to the force required to kindle Agni he is often called 'son of strength' (sáhasah sunúh). Being produced every morning he is young; at the same time no sacrificer is older than Agni, for he conducted the first sacrifice. Again, Agni's origin in the aerial waters is often referred to: he is an embryo of the waters; he is kindled in the waters; he is a bull that has grown in the lap of the waters. As the 'son of Waters' (ii. 35) he has become a separate deity. He is also sometimes conceived as latent in terrestrial waters. This notion of Agni in the waters is a prominent one in the RV. Thirdly, a celestial origin of Agni is often mentioned: he is born in the highest heaven, and was brought down from heaven by Matarisvan, the Indian Prometheus; and the acquisition of fire by man is regarded as a gift of the gods as well as a production of Matarisvan. The Sun (vii. 63) is further regarded as a form of Agni. Thus Agni is the light of heaven in the bright sky; he was born on the other side of the air and sees all things; he is born as the sun rising in the morning. Hence Agni comes to have a triple character. His births are three or threefold; the gods made him threefold; he is threefold light; he has three heads, three bodies, three stations. This threefold nature of Agni is clearly recognized in the RV., and represents the earliest Indian trinity.


The universe being also regarded as divided into the two divisions of heaven and earth, Agni is sometimes said to have two origins, and indeed exclusively bears the epithet dvi-jánman having two births. As being kindled in numerous dwellings Agni is also said to have many births.


Agni is more closely associated with human life than any other deity. He is the only god called grhá-pati lord of the house, and is constantly spoken of as a guest (átithi) in human dwellings. He is an immortal who has taken up his abode among mortals. Thus be comes to be termed the nearest kinsman of men. He is oftenest described as a father, sometimes also as a brother or even as a son of his worshippers. He both takes the offerings of men to the gods and brings the gods to the sacrifice. He is thus characteristically a messenger (dutá) appointed by gods and by men to be an 'oblation-bearer'.


As the centre of the sacrifice he comes to be celebrated as the divine counterpart of the earthly priesthood. Hence he is often called priest (rtvíj, vípra) domestic priest (puróhita), and more often than by any other name invoking priest (hótr), also officiating priest (adhvaryú) and playing priest (brahmán). His priesthood is the most salient feature of his character; he is in fact the great priest, as Indra is the great warrior.


Agni's wisdom is often dwelt upon. As knowing all the details of sacrifice he is wise and all-knowing, and is exclusively called jatá-vedas he who knows all created beings.


He is a great benefactor of his worshippers, protecting and delivering them, and bestowing on them all kinds of boons, but pre-eminently domestic welfare, offspring, and prosperity.


His greatness is often lauded, and is once even said to surpass that of the other gods. His cosmic and creative powers are also frequently praised.


From the ordinary sacrificial Agni who conveys the offering (havya-váhana) is distinguished his corpse-devouring (kravyád) form that burns the body on the funeral pyre (x. 14). Another function of Agni is to burn and dispel evil spirits and hostile magic.


The sacrificial fire was already in the Indo-Iranian period the centre of a developed ritual, and was personified and worshipped as a mighty, wise, and beneficent god. It seems to have been an Indo-European institution also, since the Italians and Greeks, as well as the Indians and Iranians, had the custom of offering gifts to the gods in fire. But whether it was already personified in that remote period is a matter of conjecture.


The name of Agni (Lat. igni-s, Slavonic ogni) is Indo-European, and may originally have meant the 'agile' as derived from the root ag to drive (Lat. ago, Gk. hágo), Skt. ájami).



This god is celebrated in eleven entire hymns and in many detached stanzas as well. He is pre-eminently a golden deity: the epithets golden-eyed, golden-handed, and golden-tongued are peculiar to him. His car and its pole are golden. It is drawn by two or more brown, white-footed horses. He has mighty golden splendour which he diffuses, illuminating heaven, earth, and air. He raises aloft his strong golden arms, with which be arouses and blesses all beings, and which extend to the ends of the earth. He moves in his golden car, seeing all creatures, on a downward and an upward path. Shining with the rays of the sun, yellow-haired, Savitr raises up his light continually from the east. His ancient paths in the air are dustless and easy to traverse, and on them he protects his worshippers; for he conveys the departed spirit to where the righteous dwell. He removes evil dreams, and makes men sinless; he drives away demons and sorcerers. He observes fixed laws; the waters and the wind are subject to him. The other gods follow his lead; and no being can resist his will. In one stanza (iii. 62, 10) he is besought to stimulate the thoughts of worshippers who desire to think of the glory of god Savitr. This is the celebrated Savitri stanza which has been a morning prayer in India for more than three thousand years. Savitr is often distinguished from Surya (vii. 63), as when he is said to shine with the rays of the Sun, to impel the sun, or to declare men sinless to the sun. But in other passages it is hardly possible to keep the two deities apart.


Savitr is connected with the evening as well as the morning; for at his command night comes and he brings all beings to rest.


The word Savitr is derived from the root su to stimulate, which is constantly and almost exclusively used with it in such a way as to form a perpetual play on the name of the god. In nearly half its occurrences the name is accompanied by devá god, when it means the 'Stimulator god'. He was thus originally a solar deity in the capacity of the great stimulator of life and motion in the world.



This group of deities is prominent in the RV., thirty-three hymns being addressed to them alone, seven to them with Indra, and one each to them with Agni and Pusan (vi. 54). They form a troop (ganá, sárdhas), being mentioned in the plural only. Their number is thrice sixty or thrice seven. They are the sons of Rudra (ii. 33) and of Prsni, who is a cow (probably representing the mottled storm-cloud). They are further said to have been generated by Vayu, the god of Wind, in the wombs of heaven and they are called the sons of heaven; but they are also spoken of as self-born. They are brothers equal in age and of one mind, having the same birthplace and the same abode. They have grown on earth, in air, and in heaven, or dwell in the three heavens. The goddess Rodasi is always mentioned in connexion with them; she stands beside them on their car, and thus seems to have been regarded as their bride.


The brilliance of the Maruts is constantly referred to: they are golden, ruddy, shine like fires, and are self-luminous. They are very often associated with lightning: all the five compounds of vidyút in the RV. are almost exclusively descriptive of them. Their lances represent lightning, as their epithet rsti-vidyut lightning-speared shows. They also have golden axes. They are sometimes armed with bows and arrows, but this trait is probably borrowed from their father Rudra. They wear garlands, golden mantles, golden ornaments, and golden helmets. Armlets and anklets (khadí) are peculiar to them. The cars on which they ride gleam with lightning, and are drawn by steeds (generally feminine) that are ruddy or tawny, spotted, swift as thought. They are great and mighty; young and unaging; dustless, fierce, terrible like lions, but also playful like children or calves.


The noise made by them, and often mentioned, is thunder and the roaring of the winds. They cause the mountains to quake and the two worlds to tremble; they rend trees, and, like wild elephants, devour the forests. One of their main activities is to shed rain: they cover the eye of the sun with rain; they create darkness with the cloud when they shed rain; and they cause the heavenly pail and the streams of the mountains to pour. The waters they shed are often clearly connected with the thunder storm. Their rain is often figuratively called milk, ghee, or honey. They avert heat, but also dispel darkness, produce light, and prepare a path for the sun.


They are several times called singers: they are the singers of heaven they sing a song; for Indra when he slew the dragon, they sang a song and pressed Soma. Though primarily representing the sound of the winds, their song is also conceived as a hymn of praise. Thus they come to be compared with priests, and are addressed as priests when in the company of Indra.


Owing to their connexion. with the thunderstorm, the Maruts are constantly associated with Indra (ii. 12) as his friends and allies, increasing his strength and prowess with their prayers, hymns, and songs, and generally assisting him in the fight with Vrtra. Indra indeed accomplishes all his celestial exploits in their company. Sometimes, however, the Maruts. accomplish these exploits alone. Thus they rent Vrtra joint from joint, and disclosed the cows.


When not associated with Indra, the Maruts occasionally exhibit the maleficent traits of their father Rudra. Hence they are implored to ward off the lightning from their worshippers and not to let their ill-will reach them, and are besought to avert their arrow and the stone which they hurl, their lightning, and their cow- and man-slaying bolt. But like their father Rudra, they are also supplicated to bring healing remedies. These remedies appear to be the waters, for the Maruts bestow medicine by raining.


The evidence of the RV. indicates that the Maruts are Storm-gods. The name is probably derived from the root mar, to shine, thus meaning 'the shining ones'.



Even though this deity occupies a subordinate position in the RV., being celebrated in only five or six hymns , Lord vishnu is presented as a SUPREME GOD. The Purusha Skutha of Rig Veda clearly associates with "Virata Puruasha" mentioned in "Bhagavath Gita" thus proving "Lord Vishnu" as Supreme God. The only anthropomorphic traits mentioned about him are the strides he takes, and the description of him as a youth vast in body who is no longer a child. The central feature of his nature consists in his three steps, connected with which are his exclusive epithets 'wide-going' (uru-gayá) and 'wide-striding' (uru-kramá). With these steps he traverses the earth or the terrestrial spaces. Two of his steps are visible to men, but the third or highest is beyond the flight of birds or mortal ken. His highest step is like an eye fixed in heaven; it shines brightly down. It is his dear abode, where pious men and the gods rejoice. There can be no doubt that these three steps refer to the course of the sun, and in all probability to its passage through the three divisions of the world: earth, air, and heaven. Visnu sets in motion like a revolving wheel his ninety steeds (= days) with their four names (= seasons), an allusion to the three hundred and sixty days of the solar year. Thus Visnu seems to. have been originally a personification of the activity of the sun, the swiftly-moving luminary that with vast strides passes through the whole universe. Visnu takes his steps for man's existence, to bestow the earth on him as a dwelling. The most prominent secondary characteristic of Visnu is his friendship for Indra, with whom he is often allied in the fight with Vrtra. In hymns addressed to Visnu alone, Indra is the only other deity incidentally associated with him. One hymn (vi. 69) is dedicated to the two gods conjointly. Through the Vrtra myth the Maruts, lndra's companions, are drawn into alliance with Visnu, who throughout one hymn (v. 87) is praised in combination with them.


The name is most probably derived from vis be active, thus meaning 'the active one'.



Heaven and Earth are the most frequently named pair of deities in the RV. They are so closely associated that, while they are invoked as a pair in six hymns, Dyáus is never addressed alone in any hymn, and Prthiv in only one of three stanzas. The dual compound Dyáva-Prthiví, moreover, occurs much oftener than the name of Dyáus alone. Heaven and Earth are also mentioned as ródasi the two worlds more than 100 times. They are parents, being often called pitára, matára, jánitri, besides being separately addressed as 'father' and 'mother'. They have made and sustain all creatures; they are also the parents of the gods. At the same time they are in different passages spoken of as themselves created by individual gods. One of them is a prolific bull, the other a variegated cow, being both rich in seed. They never grow old. They are great and wide-extended; they are broad and vast abodes. They grant food and wealth, or bestow great fame and dominion. Sometimes moral qualities are attributed to them. They are wise and promote righteousness. As father and mother they guard beings, and protect from disgrace and misfortune. They are sufficiently personified to be called leaders of the sacrifice and to be conceived as seating themselves around the offering; but they never attained to a living personification or importance in worship. These two deities are quite co-ordinate, while in most of the other pairs one of the two greatly predominates.



Indra is invoked alone in about one-fourth of the hymns of the RV., far more than are addressed to any other deity; for he is the favourite national god of the Vedic people. He is more anthropomorphic on the physical side, and more invested with mythological imagery, than any other member of the pantheon. He is primarily a god of the thunderstorm who vanquishes the demons of drought or darkness, and sets free the waters or wing the light. He is secondarily the god of battle who aids the victorious Aryan in overcoming his aboriginal foes.


His physical features, such as body and head, are often referred to after he has drunk Soma he agitates his jaws and his beard; and his belly is many times mentioned in connexion with his great powers of drinking Soma. Being tawny (hári) in colour, he is also tawny-haired and tawny-bearded. His arms are especially often referred to because they wield the thunderbolt (vájra), which, mythologically representing the lightning stroke, is his exclusive weapon. This bolt was fashioned for him by Tvastr, being made of iron (ayasá), golden, tawny, sharp, many-pointed, sometimes spoken of as a stone or rock. Several epithets, compounds or derivatives of vájra, such as vájra-bahu bearing the bolt in his arm and vajrín wielder of the bolt are almost without exception applied to him. Sometimes he is described as armed with bow and arrows; he also carries a hook (ankusá).


Having a golden car, drawn by two tawny steeds (hári), he is a car-fighter (rathesthá). Both his car and his steeds were fashioned by the Rbhus, the divine artificers.


As Indra is more addicted to Soma than any of the other gods, the common epithet 'Soma-drinker' (Somapá) is characteristic of him. This beverage stimulates him to carry out his warlike deeds; thus for the slaughter of Vrtra he is said to have drunk three lakes of Soma. One whole hymn (x. 119) is a monologue in which Indra, intoxicated with Soma, boasts of his greatness and his might.


Indra is often spoken of as having been born, and two whole hymns deal with the subject of his birth. His father, the same as Agni's, appears to be Dyaus; but the inference from other passages is that he is Tvastr, the artificer among the gods. Agni is called Indra's twin brother, and Pusan (vi. 54) is also his brother. His wife, who is often mentioned, is Indrani. Indra is associated with various other deities. The Maruts, (i. 85) are his chief allies, who constantly help him in his conflicts. Hence the epithet Marútvant accompanied by the Maruts is characteristic of him. Agni is the god most often conjoined with him as a dual divinity. Indra is also often coupled with Varuna (vii. 86) and Vayu, god of Wind, less often with Soma (viii. 48), Brhaspati (iv. 50), Pusan, and Visnu.


Indra is of vast size; thus it is said that he would be equal to the earth even if it were ten times as large as it is. His greatness and power are constantly dwelt on: neither gods nor men have attained to the limit of his might; and no one like him is known among the gods. Thus various epithets such as sákrá and sácivant mighty, sácipáti lord of might, satákratu having a hundred powers, are characteristic of him.


The essential myth forming the basis of his nature is described with extreme frequency and much variation. Exhilarated by Soma and generally escorted by the Maruts, he attacks the chief demon of drought, usually called Vrtra, but often also the serpent (áhi). Heaven and Earth tremble when the mighty combat takes place. With his bolt be shatters Vrtra who encompasses the waters, hence receiving the exclusive epithet apsu-jit, conquering in the waters. The result of the conflict, which is regarded as being constantly renewed, is that he pierces the mountain and sets free the waters pent up like imprisoned cows. The physical elements in the conflict are nearly always the bolt, the mountain, waters or rivers, while lightning, thunder, cloud, rain are seldom directly named. The waters are often terrestrial, but also often aerial and celestial. The clouds are the mountains (párvata, girí), on which the demons lie or dwell, or from which Indra caste them down, or which he cleaves to release the waters. Or the cloud is a rock (ádri) which encompasses the cows (as the waters are sometimes called), and from which he releases them. Clouds, as containing the waters, figure as cows also; they further appear under the names of udder (údhar), spring (útsa), cask (kávandha), pail (kósa). The clouds, moreover, appear as the fortresses (púras) of the aerial demons, being described as moving, autumnal, made of iron or stone, and as 90, 99, or 100 in number. Indra. shatters them and is characteristically called the 'fort-destroyer' (parbhíd). But the chief and specific epithet of Indra is 'Vrtra-slayer' (Vrtra-hán), owing to the essential importance, in the myth, of the fight with the demon. In this fight the Maruts are his regular allies, but Agni, Soma, and Visnu also often assist him. Indra also engages in conflict with numerous minor demons; sometimes he is described as destroying demons in general, the Raksases or the Asuras.


With the release of the waters is connected the winning of light, sun, and dawn. Thus Indra is invoked to slay Vrtra and to win the light. When he had slain Vrtra, releasing the waters for man, he placed the sun visibly in the heavens. The sun shone forth when Indra blew the serpent from the air. There is here often no reference to the Vrtra fight. Indra is then simply said to find the light; he gained the sun or found it in the darkness, and made a path for it. He produces the dawn as well as the sun; he opens the darkness with the dawn and the sun. The cows. mentioned along with the sun and dawn, or with the sun alone, as found, released, or won by Indra, are here probably the morning beams, which are elsewhere compared with cattle coming out of their dark stalls. Thus when the dawns went to meet Indra, he became the lord of the cows; when be overcame Vrtra he made visible the cows of the nights. There seems to be a confusion between the restoration of the sun after the darkness of the thunderstorm, and the recovery of the sun from the darkness of night at dawn. The latter feature is probably an extension of the former. Indra's connexion with the thunderstorm is in a few passages divested of mythological imagery, as when he is said to have created the lightnings of heaven and to have directed the action of the waters downwards. With the Vrtra-fight, with the winning of the cows and of the sun, is also connected

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Great cosmic actions are often attributed to Indra. He settled the quaking mountains and plains. He stretches out heaven and earth like a hide; he holds asunder heaven and earth as two wheels are kept apart by the axle; he made the non-existent into the existent in a moment. Sometimes the separation and support of heaven and earth are described as a result of Indra's victory over a demon who held them together.

As the destroyer of demons in combat, Indra is constantly invoked by warriors. As the great god of battle he is more frequently called upon than any other deity to help the Aryans in their conflicts with earthly enemies. He protects the Aryan colour and subjects the black skin. He dispersed 50,000 of the black race. He subjected the Dasyus to the Aryan, and gave land to the Aryan.

More generally Indra is praised as the protector, helper, and friend of his worshippers. He is described as bestowing on them wealth, which is considered the result of victories. His liberality is so characteristic that the frequent attribute maghávan bountiful is almost exclusively his.

Besides the central myth of the Vrtra-fight, several minor stories are connected with Indra. In various passages he is described as shattering the car of Usas, goddess of Dawn (iv. 51); this trait is probably based on the notion of Indra's bringing the sun when kept back by the delaying dawn. He is also said to have stopped the steeds of the Sun, apparently by causing the latter to lose a wheel of his car. Indra is further associated with the myth of the winning of Soma; for it is to him that the eagle brings the draught of immortality from the highest heaven. Another myth in the capture by Indra, with the help of Sarama, of the cows confined in a cave by demons called Panis.

Various stories which, though mixed with mythological elements, probably have an historical basis, are told of Indra's having fought in aid of individual protégés, such as king Sudas, against terrestrial foes.

The attributes of Indra are chiefly those of physical superiority and rule over the physical world. He is energetic and violent in action, an irresistible fighter, an inexhaustible lavisher of the highest goods on mankind, but at the same time sensual and immoral in various ways, such as excess in eating and drinking, and cruelty in killing his own father Tvastr. He forms a marked contrast to Varuna, the other great universal monarch of the RV., who wields passive and peaceful sway, who uniformly applies the laws of nature, who upholds moral order, and whose character displays lofty ethical features.

The name of Indra is pre-Indian; for it occurs in the Avesta as that of a demon; the term verethraghna (=Vrtrahán) is also found there as the designation of the God of Victory, though unconnected with Indra. Thus it seems likely that there was already in the Indo-Iranian period a god resembling the Vrtra-slaying Indra of the RV. The etymology of the word is doubtful, but its radical portion ind may be connected with that in índ-u drop.


This god occupies a subordinate position in the RV., being celebrated in only three entire hymns, in part of another, and in one conjointly with Soma. His hand, his arms, and his limbs are mentioned. He has beautiful lips and wears braided hair. His colour is brown; his form is dazzling, for he shines like the radiant sun, like gold. He is arrayed with golden ornaments, and wears a glorious necklace (niská). He drives in a car. His weapons are often referred to: he holds the thunderbolt in his arm, and discharges his lightning shaft from the sky; but he is usually said to be armed with a bow and arrows, which are strong and swift.

Rudra is very often associated with the Maruts (i. 85). He is their father, and is said to have generated them from the shining udder of the cow Prsni.

He is fierce and destructive like a terrible beast, and is called a bull, as well as the ruddy (arusá) boar of heaven. He is exalted, strongest of the strong, swift, unassailable, unsurpassed in might. He is young and unaging, a lord (ísana) and father of the world. By his rule and univeral dominion be is aware of the doings of men and gods, He is bountiful (midhváms), easily invoked and auspicious (sivá). But he is usually regarded as malevolent; for the hymns addressed to him chiefly express fear of his terrible shafts and deprecation of his wrath. He is implored not to slay or injure, in his anger, his worshippers and their belongings, but to avert his great malignity and his cow-slaying, man-slaying bolt from them, and to lay others low. He is, however, not purely maleficent like a demon. He not only preserves from calamity, but bestows blessings. His healing powers are especially often mentioned; he has a thousand remedies, and is the greatest physician of physicians. In this connexion be has two exclusive epithets, jálasa, cooling, and jálasa-bhesaja, possessing cooling remedies.

The physical basis represented by Rudra is not clearly apparent. But it seems probable that the phenomenon underlying his nature was the storm, not pure and simple, but in its baleful aspect seen in the destructive agency of lightning. His healing and beneficent powers would then have been founded partly on the fertilizing and purifying action of the thunderstorm, and partly on the negative action of sparing those whom be might slay. Thus the deprecations of his wrath led to the application of the euphemistic epithet sivá which became the regular name of Rudra's historical successor in post-Vedic mythology.

The etymological sense of the name is somewhat uncertain, but would be 'Howler' according to the usual derivation from rud cry.


In Rigveda RUDRA is said to have obtained his powers by worshipping Lord Vishnu.Also Rudra is shown as subservient to Lord Vayu & Lord Indra. Thus Rudra is a minor god in "Vedas". Whereas Lord Vishnu is held in supreme position.




This deity is celebrated in one entire hymn (ii. 35), is invoked in two stanzas of a hymn to the Waters, and is often mentioned incidentally elsewhere. Brilliant and youthful, he shines without fuel in the waters which surround and nourish him. Clothed in lightning, be is golden in form, appearance, and colour. Standing in the highest place, he always shines with undimmed splendour. Steeds, swift as thought, carry the Son of Waters. In the last stanza of his hymn he is invoked as Agni and must be identified with him; Agni, moreover, in some hymns addressed to him, is spoken of as Apam napat. But the two are also distinguished; for example, 'Agni, accordant with the Son of Waters, confers victory over Vrtra'. The epithet asu-héman swiftly-speeding, applied three times to Apam napat, in its only other occurrence refers to Agni. Hence Apam napat appears to represent the lightning form of Agui which lurks in the eloud. For Agni, besides being directly called Apam napat, is also termed the embryo (gárbha) of the waters; and the third form of Agni is described as kindled in the waters.

This deity is not a creation of Indian mythology, but goes back to the Indo-Iranian period. For in the Avesta Apam napat is a spirit of the waters, who lives in their depths, who is surrounded by females, who is often invoked with them, who drives with swift steeds, and is said to have seized the brightness in the depth of the ocean.


The association of Mitra with Varuna is so intimate that he is addressed alone in one hymn only (iii. 59). Owing to the scantiness of the information supplied in that hymn his separate character appears somewhat indefirite.

Uttering his voice, he marshals men and watches the tillers with unwinking eye. He is the great Aditya who marshals, yatayati, the people, and the epithet yatayáj-jana arraying men together appears to be peculiarly his. Savitr (i. 35) is identified with Mitra because of his laws, and Visnu (i. 154) takes his three steps by the laws of Mitra: statements indicating that Mitra regulates the course of the sun. Agni, who goes at the head of the dawns (that is to say, is kindled before dawn), produces Mitra, and when kindled is Mitra. In the Atharvaveda, Mitra at sunrise is contrasted with Varuna in the evening, and in the Brahmanas Mitra is connected with day, Varuna with night.

The conclusion from the Vedic evidence that Mitra was a solar deity, is corroborated by the Avesta and by Persian religion in general, where Mithra is undoubtedly a sun-god or a god of light specially connected with the sun.

The etymology of the name is uncertain, but it must originally have meant 'ally' or 'friend', for the word often means 'friend' in the RV., and the Avestic Mithra is the guardian of faithfulness. As the kindly nature of the god is often referred to in the Veda, the term must in the beginning have been applied to the sun-god in his aspect of a benevolent power of nature.


This god is addressed in eleven entire hymns, and in two others conjointly with Indra. He is also, but less frequently, called Brahmanas páti, 'Lord of prayer', the doublets alternating in the same hymn. His physical features are few: he is sharp-horned and blue-backed; golden-coloured and ruddy. He is armed with bow and arrows, and wields a golden hatchet or an iron axe. He has a car, drawn by ruddy steeds, which slays the goblins, bursts open the cow-stalls, and wins the light. Called the father of the gods, he is also said to have blown forth their births like a blacksmith. Like Agni, he is both a domestic and a brahman. priest. He is the generator of all prayers, and without him sacrifice does not succeed. His song goes to heaven, and he is associated with singers. In several passages he is identified with Agni, from whom, however, he is much oftener distinguished. He is often invoked with Indra, some of whose epithets, such as maghávan bountiful and vajrin welder of the bolt he shares. He has thus been drawn into the Indra myth of the release of the cows. Accompanied by his singing host he rends Vala with a roar, and drives out the cows. In to doing he dispels the darkness and finds the light. As regards his relation to his worshippers, he is said to help and protect the pious man, to prolong life, and to remove disease.

Brhaspáti is a purely Indian deity. The double accent and the parallel name Bráhmanas páti indicate that the first member is the genitive of a noun brh, from the same root as bráhman, and that the name thus means 'Lord of prayer'.

He seems originally to have represented an aspect of Agni, as a divine priest, presiding over devotion, an aspect which bad already attained an independent character by the beginning of the Rigvedic period. As the divine brahman priest he seems to have been the prototype of Brahma, the chief of the later Hindu triad.


The goddess of Dawn is addressed in about twenty hymns. The personification is but slight, the physical phenomenon always being present to. the mind of the poet. Decked in gay attire like a dancer, clothed in light, she appears in the east and unveils her charms. Rising resplendent as from a bath she comes with light, driving away the darkness and removing the black robe of night. She is young, being born again and again, though ancient. Shining with a uniform hue, she wastes away the life of mortals. She illumines the ends of the sky when she awakes; she opens the gates of heaven; her radiant beams appear like herds of cattle. She drives away evil dreams, evil spirits, and the hated darkness. She discloses the treasures concealed by darkness, and distributes them bountifully, She awakens every living being to motion. When Usas shines forth, the birds, fly up from their nests and men seek nourishment. Day by day appearing at the appointed place, she never infringes the ordinance of nature and of the gods. She renders good service to the gods by awakening all worshippers and causing the sacrificial fires to be kindled. She brings the gods to drink the Soma draught. She is borne on a shining car, drawn by ruddy steeds or kine, which probably represent the red rays of morning.

Usas is closely associated with the Sun. She has opened paths for Surya to travel; she brings the eye of the gods, and leads on the beautiful white horse. She shines with the light of the Sun, with the light of her lover. Surya follows her as a young man a maiden; she meets the god who desires her. She thus comes to be spoken of as the wife of Surya. But as preceding the Sun, she is occasionally regarded as his mother; thus she is said to arrive with a bright child. She is also called the sister, or the elder sister, of Night (x. 127), and their names are often conjoined as a dual compound (usása-nákta and náktosása). She is born in the sky, and in, therefore constantly called the 'daughter of Heaven '. As the sacrificial fire is kindled at dawn, Usas is often associated with Agni, who is sometimes, called her lover. Usas causes Agni to be kindled, and Agni goes to meet the shining Dawn as she approaches. She is also often connected with the twin gods of early morning, the Asvins (vii. 71). When the Asvins' car is yoked, the daughter of the sky is born. They are awakened by her, accompany her, and are her friends.

Usas brings the worshipper wealth and children, bestowing protection and long life. She confers renown and glory on all liberal benefactors of the poet. She is characteristically bountiful (maghóni).

The name of Usas is derived from the root vas, to shine, forms of which are often used with reference to her in the hymns in which she is invoked.


This deity occupies quite a subordinate position, being celebrated in only three hymns. His name often means 'rain-cloud' in the literal sense but in most passages it represents the personification, the cloud then becoming an udder, a pail, or a water-skin. Parjanya is frequently described as a bull that quickens the plants and the earth. The shedding of rain is his most prominent characteristic. He flies around with a watery car, and loosens the water-skin; he sheds rain-water as our divine (ásara) father. In this activity he is associated with thunder and lightning. He is in a special degree the producer and nourisher of vegetation. He also produces fertility in cows, mares, and women. He is several times referred to as a father. By implication his wife is the Earth, and he is once called the son of Dyaus.


This god is celebrated in eight hymns, five of which occur in the sixth Mandala. His individuality is vague, and his anthropomorphic traits are scanty. His foot and his right band are mentioned; he wears braided hair and a beard. He carries a golden spear, an awl, and a goad. His car is drawn by goats instead of horses. His characteristic food is gruel (karambhá).

He sees all creatures clearly and at once. He is the wooer of his mother and the lover of his sister (Dawn), and was given by the gods to the Sun-maiden Surya as a husband. He is connected with the marriage ceremonial in the wedding hymn (x. 85). With his golden aerial ships Pusan acts as the messenger of Surya. He moves onward observing the universe, and makes his abode in heaven. He is a guardian who knows and beholds all creatures. As best of charioteers he drove downward the golden wheel of the sun. He traverses the distant path of heaven and earth; he goes to and returns from both the beloved abodes. He conducts the dead on the far-off path of the Fathers. He is a guardian of roads, removing dangers out of the way; and is called 'son of deliverance' (vimúco nápat). He follows and protects cattle, bringing them home unhurt and driving back the lost. His bounty is often mentioned. 'Glowing' (aghrni) is one of his exclusive epithets. The name means 'prosperer', as derived from pus, cause to thrive. The evidence, though not clear, indicates that Pusan was originally a solar deity, representing the beneficent power of the sun manifested chiefly in its pastoral aspect.


The Waters are addressed in four hymns, as well as in a few scattered verses. The personification is only incipient, hardly extending beyond the notion of their being mothers, young wives, and goddesses -who bestow boons and come to the sacrifice. They follow the path of the gods. Indra, armed with the bolt, dug out a channel for them, and they never infringe his ordinances. They are celestial as well as terrestrial, and the sea is their goal. They abide where the gods dwell, in the seat of Mitra-Varuna, beside the sun. King Varuna moves in their midst, looking down on the truth and the falsehood of men. They are mothers and as such produce Agni. They give their auspicious fluid like loving mothers. They are most motherly, the producers of all that is fixed and that moves. They purify, carrying away defilement. They even cleanse from moral guilt, the sins of violence, cursing, and lying. They also bestow remedies, health, wealth, strength, long life, and immortality. Their blessing and aid are often implored, and they are invited to seat themselves on the sacrificial grass to receive the offering of the Soma priest.

The Waters are several times associated with honey. They mix their milk with honey. Their wave, rich in honey, became the drink of Indra, Whom it exhilarated and to whom it gave heroic strength. They are invoked to pour the wave which is rich in honey, gladdens the gods, is the draught of Indra, and is produced in the sky. Here the celestial Waters seem to be identified with the heavenly Soma, the beverage of Indra. Elsewhere the Waters used in preparing the terrestrial Soma seem to be meant. When they appear bearing ghee, milk, and honey, they are accordant with the priests that bring well-pressed Soma for Indra, Soma (viii. 48) delights in them like a young man in lovely maidens; he approaches them as a lover; they are maidens who bow down before the youth.

The deification of the Waters is pre-Vedic, for they are invoked as apo in the Avesta also.


This is the pair most frequently mentioned next to Heaven and Earth. The hymns in which they are conjointly invoked are much more numerous than those in which they are separately addressed. As Mitra (iii. 59) is distinguished by hardly any individual traits, the two together have practically the same attributes and functions as Varuna alone. They are conceived as young. Their eye is the sun. Reaching out they drive with the rays of the sun as with arms. They wear glistening garments. They mount their car in the highest heaven. Their abode is golden and is located in heaven; it is great, very lofty, firm, with a thousand columns and a thousand doors. They have spies that are wise and cannot be deceived. They are kings and universal monarchs. They are also called Asuras, who wield dominion by means of mayá occult power, a term mainly connected with them. By that power they send the dawns, make the sun traverse the sky, and obscure it with cloud and rain. They are rulers and guardians of the whole world. They support heaven, and earth, and air.

They are lords of rivers, and they are the gods most frequently thought of and prayed to as bestowers of rain. They have kine yielding refreshment, and streams flowing with honey. They control the rainy skies and the streaming waters. They bedew the pastures with ghee (= rain) and the spaces with honey. They send rain and refreshment from the sky. Rain abounding in heavenly water comes from them. One entire hymn dwells on their powers of bestowing rain.

Their ordinances are fixed and cannot be obstructed even by the immortal gods. They are upholders and cherishers of order. They are barriers against falsehood, which they dispel, hate, and punish. They afflict with disease those who neglect their worship.

The dual invocation of these gods goes back to the Indo-Iranian period, for Ahura and Mithra are thus coupled in the Avesta.


Some ten hymns are addressed to Surya. Since the name designates the, orb of the sun as well as the god, Surya is the most concrete of the solar deities, his connexion with the luminary always being present to the mind of the seers. The eye of Surya is several times mentioned; but Surya, himself is also often called the eye of Mitra and Varuna, as well as of Agni and of the gods. He is far-seeing, all-seeing, the spy of the whole world; he beholds all beings, and the good and bad deeds of mortals. He arouses men to perform their activities. He is the soul or guardian of all that moves or is stationary. His car is drawn by one steed called etasá, or by seven swift mares called hárit bays.

The Dawn or Dawns reveal or produce Surya; he shines from the lap of the Dawns; but Dawn is also sometimes Surya's wife. He also bears the metronymic Aditya or Aditeya, son of the goddess Aditi. His father is Dyaus or Heaven. The gods raised him who had been hidden in the ocean, and they placed him in the sky; various individual gods, too, are said to have produced Surya or raised him to heaven.

Surya is in various passages conceived as a bird traversing space; he is a ruddy bird that flies; or he is a flying eagle. He is also called a mottled bull, or a white and brilliant steed brought by Dawn. Occasionally he is, described as an inanimate object: he is a gem of the sky, or a variegated stone set in the midst of heaven. He is a brilliant weapon (áyudha) which Mitra-Varuna conceal with cloud and rain, or their felly (paví), or a brilliant car placed by them in heaven. Surya is also sometimes spoken of as, a wheel (cakrá), though otherwise the wheel of Surya is mentioned. Surya shines for all the world, for men and gods. He dispels the darkness, which he rolls up like a skin, or which his rays throw off like a skin into the waters. He measures the days and prolong life. He drives away sickness, disease, and evil dreams. All creatures depend on him, and the epithet 'all-creating' (visvá-karman) is once applied to him. By his greatness he is the divine priest (asuryà puróhita) of the gods. At his rising he is besought to declare men sinless to Mitra-Varuna and to other gods.

The name Súrya is a derivative of svàr light, and cognate with the Avesta hvare sun, which has swift horses and is the eye of Ahura Mazda


These two deities are the most prominent gods after Indra, Agni, and Soma, being invoked in more than fifty entire hymns and in parts of several others. Though their name (asv-in horseman) is purely Indian, and though they undoubtedly belong to the group of the deities of light, the phenomenon which they represent is uncertain, because in all probability their origin is to be sought in a very early pre-Vedic age.

They are twins and inseparable, though two or three passages suggest that they may at one time have been regarded as distinct. They are young and yet ancient. They are bright, lords of lustre, of golden brilliancy, beautiful, and adorned with lotus-garlands. They are the only gods called golden-pathed (híranya-vartani). They are strong and agile, fleet as thought or as an eagle. They possess profound wisdom and occult power. Their two most distinctive and frequent epithets are dasrá wondrous and násatya true.

They are more closely associated with honey (mádhu) than any of the other gods. They desire honey and are drinkers of it. They have a skin filled with honey; they poured out a hundred jars of honey. They have a honey-goad; and their car is honey-hued and honey-bearing. They give honey to the bee and are compared with bees. They are, however, also fond of Soma, being invited to drink it with Usas and Surya. Their car is sunlike and, together with all its parts, golden. It is threefold and has three wheels. It is swifter than thought, than the twinkling of an eye. It was fashioned by the three divine artificers, the Rbhus. It is drawn by horses, more commonly by birds or winged steeds; sometimes by one or more buffaloes, or by a single asa (rásabha). It passes over the five countries; it moves around the sky; it traverses heaven and earth in one day; it goes round the sun in the distance. Their revolving course (vartís), a term almost exclusively applicable to them, is often mentioned. They come from heaven, air, and earth, or from the ocean; they abide in the sea of heaven, but sometimes their locality is referred to as unknown. The time of their appearance is between dawn and sunrise: when darkness stands among the ruddy cows; Usas awakens them; they follow after her in their car; at its yoking Usas is born. They yoke their car to descend to earth and receive the offerings of worshippers. They come not only in the morning, but also at noon and sunset. They dispel darkness and chase away evil spirits.

The Asvins are children of Heaven; but they are also once said to be the twin sons of Vivasvant and Tvastr's daughter Saranyú (probably the rising Sun and Dawn). Pusan is once said to be their son; and Dawn seems to be meant by their sister. They are often associated with the Sun conceived as a female called either Surya or more commonly the daughter of Surya. They are Surya's two husbands whom she chose and whose car she mounts. Surya's companionship on their car is indeed characteristic. Hence in the wedding hymn (x. 85) the Asvins are invoked to conduct the bride home on their car, and they (with other gods) are besought to bestow fertility on her.

The Asvins are typically succouring divinities. They are the speediest deliverers from distress in general. The various rescues they effect are of a peaceful kind, not deliverance from the dangers of battle. They are characteristically divine physicians, healing diseases with their remedies, restoring sight, curing the sick and the maimed. Several legends are mentioned about those whom they restored to youth, cured of various physical defects, or befriended in other ways. The name oftenest mentioned is that of Bhujyu, whom they saved from the ocean in a ship.

The physical basis of the Asvins has been a puzzle from the time of the earliest interpreters before Yuska, who offered various explanations, while modern scholars also have suggested several theories. The two most probable are that the Asvins represented either the morning twilight, as half light and half dark, or the morning and the evening star. It is probable that the Asvins date from the Indo-European period. The two horsemen, sons of Dyaus, who drive across the heaven with their steeds, and who have a sister, are parallel to the two famous horsemen of Greek mythology, sons of Zeus, brothers of Helena; and to the two Lettic God's sons who come riding on their steeds to woo the daughter of the Sun. In the Lettic myth the morning star comes to look at the daughter of the Sun. As the two Asvins wed the one Surya so the two Lettic God's sons wed the one daughter of the Sun; the latter also (like the Dioskouroi and the Asvins) are rescuers from the ocean, delivering the daughter of the Sun or the Sun himself.


Beside Indra (ii. 12) Varuna is the greatest of the gods of the RV., though the number of the hymns in which he is celebrated alone (apart from Mitra) is small, numbering hardly a dozen.

His face, eye, arms, hands, and feet are mentioned. He moves his arms, walks, drives, sits, eats, and drinks. His eye with which he observes mankind is the sun. He is far-sighted and thousand-eyed. He treads down wiles with shining foot. He sits on the strewn grass at the sacrifice. He wears a golden mantle and puts on a shining robe. His car, which is often mentioned, shines like the sun, and is drawn by well-yoked steeds. Varuna sits in his mansions looking on all deeds. The Fathers behold him in the highest heaven. The spies of Varuna are sometimes referred to: they sit down around him; they observe the two worlds; they stimulate prayer. By the golden-winged messenger of Varuna the sun is meant. Varuna is often called a king, but especially a universal monarch (samráj) The attribute of sovereignty (ksatrá) and the term ásura are predominantly applicable to him. His divine dominion is often alluded to by the word mayá occult power; the epithet mayín crafty is accordingly used chiefly of him.

Varuna is mainly lauded as upholder of physical and moral order. He is a great lord of the laws of nature. He established heaven and earth, and by his law heaven and earth are held apart. He made the golden swing (the sun) to shine in heaven; he has made a wide path for the sun; he placed fire in the waters, the sun in the sky, Soma on the rock. The wind which resounds through the air is Varuna's breath. By his ordinances the moon shining brightly moves at night, and the stars placed up on high are seen at night, but disappear by day. Thus Varuna is lord of light both by day and by night. He is also a regulator of the waters. He caused the rivers to flow; by his occult power they pour swiftly into the ocean without filling it. It is, however, with the aerial waters that he is usually connected. Thus he makes the inverted cask (the cloud) to pour its waters on heaven, earth, and air, and to moisten the ground.

Varuna's ordinances being constantly said to be fixed, he is pre-eminently called dhrtravrata whose laws are established. The gods themselves follow his ordinances. His power is; so great that neither the birds as they fly nor the rivers as they flow can reach the limits of his dominion. He embraces the universe, and the abodes of all beings. He is all-knowing, and his omniscience is typical. He knows the flight of the birds in the sky, the path of the ships in the ocean, the course of the far-travelling wind beholding all the secret things that have been or shall be done, he witnesses men's truth and falsehood. No creature can even wink without his knowledge.

As a moral governor Varuna stands far above any other deity. His wrath is aroused by sin, the infringement of his ordinances, which he severely punishes. The fetters (pásas) with which he binds sinners are often mentioned, and are characteristic of him. On the other hand, Varuna is gracious to the penitent. He removes sin as if untying a rope. He releases even from the sin committed by men's fathers. He spares him who daily transgresses his laws when a suppliant, and is gracious to those who have broken his laws by thoughtlessness. There is in fact no hymn to Varuna in which the prayer for forgiveness of guilt does not occur. Varuna is on a footing of friendship with his worshipper, who communes with him in his celestial abode, and sometimes sees him with the mental eye. The righteous hope to behold in the next world Varuna and Yama, the two kings who reign in bliss.

The original conception of Varuna seems to have been the encompassing sky. It has, however, become obscured, because it dates from an earlier age. For it goes back to the Indo-Iranian period at least, since the Ahura Mazda (the wise spirit) of the Avesta agrees with the Asura Varuna in character, though not in name. It may even be older still; for the name Varuna is perhaps identical with the Greek ouranos sky. In any case, the word appears to be derived from the root vr cover or encompass.


The ... hymn [vii. 103], intended as a spell to produce rain, is a panegyric of frogs, who are compared during the drought to heated kettles, and are described as raising their voices together at the commencement of the rains like Brahmin pupils repeating the lessons of their teacher.


The comprehensive group called Vísve deváh or All-Gods occupies an important position, for at least forty entire hymns are addressed to them. It is an artificial sacrificial group intended to include all the gods in order that none should be left out in laudations meant for the whole pantheon. The ... hymn [viii. 29] though traditionally regarded as meant for the Vísve deváh is a collection of riddles, in which each stanza describes a deity by his characteristic marks, leaving his name to be guessed. The deities meant in the successive stanzas are: 1. Soma, 2. Agni, 3. Tvastr, 4. Indra, 5. Rudra, 6. Pusan, 7. Visnu, 8. Asvins, 9. Mitra-Varuna, 10. Angirases.


As the Soma sacrifice formed the centre of the ritual of the RV., the god Soma is one of the most prominent deities. With rather more than 120 hymns (all those in Mandala ix, and about half a dozen in others) addressed to him, becomes next to Agni (i. 1) in importance. The anthropomorphism of his character is less developed than that of India or Varuna because the plant and its juice are constantly present to the mind of the poet. Soma has terrible and sharp weapons, which he grasps in his hand; he wields a bow and a thousand-pointed shaft. He has a car which is heavenly, drawn by a team like Vayu's. He is also said to ride on the same car as Indra. He is the best of charioteers. In about half a dozen hymns he is associated with Indra, Agni, Pusan, and Rudra respectively as a dual divinity. He is sometimes attended by the Maruts, the close allies of Indra. He comes to the sacrifice and receives offerings on the sacred grass.

The Soma juice, which is intoxicating, is frequently termed mádhu or sweet draught, but oftenest called índu the bright drop. The colour Of Soma is brown (babhrú), ruddy (aruná), or more usually tawny (hári). The whole of the ninth book consists of incantations chanted over the tangible Soma, while the stalks are being pounded by stones, the juice passes through a woollen strainer, and flows into wooden vats, in which it is offered to the gods on the litter of sacred grass (barhís). These processes are overlaid with confused and mystical imagery in endless variation. The pressing stones with which the shoot (amsú) is crushed are called ádri or grávan. The pressed juice as it passes through the filter of sheep's wool is usually called pávamana or punaná flowing clear. This purified (unmixed) Soma is sometimes called suddhá pure, but much oftener sukrá, or súci bright; it is offered almost exclusively to Vayu or India. The filtered Soma flows into jars (kalása) or vats (dróna), where it is mixed with water and also with milk, by which it is sweetened. The verb mrj cleanse is used with reference to this addition of water and milk. Soma is spoken of as having three kinds of admixture (asír): milk (gó), sour milk (dádhi), and barley (yáva). The admixture being alluded to as a garment or bright robe, Soma is described as 'decked with beauty'. Soma is pressed three times a day: the Rbhus are invited to the evening pressing, Indra to the midday one, which is his exclusively, while the morning libation is his first drink. The three abodes (sadhástha) of Soma which are mentioned probably refer to three tubs used in the ritual.

Soma's connexion with the waters, resulting from the admixture, is expressed in the most various ways. He is the drop that grows in the waters; he is the embryo of the waters or their child; they are his mothers or his sisters; he is lord and king of streams; he produces waters and causes heaven and earth to rain. The sound made by the trickling Soma is often alluded to generally in hyperbolical usage, with verbs meaning to roar or bellow, or even thunder. He is thus commonly called a bull among the waters, which figure as cows. Soma is moreover swift, being often compared with a steed, sometimes with a bird flying to the wood. Owing to his yellow colour Soma's brilliance is the physical aspect most dwelt upon by the poets. He is then often likened to or associated with the sun.

The exhilarating power of Soma led to its being regarded as a divine drink bestowing immortal life. Hence it is called amrta draught of immortality. All the gods drink Soma; they drank it to gain immortality; it confers immortality not only on gods, but on men. It has, moreover, medicinal powers: Soma heals whatever is sick, making the blind to see and the lame to walk. Soma also stimulates the voice, and is called 'lord of speech'. He awakens eager thought: he is a generator of hymns, a leader of poets, a seer among priests. Hence his wisdom is much dwelt upon; thus he is a wise seer, and he knows the races of the gods.

The intoxicating effect of Soma most emphasized by the poets is the stimulus it imparts to Indra in his conflict with hostile powers. That Soma invigorates Indra for the fight with Vrtra is mentioned in innumerable passages. Through this association Indra's warlike exploits and cosmic actions come to be attributed to Soma independently. He is a victor unconquered in fight, born for battle. As a warrior he wins all kinds of wealth for his worshippers.

Though Soma is several times regarded as dwelling or growing on the mountains (like Haoma in the Avesta), his true origin and abode are regarded as in heaven. Soma is the child of heaven, is the milk of heaven, and is purified in heaven. He is the lord of heaven; he occupies heaven, and his place is the highest heaven. Thence he was brought to earth. The myth embodying this belief is that of the eagle that brings Soma to Indra, and is most fully dealt with in the two hymns iv. 26 and 27. Being the most important of herbs, Soma is said to have been born as the lord (páti) of plants, which also have him as their king; he is a lord of the wood (vánaspáti), and has generated all plants. But quite apart from his connexion with herbs, Soma is, like other leading gods, called a king: he is a king of rivers; a king of the whole earth; a king or father of the gods; a king of gods and mortals. In a few of the latest hymns of the RV. Soma begins to be mystically identified with the moon; in the AV. Soma several times means the moon; and in the Brahmanas this identification has already become a commonplace.

We know that the preparation and the offering of Soma (the Avestan Haoma) was already an important feature of Indo-Iranian worship, In both the RV. and the Avesta it is stated that the stalks were pressed, that the juice was yellow, and was mixed with milk; in both it grows on mountains, and its mythical home is in heaven, whence it comes down to earth; in both the Soma draught has become a mighty god and is called a king; in both there are many other identical mythological traits relating to Soma.

It is possible that the belief in an intoxicating divine beverage, the home of which was in heaven, goes back to the Indo-European period. It must then have been regarded as a kind of honey mead (Skt. mádhu, Gk. methu, Anglo-Saxon medu).

The name of Soma (= Haoma) means pressed juice, being derived from the root su (= Av. hu) press.


The RV. contains a group of five hymns (x. 14-18) concerned with death and the future life. From them we learn that, though burial was also practised, cremation was the usual method of disposing of the dead, and was the main source of the mythology relating to the future life. Agni conveys the corpse to the other world, the Fathers, and the gods. He is besought to preserve the body intact and to burn the goat which is sacrificed as his portion. During the process of cremation Agni and Soma are besought to heal any injury that bird, beast, ant, or serpent may have inflicted on the body. The way to the heavenly world is a distant path on which Savitr (i. 35) conducts and Pusan (vi. 54) protects the dead. Before the pyre is lighted, the wife of the dead man, having lain beside him, arises, and his bow is taken from his hand. This indicates that in earlier times his widow and his weapons were burnt with the body of the husband. Passing along by the path trodden by the Fathers, the spirit of the dead man goes to the realm of light, and meets with the Fathers who revel with Yama in the highest heaven. Here, uniting with a glorious body, he enters upon a life of bliss which is free from imperfections and bodily frailties, in which all desires are fulfilled, and which is passed among the gods, especially in the presence of the two kings Yama and Varuna.


Two hymns (x. 15 and 54) are addressed to the Pitaras or Fathers, the blessed dead who dwell in the third heaven, the third or highest step of Visnu. The term as a rule applies to the early or first ancestors, who followed the ancient paths, seers who made the paths by which the recent dead go to join them. Various groups of ancestors are mentioned, such as the Angirases and Atharvans, the Bhrgus and Vasisthas, who are identical in name with the priestly families associated by tradition with the composition of the Atharvaveda and of the second and seventh Mandalas of the Rigveda. The Pitaras are classed as higher, lower, and middle, as earlier and later, who though not always known to their descendants, are known to Agni. They revel with Yama and feast with the gods. They are fond of Soma, and thirst for the libations prepared for them on earth, and eat the offerings along with him. They come on the same car as Indra and the goods. Arriving in their thousands they range themselves on the sacrificial grass to the south, and drink the pressed draught. They receive oblations as their food. They are entreated to hear, intercede for, and protect their worshippers, and besought not to injure their descendants for any sin humanly committed against them. They are invoked to give riches, children, and long life to their sons, who desire to be in their good graces. The Vasisthas are once collectively implored to help their descendants. Cosmical actions, like those of the gods, are sometimes attributed to the Fathers. Thus they are said to have adorned the sky with stars, to have placed darkness in the night and light in the day; they found the light and generated the dawn. The path trodden by the Fathers (pitryána) is different from that trodden by the gods (devayána).


This [x. 34] is one, among the secular hymns, of a group of four which have a didactic character. It is the lament of a gambler who, unable to resist the fascination of the dice, deplores the ruin to which he has brought on his family. The dice (aksás) consisted of the nuts of a large tree called vibhidaka (Terminalia bellerica), which is still utilized for this purpose in India.


There are six or seven hymns dealing with the creation of the world as produced from some original material. In the following one, the well-known Purusa-sukta or hymn of Man, the gods are the agents of creation, while the material out of which the world is made is the body of a primaeval giant named Purusa. The act of creation is here treated as a sacrifice in which Purusa is the victim, the parts when cut up becoming portions of the universe. Both its language and its matter indicate that it is one of the very latest hymns of the Rigveda. It not only presupposes a knowledge of the three oldest Vedas, to which it refers by name, but also, for the first and only time in the Rigveda, mentions the four castes. The religious view is moreover different from that of the old hymns, for it is pantheistic: 'Purusa is all this world, what has been and shall be'. It is, in fact, the starting-point of the pantheistic philosophy of India.


The goddess of night, under the name of Rátri is invoked in only one hymn (x. 127). She is the sister of Usas, and like her is called a daughter of heaven. She is not conceived as the. dark, but as the bright starlit night. Decked with all splendour she drives away the darkness. At her approach men, beasts, and birds go to rest. She protects her worshippers from the wolf and the thief, guiding them to safety. Under the name of nákta n., combined with usás, Night appears as a dual divinity with Dawn in the form of Usása-nákta and Náktosása, occurring in some twenty scattered stanzas of the Rigveda.


In the ... cosmogonic poem [x. 129] the origin of the world is explained the evolution of the existent (sát) from the non-existent (ásat). Water thus came into being first; from it was evolved intelligence by heat. It is the starting-point of the natural philosophy which developed into the Sankhya system.


Three hymns are addressed to Yama, the chief of the blessed dead. There is also another (x. 10), which consists of a dialogue between him and his sister Yami. He is associated with Varuna, Brhaspati, and especially Agni, the conductor of the dead, who is called his friend and his priest. He is not expressly designated a god, but only a being who rules the dead. He is associated with the departed Fathers, especially the Angirases, with whom he comes to the sacrifice to drink Soma.

Yama dwells in the remote recess of the sky. In his abode, which is the home of the gods, he is surrounded by songs and the sound of the flute. Soma is pressed for Yama, ghee is offered to him, and he comes to seat himself at the sacrifice. He is invoked to lead his worshippers to the gods, and to prolong life.

His father is Vivasvant and his mother Saranyu. In her dialogue with him Yami speaks of Yama as the 'only mortal', and elsewhere he is said to have chosen death and abandoned his body. He departed to the other world, having found out the path for many, to where the ancient Fathers passed away. Death is the path of Yama. His foot-fetter (pádbisa) is spoken of as parallel to the bond of Varuna. The owl (úluka) and the pigeon (kapóta) are mentioned as his messengers, but the two four-eyed, broad-nosed, brindled dogs, sons of Sarama (sarameyáu) are his regular emissaries. They guard the path along which the dead man hastens to join the Fathers who rejoice with Yama. They watch men and wander about among the peoples as Yama's messengers. They are besought to grant continued enjoyment of the light of the sun.

As the first father of mankind and the first of those that died, Yama appears to have originally been regarded as a mortal who became the chief of the souls of the departed. He goes back to the Indo-Iranian period, for the primaeval twins, from whom the human race is descended, Yama and Yami, are identical with the Yima and Yimeh of the Avesta. Yama himself may in that period have been regarded as a king of a golden age, for in the Avesta he is the ruler of an earthly, and in the RV. that of a heavenly paradise.


This god, as Váta, the ordinary name of wind, is addressed in two short hymns. He is invoked in a more concrete way than his doublet Vayú, who is celebrated in one whole hymn and in parts of others. Vata's name is frequently connected with forms of the root va, blow, from which it is derived. He is once associated with the god of the rain-storm in the dual form of Vata-Parjanyá, while Vayu is often similarly linked with Indra as Índra-Vayú. Vata is the breath of the gods. Like Rudra he wafts healing and prolongs life; for he has the treasure of immortality in his house. His activity is chiefly mentioned in connexion with the thunderstorm. He produces ruddy lights and makes the dawns to shine. His swiftness often supplies a comparison for the speed of the gods or of mythical steeds. His noise is also often mentioned.

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Important Hymns from RigVeda dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

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Many Important Hymns in the RigVeda are dedicated to Lord MahaVishnu - the Supreme God.

Rig Veda clearly shows that "Lord MahaVishnu" is the Supreme God (Parabrahma).


Vishnu - The Supreme God

The Gods be gracious unto us even from the place whence Visnu strode

Through the seven regions of the earth!

Through all this world strode Visnu; thrice his foot he planted, and the whole

Was gathered in his footstep's dust.

Visnu, the Guardian, he whom none deceiveth, made three steps; thenceforth

Establishing his high decrees.

Look ye on Visnu's works, whereby the Friend of Indra, close-allied,

Hath let his holy ways be seen.

The princes evermore behold that loftiest place where Visnu is,

Laid as it were an eye in heaven.

This, Vishnu's station most sublime, the singers, ever vigilant,

Lovers of holy song, light up.

As soon as, at libations of his mother, great Visnu had drunk up the draught, he plundered.

The dainty cates, the cooked mess; but One stronger transfixed the wild boar, shooting through the mountain

Strong in their native strength to greatness have they grown, stepped to the firmament and made their dwelling wide.

When Visnu saved the Soma bringing wild delight, the Maruts sate like birds on their dear holy grass

Yea, Pusan, Visnu, ye who run your course, enrich our hymns with kine;

Bless us with all prosperity

Be Mitra gracious unto us, and Varuna and Aryaman:

Indra, Brhaspati be kind, and Visnu of the mighty stride

I WILL declare the mighty deeds of Visnu, of him who measured out the earthly regions,

Who propped the highest place of congregation, thrice setting down his footstep, widely striding.

For this his mighty deed is Visnu lauded, like some wild beast, dread, prowling, mountain-roaming;

He within whose three wide-extended paces all living creatures have their habitation.

Let the hymn lift itself as strength to Visnu, the Bull far-striding, dwelling on the mountains,

Him who alone with triple step hath measured this common dwelling-place, long, far extended.

Him whose three places that are filled with sweetness, imperishable, joy as it may list them,

Who verily alone upholds the threefold, the earth, the heaven, and all living creatures.

May I attain to that his well-loved mansion where men devoted to the Gods are happy.

For there springs, close akin to the Wide-Strider, the well of meath in Visnu's highest footstep.

Fain would we go unto your dwelling-places where there are many-horned and nimble oxen,

For mightily, there, shineth down upon us the widely-striding Bull's sublimest mansion.

To the great Hero, him who sets his mind thereon, and Visnu, praise aloud in song your draught of juice,-

Gods ne'er beguiled, who borne as 'twere by noble steed, have stood upon the lofty ridges of the hills.

Your Soma-drinker keeps afar your furious rush, Indra and Visnu, when ye come with all your might.

That which hath been directed well at mortal man, bow-armed Krsanu's arrow, ye turn far aside.

These offerings increase his mighty manly strength: he brings both Parents down to share the genial flow.

He lowers, though a son, the Father's highest name; the third is that which is high in the light of heaven.

We laud this manly power of him the Mighty One, preserver, inoffensive, bounteous and benign;

His who strode, widely pacing, with three steppings forth over the realms of earth for freedom and for life.

A mortal man, when he beholds two steps of him who looks upon the light, is restless with amaze.

But his third step doth no one venture to approach, no, nor the feathered birds of air who fly with wings.

He, like a rounded wheel, hath in swift motion set his ninety racing steeds together with the four.

Developed, vast in form, with those who sing forth praise, a youth, no more a child, he cometh to our call.

FAR-SHINING, widely famed, going thy wonted way, fed with the oil, be helpful. Mitra-like, to us.

So, Visnu, e'en the wise must swell thy song of praise, and he who hath oblations pay thee solemn rites.

He who brings gifts to him the Ancient and the Last, to Visnu who ordains, together with his Spouse,

Who tells the lofty birth of him the Lofty One, shall verily surpass in glory e'en his peer.

Him have ye satisfied, singers, as well as ye know, primeval germ of Order even from his birth.

Ye, knowing e'en his name, have told it forth: may we, Visnu, enjoy the grace of thee the Mighty One.

The Sovran Varuna and both the Asvins wait on this the will of him who guides the Marut host.

Visnu hath power supreme and might iliat finds the day, and with his Friend unbars the stable of the kine.

Even he the Heavenly One who came for fellowship, Visnu to Indra, godly to the godlier,

Who Maker, throned in three worlds, helps the Aryan man, and gives the worshipper his share of Holy Law.

Seven germs unripened yet are heaven's prolific, seed: their functions they maintain by Visnu's ordinance.

Endued with wisdom through intelligence and thought, they compass us about present on every side.

Incline the Asvins to show grace, and Pusan, for power and might have they, their own possession.

Friendly are Visnu, Vata, and Rbhuksan so may I bring the Gods to make us happy.

The Maruts deck their beauty for thy glory, yea, Rudra! for thy birth fair, brightly-coloured.

That which was fixed as Visnu's loftiest station-therewith the secret of the Cows thou guardest.

O Agni, Indra, Varuna, and Mitra, give, O ye Gods, and Marut host, and Visnu.

May both Nasatyas, Rudra, heavenly Matrons, Pusan, Sarasvati, Bhaga, accept us.

Indra and Agni, Mitra, Varuna, Aditi, the Waters, Mountains, Maruts, Sky, and Earth and Heaven,

Visnu I call, Pusan, and Brahmanaspati, and Bhaga, Samsa, Savitar that they may help.

May Visnu also and Vata who injures none, and Soma granter of possessions give us joy;

And may the Rbhus and the Asvins, Tvastar and Vibhvan remember us so that we may have wealth.

To Visnu, to the Mighty whom the Maruts follow let your hymns born in song go forth, Evayamarut;

To the impetuous, strong band, adorned with bracelets, that rushes on in joy and ever roars for vigour.

Come in a friendly spirit, come to us, O Maruts, and hear his call who praises you, Evayamarut.

Like car-borne men, one-minded with the mighty Visnu, keep enmity far from us with your deeds of wonder.

May Adid through holy works be gracioas, and may the Maruts, loud in song, be friendly.

May Visnu give felicity, and Pusan, the Air that cherisheth our life, and Vayu.

May this our song of praise reach you, O Maruts, and Visnu guardian of the future infant.

May they vouchsafe the singer strength for offspring. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.

May Adid through holy works be gracioas, and may the Maruts, loud in song, be friendly.

May Visnu give felicity, and Pusan, the Air that cherisheth our life, and Vayu

Agni, to these men's hymns, from earth, from heaven, bring Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Agni,

And Aryaman, and Aditi, and Visnu. Sarasvati be joyful, and the Maruts.

With offerings I propitiate the branches of this swift-moving God, the bounteous Visnu.

Hence Rudra gained his Rudra-strength: O Asvins, ye sought the house that hath celestial viands

While we accelerate these our sacrifices, may we win strength from both of you, O Agni:

Ne'er may the Maruts, Indra, Visnu slight us. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings

MEN come not nigh thy majesty who growest beyond all bound and measure with thy body.

Both thy two regions of the earth, O Visnu, we know: thou God, knowest the highest also.

None who is born or being born, God Visnu, hath reached the utmost limit of thy grandeur.

The vast high vault of heaven hast thou supported, and fixed earth's eastern pinnacle securely.

Rich in sweet food be ye, and rich in milch-kine, with fertile pastures, fain to do men service.

Both these worlds, Visnu, hast thou stayed asunder, and firmly fixed the earth with pegs around it.

Ye have made spacious room for sacrificing by generating Surya, Dawn, and Agni.

O Heroes, ye have conquered in your battles even the bull-jawed Dasa's wiles and magic.

Ye have destroyed, thou, Indra, and thou Visnu, Sambara's nine-and-ninety fenced castles.

Twain smote down a hundred times a thousand resistless heroes of the royal Varcin.

This is the lofty hymn of praise, exalting the Lords of Mighty Stride, the strong and lofty.

I laud you in the solemn synods, Visnu: pour ye food on us in our camps, O Indra.

O Visnu, unto thee my lips cry Vasat! Let this mine offering, Sipivista, please thee.

May these my songs of eulogy exalt thee. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.

NE'ER doth the man repent, who, seeking profit, bringeth his gift to the far-striding Visnu.

He who adoreth him with all his spirit winneth himself so great a benefactor.

Thou, Visnu, constant in thy courses, gavest good-will to all men, and a hymn that lasteth,

That thou mightst move us to abundant comfort of very splendid wealth with store of horses.

Three times strode forth this God in all his grandeur over this earth bright with a hundred splendours.

Foremost be Visnu, stronger than the strongest: for glorious is his name who lives for ever.

Over this earth with mighty step strode Visnu, ready to give it for a home to Manu.

In him the humble people trust for safety: he, nobly born, hath made them spacious dwellings.

To-day I laud this name, O gipivista, I, skilled in rules, the name of thee the Noble.

Yea, I the poor and weak praise thee the Mighty who dwellest in the realm beyond this region.

What was there to be blamed in thee, O Visnu, when thou declaredst, I am Sipivista?

Hide not this form from us, nor keep it secret, since thou didst wear another shape in battle.

O Visnu, unto thee my lips cry Vasat! Let this mine offering, Sipivista, please thee.

May these my songs of eulogy exalt thee. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.

MAY Visnu form and mould the womb, may Tvastar duly shape the forms,

Prajapati infuse the stream, and Dhatar lay the germ for thee.


Maha Vishnu as "Virata Purusha" - The Parabrahma

FROM Fervour kindled to its height Eternal Law and Truth were born:

Thence was the Night produced, and thence the billowy flood of sea arose.

From that same billowy flood of sea the Year was afterwards produced,

Ordainer of the days nights, Lord over all who close the eye.

Dhatar, the great Creator, then formed in due order Sun and Moon.

He formed in order Heaven and Earth, the regions of the air, and light.

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Marvelous Indra,

always to be worshipped

with hymns and salutations.

Those who desire to observe the eternal rites

and those who desiring riches

are wise enough to invoke you

and seek your presence.

Like loving wives

touching their loving husbands,

their thoughts touch you, O mighty Indra. (Rig Veda I.62)




Dawn, daughter of the sky,

rise with your riches for our welfare.

Rise with ample food.

O Goddess of the dawn,

rise and give us your wealth. (Rig Veda I.48)




Like a boat over the river,

take us across for our welfare.

O Fire, let our sins depart from us. (Rig Veda I.97.8)

The one and the many

...They call Him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni,

and even the swift winged celestial bird Gautaman.

The learned speak of the One Reality in many ways.

They call Him Agni, Yama and Matarisvan. (Rig Veda I. 164.)




O Fire, lead us to riches along the right path.

Shining God, you know the minds of all.

Separate us from the sin that moves crookedly.

Profuse words of praise we offer you. (Rig Veda I.180.1)


Rudra - A Minor God


O Rudra, through the cures administered by you,

may we pass through a hundred winters.

Drive away from us haters.

Destroy our sins completely

and destroy the spreading sicknesses. (Rig Veda II.33.2)




We meditate upon

that adorable effulgence

of the resplendent Savitur, the life giver.

May he stimulate our intellects. (Rig Veda II.62.10)


Obeisance is all powerful.

I perform obeisance.

Obeisance is the pillar of the earth and the heaven.

Obeisance to the gods.

Obeisance wins them over.

With obeisance I rectify the wrongs,

I might have done to them. (Rig Veda VI.51.8)




O My lord Indra, do not

subject us to the rule of him

who speaks harshly and insultingly,

and who is mean and selfish.

May my thoughts be with you. (Rig Veda VII.31)




Whatever offence we

might have given to the divine beings,

or whatever moral order we

in our ignorance might have violated,

O Varuna, punish us not for such sins. (Rig Veda VII.89.3)


To the sun let your eyes go,

to the wind your life-breath.

By the good deeds you have done,

go to the heaven and then come back again

to live on the earth or take to the waters

if you are comfortable with it.

Remain in the herbs with

the bodies you intend to take. (Rig Veda X.16.3)


He who abandons a friend

who knows his duty of friendship,

has no worth in what he speaks.

What he hears is also false and he

does not know the path of righteous action. (Rig Veda X.71.6)


A Marriage vow


I take hold of your hand for good fortune,

so that with me, your husband,

you may attain to old age.

The gods, Bhaga, Aryaman, Savitur and Pushan

gave you to me for leading the life of a householder. (Rig Veda X. 85.36)


A marriage blessing


Bounteous Indra,

endow this bride

with great sons and fortune.

Give her ten sons and

make the husband the eleventh. (Rig Veda X.85.46)


Sharing of wealth and food


The gods have given not hunger but death.

And he who eats is subject to deaths.

The wealth of the generous never decreases.

The miserly person has nothing

that can give him happiness.

The mean minded gathers food in vain.

I speak the truth, it is indeed his death.

He who nourishes neither the god nor a friend,

he who eats alone, gathers sin. (Rig Veda X. 117)


MahaVishnu as "Virata Purusha" - The Parabrahma - Creating The Universe


At that time there was neither

existence nor non-existence,

neither the worlds nor the sky.

There was nothing that was beyond.

There was no death, nor immortality.

There was no knowledge of the day and night.

That one alone breathed, without air, by itself.

Besides that there was nothing.

Darkness there was enveloped by darkness.

All this was one water, without any distinction.

It was inactive, covered by void.

That one became active by the power of its own thought.

There came upon it at first desire,

which was the first seed of the mind.

Men of vision found in their meditative state,

the connection between the Being and the Non-Being.

All gods were subsequent to this creative activity.

Then who knows from where this came into existence!

Where this creation came from ,

whether He supported it or not,

He who is controlling it from the highest of the heavens,

He perhaps knows it or He knows it not ! (Rig Veda X.129)


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1 - The Veda


By Sri Aurobindo (1920)

The arts which appeal to the soul through the eye are able to arrive at a peculiarly concentrated expression of the spirit, the aesthesis and the creative mind of a people, but it is in its literature that we must seek for its most flexible and many-sided self-expression, for it is the word used in all its power of clear figure or its threads of suggestion that carries to us most subtly and variably the shades and turns and teeming significances of the inner self in its manifestation. The greatness of a literature lies first in the greatness and worth of its substance, the value of its thought and the beauty of its forms, but also in the degree to which, satisfying the highest conditions of the art of speech, it avails to bring out and raise the soul and life or the living and the ideal mind of a people, an age, a culture, through the genius of some of its greatest or most sensitive representative spirits. And if we ask what in both these respects is the achievement of the Indian mind as it has come down to us in the Sanskrit and other literatures, we might surely say that here at least there is little room for any just depreciation and denial even by a mind the most disposed to quarrel with the effect on life and the character of the culture. The ancient and classical creations of the Sanskrit tongue both in quality and in body and abundance of excellence, in their potent originality and force and beauty, in their substance and art and structure, in grandeur and justice and charm of speech and in the height and width of the reach of their spirit stand very evidently in the front rank among the world's great literatures. The language itself, as has been universally recognised by those competent to form a judgment, is one of the most magnificent, the most perfect and wonderfully sufficient literary instruments developed by the human mind, at once majestic and sweet and flexible, strong and clearly-formed and full and vibrant and subtle, and its quality and character would be of itself a sufficient evidence of the character and quality of the race whose mind it expressed and the culture of which it was the reflecting medium. The great and noble use made of it by poet and thinker did not fall below the splendour of its capacities. Nor is it in the Sanskrit tongue alone that the Indian mind has done high and beautiful and perfect things, though it couched in that language the larger part of its most prominent and formative and grandest creations. It would be necessary for a complete estimate to take into account as well the Buddhistic literature in Pali and the poetic literatures, here opulent, there more scanty in production, of about a dozen Sanskritic and Dravidian tongues. The whole has almost a continental effect and does not fall so far short in the quantity of its really lasting things and equals in its things of best excellence the work of ancient and mediaeval and modern Europe. The people and the civilisation that count among their great works and their great names the Veda and the Upanishads, the mighty structures of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti and Bhartrihari and Jayadeva and the other rich creations of classical Indian drama and poetry and romance, the Dhammapada and the Jatakas, the Panchatantra, Tulsidas, Vidyapati and Chandidas and Ramprasad, Ramdas and Tukaram, Tiruvalluvar and Kamban and the songs of Nanak and Kabir and Mirabai and the southern Shaiva saints and the Alwars, - to name only the best-known writers and most characteristic productions, though there is a very large body of other work in the different tongues of both the first and the second excellence, - must surely be counted among the greatest civilisations and the world's most developed and creative peoples. A mental activity so great and of so fine a quality commencing more than three thousand years ago and still not exhausted is unique and the best and most undeniable witness to something extraordinarily sound and vital in the culture.


A criticism that ignores or belittles the significance of this unsurpassed record and this splendour of the self-expressing spirit and the creative intelligence, stands convicted at once of a blind malignity or an invincible prejudice and does not merit refutation. It would be a sheer waste of time and energy to review the objections raised by our devil's advocate: for nothing vital to the greatness of a literature is really in dispute and there is only to the credit of the attack a general distortion and denunciation and a laborious and exaggerated cavilling at details and idiosyncracies which at most show a difference between the idealising mind and abundant imagination of India and the more realistically observant mind and less rich and exuberant imagination of Europe. The fit parallel to this motive and style of criticism would be if an Indian critic who had read European literature only in bad or ineffective Indian translations, were to pass it under a hostile and disparaging review, dismiss the Iliad as a crude and empty semi-savage and primitive epos, Dante's great work as the nightmare of a cruel and superstitious religious fantasy, Shakespeare as a drunken barbarian of considerable genius with an epileptic imagination, the whole drama of Greece and Spain and England as a mass of bad ethics and violent horrors, French poetry as a succession of bald or tawdry rhetorical exercises and French fiction as a tainted and immoral thing, a long sacrifice on the altar of the goddess Lubricity, admit here and there a minor merit, but make no attempt at all to understand the central spirit or aesthetic quality or principle of structure and conclude on the strength of his own absurd method that the ideals of both Pagan and Christian Europe were altogether false and bad and its imagination afflicted with a “habitual and ancestral” earthiness, morbidity, poverty and disorder. No criticism would be worth making on such a mass of absurdities, and in this equally ridiculous philippic only a stray observation or two less inconsequent and opaque than the others perhaps demands a passing notice. But although these futilities do not at all represent the genuine view of the general European mind on the subject of Indian poetry and literature, still one finds a frequent inability to appreciate the spirit or the form or the aesthetic value of Indian writing and especially its perfection and power as an expression of the cultural mind of the people. One meets such criticisms even from sympathetic critics as an admission of the vigour, colour and splendour of Indian poetry followed by a conclusion that for all that it does not satisfy, and this means that the intellectual and temperamental misunderstanding extends to some degree even to this field of creation where different minds meet more readily than in painting and sculpture, that there is a rift between the two mentalities and what is delightful and packed with meaning and power to the one has no substance, but only a form, of aesthetic or intellectual pleasure for the other. This difficulty is partly due to an inability to enter into the living spirit and feel the vital touch of the language, but partly to a spiritual difference in similarity which is even more baffling than a complete dissimilarity and otherness. Chinese poetry for example is altogether of its own kind and it is more possible for a Western mentality, when it does not altogether pass it by as an alien world, to develop an undisturbed appreciation because the receptivity of the mind is not checked or hampered by any disturbing memories or comparisons. Indian poetry on the contrary, like the poetry of Europe, is the creation of an Aryan or Aryanised national mind, starts apparently from similar motives, moves on the same plane, uses cognate forms, and yet has something quite different in its spirit which creates a pronounced and separating divergence in its aesthetic tones, type of imagination, turn of self-expression, ideative mind, method, form, structure. The mind accustomed to the European idea and technique expects the same kind of satisfaction here and does not meet it, feels a baffling difference to whose secret it is a stranger, and the subtly pursuing comparison and vain expectation stand in the way of a full receptivity and intimate understanding. At bottom it is an insufficient comprehension of the quite different spirit behind, the different heart of this culture that produces the mingled attraction and dissatisfaction. The subject is too large to be dealt with adequately in small limits: I shall only attempt to bring out certain points by a consideration of some of the most representative master works of creative intuition and imagination taken as a record of the soul and mind of the Indian people.


The early mind of India in the magnificent youth of the nation, when a fathomless spiritual insight was at work, a subtle intuitive vision and a deep, clear and greatly outlined intellectual and ethical thinking and heroic action and creation which founded and traced the plan and made the permanent structure of her unique culture and civilisation, is represented by four of the supreme productions of her genius, the Veda, the Upanishads and the two vast epics, and each of them is of a kind, a form and an intention not easily paralleled in any other literature. The two first are the visible foundation of her spiritual and religious being, the others a large creative interpretation of her greatest period of life, of the ideas that informed and the ideals that governed it and the figures in which she saw man and Nature and God and the powers of the universe. The Veda gave us the first types and figures of these things as seen and formed by an imaged spiritual intuition and psychological and religious experience; the Upanishads constantly breaking through and beyond form and symbol and image without entirely abandoning them, since always they come in as accompaniment or undertone, reveal in a unique kind of poetry the ultimate and unsurpassable truths of self and God and man and the world and its principles and powers in their most essential, their profoundest and most intimate and their most ample realities, - highest mysteries and clarities vividly seen in an irresistible, an unwalled perception that has got through the intuitive and psychological to the sheer spiritual vision.


And after that we have powerful and beautiful developments of the intellect and the life and of ideal, ethical, aesthetic, psychic, emotional and sensuous and physical knowledge and idea and vision and experience of which the epics are the early record and the rest of the literature the continuation; but the foundation remains the same throughout, and whatever new and often larger types and significant figures replace the old or intervene to add and modify and alter the whole ensemble, are in their essential build and character transmutations and extensions of the original vision and first spiritual experience and never an unconnected departure. There is a persistence, a continuity of the Indian mind in its literary creation in spite of great changes as consistent as that which we find in painting and sculpture.


The Veda is the creation of an early intuitive and symbolical mentality to which the later mind of man, strongly intellectualised and governed on the one side by reasoning idea and abstract conception, on the other hand by the facts of life and matter accepted as they present themselves to the senses and positive intelligence without seeking in them for any divine or mystic significance, indulging the imagination as a play of the aesthetic fancy rather than as an opener of the doors of truth and only trusting to its suggestions when they are confirmed by the logical reason or by physical experience, aware only of carefully intellectualised intuitions and recalcitrant for the most part to any others, has grown a total stranger. It is not surprising therefore that the Veda should have become unintelligible to our minds except in its most outward shell of language, and that even very imperfectly known owing to the obstacle of an antique and ill-understood diction, and that the most inadequate interpretations should be made which reduce this great creation of the young and splendid mind of humanity to a botched and defaced scrawl, an incoherent hotch-potch of the absurdities of a primitive imagination perplexing what would be otherwise the quite plain, flat and common record of a naturalistic religion which mirrored only and could only minister to the crude and materialistic desires of a barbaric life mind. 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.


But this was not what it was to the Vedic Rishis themselves or to the great seers and thinkers who came after them and developed out of their pregnant and luminous intuitions their own wonderful structures of thought and speech built upon an unexampled spiritual revelation and experience. The Veda was to these early seers the Word discovering the Truth and clothing in image and symbol the mystic significances of life. It was a divine discovery and unveiling of the potencies of the word, of its mysterious revealing and creative capacity, not the word of the logical and reasoning or the aesthetic intelligence, but the intuitive and inspired rhythmic utterance, the mantra. Image and myth were freely used, not as an imaginative indulgence, but as living parables and symbols of things that were very real to their speakers and could not otherwise find their own intimate and native shape in utterance, and the imagination itself was a priest of greater realities than those that meet and hold the eye and mind limited by the external suggestions of life and the physical existence. This was their idea of the sacred poet, a mind visited by some highest light and its forms of idea and word, a seer and hearer of the Truth, kavayah satyashrutah . The poets of the Vedic verse certainly did not regard their function as it is represented by modern scholars, they did not look on themselves as a sort of superior medicine-men and makers of hymn and incantation to a robust and barbarous tribe, but as seers and thinkers, rishi, dhira. These singers believed that they were in possession of a high, mystic and hidden truth, claimed to be the bearers of a speech acceptable to a divine knowledge, and expressly so speak of their utterances, as secret words which declare their whole significance only to the seer, kavaye nivacana ninya vacamsi . And to those who came after them the Veda was a book of knowledge, and even of the supreme knowledge, a revelation, a great utterance of eternal and impersonal truth as it had been seen and heard in the inner experience of inspired and semi-divine thinkers. The smallest circumstances of the sacrifice around which the hymns were written were intended to carry a symbolic and psychological power of significance, as was well known to the writers of the ancient Brahmanas.


The sacred verses, each by itself held to be full of a divine meaning, were taken by the thinkers of the Upanishads as the profound and pregnant seed-words of the truth they sought and the highest authority they could give for their own sublime utterances was a supporting citation from their predecessors with the formula, tad esha ricabhyukta, “This is that word which was spoken by the Rig Veda.” Western scholars choose to imagine that the successors of the Vedic Rishis were in error, that, except for some later hymns, they put a false and non-existent meaning into the old verses and that they themselves, divided from the Rishis not only by ages of time but by many gulfs and separating seas of an intellectualised mentality, know infinitely better. But mere common sense ought to tell us that those who were so much nearer in both ways to the original poets had a better chance of holding at least the essential truth of the matter and suggests at least the strong probability that the Veda was really what it professes to be, the seeking for a mystic knowledge, the first form of the constant attempt of the Indian mind, to which it has always been faithful, to look beyond the appearances of the physical world and through its own inner experiences to the godheads, powers, self-existence of the One of whom the sages speak variously - the famous phrase in which the Veda utters its own central secret, ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti.


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. A famous German scholar rating from his high pedestal of superior intelligence the silly persons who find sublimity in the Veda, tells us that it is full of childish, silly, even monstrous conceptions, that it is tedious, low, commonplace, that it represents human nature on a low level of selfishness and worldliness and that only here and there are a few rare sentiments that come from the depths of the soul. It may be made so if we put our own mental conceptions into the words of the Rishis, but if we read them as they are without any such false translation into what we think early barbarians ought to have said and thought, we shall find instead a sacred poetry sublime and powerful in its words and images, though with another kind of language and imagination than we now prefer and appreciate, deep and subtle in its psychological experience and stirred by a moved soul of vision and utterance. Hear rather the word itself of the Veda.


States upon states are born, covering over covering [Or, “the coverer of the coverer”.] awakens to knowledge: in the lap of the mother he wholly sees. They have called to him, getting a wide knowledge, they guard sleeplessly the strength, they have entered into the strong city. The peoples born on earth increase the luminous (force) of the son of the White Mother; he has gold on his neck, he is large of speech, he is as if by (the power of) this honey wine a seeker of plenty. He is like pleasant and desirable milk, he is a thing uncompanioned and is with the two who are companions and is as a heat that is the belly of plenty and is invincible and an overcomer of many. Play, O Ray, and manifest thyself.* Footnote: Literally, “become towards us”.


Or again in the succeeding hymn, - Those (flames) of thee, the forceful (godhead), that move not and are increased and puissant, uncling the hostility and crookedness of one who has another law. O Fire, we choose thee for our priest and the means of effectuation of our strength and in the sacrifices bringing the food of thy pleasure we call thee by the word. . . . O god of perfect works, may we be for the felicity, for the truth, revelling with the rays, revelling with the heroes.


And finally let us take the bulk of the third hymn that follows couched in the ordinary symbols of the sacrifice, - As the Manu we set thee in thy place, as the Manu we kindle thee: O Fire, O Angiras, as the Manu sacrifice to the gods for him who desires the godheads. O Fire, well pleased thou art kindled in the human being and the ladles go to thee continually. . . . Thee all the gods with one pleasure (in thee) made their messenger and serving thee, O seer, (men) in the sacrifices adore the god. Let the mortal adore the divine Fire with sacrifice to the godheads. Kindled, flame forth, O Bright One. Sit in the seat of Truth, sit in the seat of peace.* Footnote: I have translated these passages with as close a literalness as the English language will admit. Let the reader compare the original and judge whether this is not the sense of the verses.


That, whatever interpretation we choose to put on its images, is a mystic and symbolic poetry and that is the real Veda.


The character of Vedic poetry apparent from these typical verses need not surprise or baffle us when we see what will be evident from a comparative study of Asiatic literature, that though distinguished by its theory and treatment of the Word, its peculiar system of images and the complexity of its thought and symbolised experience, it is in fact the beginning of a form of symbolic or figurative imagery for the poetic expression of spiritual experience which reappears constantly in later Indian writing, the figures of the Tantras and Puranas, the figures of the Vaishnava poets, - one might add even a certain element in the modern poetry of Tagore, - and has its kindred movements in certain Chinese poets and in the images of the Sufis. The poet has to express a spiritual and psychical knowledge and experience and he cannot do it altogether or mainly in the more abstract language of the philosophical thinker, for he has to bring out, not the naked idea of it, but as vividly as possible its very life and most intimate touches. He has to reveal in one way or another a whole world within him and the quite inner and spiritual significances of the world around him and also, it may well be, godheads, powers, visions and experiences of planes of consciousness other than the one with which our normal minds are familiar. He uses or starts with the images taken from his own normal and outward life and that of humanity and from visible Nature, and though they do not of themselves actually express, yet obliges them to express by implication or to figure the spiritual and psychic idea and experience. He takes them selecting freely his notation of images according to his insight or imagination and transmutes them into instruments of another significance and at the same time pours a direct spiritual meaning into the Nature and life to which they belong, applies outward figures to inner things and brings out their latent and inner spiritual or psychic significance into life's outward figures and circumstances. Or an outward figure nearest to the inward experience, its material counterpart, is taken throughout and used with such realism and consistency that while it indicates to those who possess it the spiritual experience, it means only the external thing to others, - just as the Vaishnava poetry of Bengal makes to the devout mind a physical and emotional image or suggestion of the love of the human soul for God, but to the profane is nothing but a sensuous and passionate love poetry hung conventionally round the traditional human-divine personalities of Krishna and Radha. The two methods may meet together, the fixed system of outward images be used as the body of the poetry, while freedom is often taken to pass their first limits, to treat them only as initial suggestions and transmute subtly or even cast them aside or subdue into a secondary strain or carry them out of themselves so that the translucent veil they offer to our minds lifts from or passes into the open revelation. The last is the method of the Veda and it varies according to the passion and stress of the sight in the poet or the exaltation of his utterance.


The poets of the Veda had another mentality than ours, their use of their images is of a peculiar kind and an antique cast of vision gives a strange outline to their substance. The physical and the psychical worlds were to their eyes a manifestation and a twofold and diverse and yet connected and similar figure of cosmic godheads, the inner and outer life of man a divine commerce with the gods, and behind was the one spirit or being of which the gods were names and personalities and powers. These godheads were at once masters of physical Nature and its principles and forms their godheads and their bodies and inward divine powers with their corresponding states and energies born in our psychic being because they are the soul powers of the cosmos, the guardians of truth and immortality, the children of the Infinite, and each of them too is in his origin and his last reality the supreme Spirit putting in front one of his aspects. The life of man was to these seers a thing of mixed truth and falsehood, a movement from mortality to immortality, from mixed light and darkness to the splendour of a divine Truth whose home is above in the Infinite but which can be built up here in man's soul and life, a battle between the children of light and the sons of Night, a getting of treasure, of the wealth, the booty given by the gods to the human warrior, and a journey and a sacrifice; and of these things they spoke in a fixed system of images taken from Nature and from the surrounding life of the war-like, pastoral and agricultural Aryan peoples and centred round the cult of Fire and the worship of the powers of living Nature and the institution of sacrifice. The details of outward existence and of the sacrifice were in their life and practice symbols, and in their poetry not dead symbols or artificial metaphors, but living and powerful suggestions and counterparts of inner things. And they used too for their expression a fixed and yet variable body of other images and a glowing web of myth and parable, images that became parables, parables that became myths and myths that remained always images, and yet all these things were to them, in a way that can only be understood by those who have entered into a certain order of psychic experience, actual realities. The physical melted its shades into the lustres of the psychic, the psychic deepened into the light of the spiritual and there was no sharp dividing line in the transition, but a natural blending and intershading of their suggestions and colours. It is evident that a poetry of this kind, written by men with this kind of vision or imagination, cannot either be interpreted or judged by the standards of a reason and taste observant only of the canons of the physical existence. The invocation “Play, O Ray, and become towards us” is at once a suggestion of the leaping up and radiant play of the potent sacrificial flame on the physical altar and of a similar psychical phenomenon, the manifestation of the saving flame of a divine power and light within us. The Western critic sneers at the bold and reckless and to him monstrous image in which Indra son of earth and heaven is said to create his own father and mother; but if we remember that Indra is the supreme spirit in one of its eternal and constant aspects, creator of earth and heaven, born as a cosmic godhead between the mental and physical worlds and recreating their powers in man, we shall see that the image is not only a powerful but in fact a true and revealing figure, and in the Vedic technique it does not matter that it outrages the physical imagination since it expresses a greater actuality as no other figure could have done with the same awakening aptness and vivid poetical force. The Bull and Cow of the Veda, the shining herds of the Sun lying hidden in the cave are strange enough creatures to the physical mind, but they do not belong to the earth and in their own plane they are at once images and actual things and full of life and significance. It is in this way that throughout we must interpret and receive the Vedic poetry according to its own spirit and vision and the psychically natural, even if to us strange and supranatural, truth of its ideas and figures.


The Veda thus understood stands out, apart from its interest as the world's first yet extant Scripture, its earliest interpretation of man and the Divine and the universe, as a remarkable, a sublime and powerful poetic creation. It is in its form and speech no barbaric production. The Vedic poets are masters of a consummate technique, their rhythms are carved like chariots of the gods and borne on divine and ample wings of sound, and are at once concentrated and wide-waved, great in movement and subtle in modulation, their speech lyric by intensity and epic by elevation, an utterance of great power, pure and bold and grand in outline, a speech direct and brief in impact, full to overflowing in sense and suggestion so that each verse exists at once as a strong and sufficient thing in itself and takes its place as a large step between what came before and what comes after. A sacred and hieratic tradition faithfully followed gave them both their form and substance, but this substance consisted of the deepest psychic and spiritual experiences of which the human soul is capable and the forms seldom or never degenerate into a convention, because what they are intended to convey was lived in himself by each poet and made new to his own mind in expression by the subtleties or sublimities of his individual vision. The utterances of the greatest seers, Vishwamitra, Vamadeva, Dirghatamas and many others, touch the most extraordinary heights and amplitudes of a sublime and mystic poetry and there are poems like the Hymn of Creation that move in a powerful clarity on the summits of thought on which the Upanishads lived constantly with a more sustained breathing. The mind of ancient India did not err when it traced back all its philosophy, religion and essential things of its culture to these seer-poets, for all the future spirituality of her people is contained there in seed or in first expression.


It is one great importance of a right understanding of the Vedic hymns as a form of sacred literature that it helps us to see the original shaping not only of the master ideas that governed the mind of India, but of its characteristic types of spiritual experience, its turn of imagination, its creative temperament and the kind of significant forms in which it persistently interpreted its sight of self and things and life and the universe. It is in a great part of the literature the same turn of inspiration and self-expression that we see in the architecture, painting and sculpture. Its first character is a constant sense of the infinite, the cosmic, and of things as seen in or affected by the cosmic vision, set in or against the amplitude of the one and infinite; its second peculiarity is a tendency to see and render its spiritual experience in a great richness of images taken from the inner psychic plane or in physical images transmuted by the stress of a psychic significance and impression and line and idea colour; and its third tendency is to image the terrestrial life often magnified, as in the Mahabharata and Ramayana, or else subtilised in the transparencies of a larger atmosphere, attended by a greater than the terrestrial meaning or at any rate presented against the background of the spiritual and psychic worlds and not alone in its own separate figure. The spiritual, the infinite is near and real and the gods are real and the worlds beyond not so much beyond as immanent in our own existence. That which to the Western mind is myth and imagination is here an actuality and a strand of the life of our inner being, what is there beautiful poetic idea and philosophic speculation is here a thing constantly realised and present to the experience. It is this turn of the Indian mind, its spiritual sincerity and psychic positivism, that makes the Veda and Upanishads and the later religious and religio-philosophic poetry so powerful in inspiration and intimate and living in expression and image, and it has its less absorbing but still very sensible effect on the working of the poetic idea and imagination even in the more secular literature.

/images/graemlins/smile.gif Jai Shri Krishna

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Hymn to the Earth

from the Atharva Veda


Posted Image


High Truth, unyielding Order, Consecration,

Ardor and Prayer and Holy Ritual

uphold the Earth, may she, the ruling Mistress

of what has been and what will come to be,

for us spread wide a limitless domain.


Untrammeled in the midst of men, the Earth,

adorned with heights and gentle slopes and plains,

bears plants and herbs of various healing powers.

May she spread wide for us, afford us joy!


On whom are ocean, river, and all waters,

on whom have sprung up food and plowman's crops,

on whom moves all that breathes and stirs abroad -

Earth, may she grant to us the long first draught!


To Earth belong the four directions of space.

On her grows food; on her the plowman toils.

She carries likewise all that breathes and stirs.

Earth, may she grant us cattle and food in plenty!


On whom the men of olden days roamed far,

on whom the conquering Gods smote the demons,

the home of cattle, horses, and of birds,

may Earth vouchsafe to us good fortune and glory!


Bearer of all things, hoard of treasures rare,

sustaining mother, Earth the golden-breasted

who bears the Sacred Universal Fire,

whose spouse is Indra - may she grant us wealth!


Limitless Earth, whom the Gods, never sleeping,

protect forever with unflagging care,

may she exude for us the well-loved honey,

shed upon us her splendor copiously!


Earth, who of yore was Water in the oceans,

discerned by the Sages' secret powers,

whose immortal heart, enwrapped in Truth,

abides aloft in the highest firmament,

may she procure for us splendor and power,

according to her highest royal state!


On whom the flowing Waters, ever the same,

course without cease or failure night and day,

may she yield milk, this Earth of many streams,

and shed on us her splendor copiously!


May Earth, whose measurements the Asvins marked,

over whose breadth the foot of Vishnu strode,

whom Indra, Lord of power, freed from foes,

stream milk for me, as a mother for her son!


Your hills, O Earth, your snow-clad mountain peaks,

your forests, may they show us kindliness!

Brown, black, red, multifarious in hue

and solid is this vast Earth, guarded by Indra.

Invincible, unconquered, and unharmed,

I have on her established my abode.


Impart to us those vitalizing forces

that come, O Earth, from deep within your body,

your central point, your navel, purify us wholly.

The Earth is mother; I am son of Earth.

The Rain-giver is my father; may he shower on us blessings!


The Earth on which they circumscribe the altar,

on which a band of workmen prepare the oblation,

on which the tall bright sacrificial posts

are fixed before the start of the oblation -

may Earth, herself increasing, grant us increase!


That man, O Earth, who wills us harm, who fights us,

who by his thoughts or deadly arms opposes,

deliver him to us, forestalling action.


All creatures, born from you, move round upon you.

You carry all that has two legs, three, or four.

To you, O Earth, belong the five human races,

those mortals upon whom the rising sun

sheds the immortal splendor of his rays.


May the creatures of earth, united together,

let flow for me the honey of speech!

Grant to me this boon, O Earth.


Mother of plants and begetter of all things,

firm far-flung Earth, sustained by Heavenly Law,

kindly and pleasant is she. May we ever

dwell on her bosom, passing to and fro!...


Do not thrust us aside from in front or behind,

from above or below! Be gracious, O Earth.

Let us not encounter robbers on our path.

Restrain the deadly weapons!


As wide a vista of you as my eye

may scan, O Earth, with the kindly help of Sun,

so widely may my sight be never dimmed

in all the long parade of years to come!


Whether, when I repose on you, O Earth,

I turn upon my Right side or my left,

or whether, extended flat upon my back,

I meet your pressure from head to foot,

be gentle, Earth! You are the couch of all!


Whatever I dig up of you, O Earth,

may you of that have quick replenishment!

O purifying One, may my thrust never

reach Right into your vital points, your heart!


Your circling seasons, nights succeeding days,

your summer, O Earth, your splashing rains, your autumn,

your winter and frosty season yielding to spring---

may each and all produce for us their milk!...


From your numberless tracks by which mankind may travel,

your roads on which move both chariots and wagons

your paths which are used by the good and the bad,

may we choose a way free from foes and robbers!

May you grant us the blessing of all that is wholesome!


She carries in her lap the foolish and also the wise.

She bears the death of the wicked as well as the good.

She lives in friendly collaboration with the boar,

offering herself as sanctuary to the wild pig....


Peaceful and fragrant, gracious to the touch,

may Earth, swollen with milk, her breasts overflowing,

grant me her blessing together with her milk!


The Maker of the world sought her with oblations

when she was shrouded in the depth of the ocean.

A vessel of gladness, long cherished in secret,

the earth was revealed to mankind for their joy.


Primeval Mother, disperser of men,

you, far-flung Earth, fulfill all our desires.

Whatever you lack, may the Lord of creatures,

the First-born of Right, supply to you fully!


May your dwellings, O Earth, free from sickness and wasting,

flourish for us! Through a long life, watchful,

may we always offer to you our tribute!


O Earth, O Mother, dispose my lot

in gracious fashion that I be at ease.

In harmony with all the powers of Heaven

set me, O Poet, in grace and good fortune!


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Agni and the Fire of Self-Inquiry

Published in the Mountain Path of the Sri Ramasramam (Ramana Maharshi)

By David Frawley

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Self-inquiry (Atma-vichara), such as taught by Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, is regarded as the simplest and most direct path to Self-realization. However, Self-inquiry is also very subtle and can be hard to accomplish even after years of dedicated practice. It depends upon a great power of concentration and acuity of mind along with an intense longing for liberation. One might say metaphorically that Self-inquiry requires a certain flame. It requires that we ourselves become a flame and that our lives become an offering to it. Without such an inner fire, Self-realization may elude us whatever else we may attempt. Therefore, it is important to look at Self-inquiry not simply as a mental practice but as an energetic movement of consciousness like the rising up of a great fire.

The Search for the Universal Self

In this psychological age, particularly seekers coming from the West tend to confuse Self-inquiry with a kind of psychological self-examination, a looking into our temporal, bodily or ego self and its fears and desires as constituting a true search for the higher Self. One examines ones personal traumas and sorrows and looks for a psychological state of peace, clarity and joy, which is a kind state of personal integration, as if it were true Self-realization.

However, according to Vedanta, the true Self that we are seeking to realize is not our human self but the universal Self, the Self that is present in all beings, in all bodies and in the entire world. It is the Self that is the witness of all time and space and transcends our psychology, which consists mainly of the incidentals and peculiarities of our personal circumstances and proclivities in life. The true Self resembles more the great powers of nature like fire, wind or sun than it does our personal thoughts and feelings. The search for this transcendent Self is very different than any psychological self-examination, which is at best a preliminary stage in its approach.

Other seekers with a more intellectual background tend to approach the Self in a conceptual or philosophical way, as if it were some category of cosmic existence to be appreciated by the rational mind. This too generally misses the living reality of the Self which has the power to consume the mind and cannot be approached by any mere logic or dialectic.

To question deeply about who we really are is to create a friction at the core of the mind that naturally gives rise to an inner fire. The inquiry ‘Who Am I?’ is the ultimate stirring of the mind that brings forth an inner flame that can consume all other questions and doubts, like a fire burning dry grass. It takes us back to the core fire at the core of the mind, which is the inextinguishable light of the supreme I AM. That universal Self of pure light and consciousness shining deep within us is the real goal of our search.

Self Inquiry as a Yajna or Fire Sacrifice

The Self in the Vedas and Upanishads is often symbolized by fire (Agni). The Rig Veda begins with the worship of Agni, who is the deity of the sacrifice. But who is this Agni and what is the nature of the sacrifice to be offered to it?

There are many forms of Agni in Vedic thought. Agni outwardly as fire and light and inwardly as life and consciousness pervades all things in the universe. In the Vedic view, Agni has three main cosmic (adhidaivic) or world forms as fire, lightning and sun which are the ruling forces in the three worlds of earth, atmosphere and heaven. These are the three lights in the world of nature and the three manifestations of Paramatman, the Supreme Self that is the Divine Light and the light of all the worlds.

In addition, Agni has three main internal (adhyatmic) forms as speech (vak), prana and intelligence (buddhi), which are the ruling forces in the three aspects of our being as body, life and mind. They are the three lights of our internal nature and the three manifestations of the Soul or Jivatman, the consciousness or light principle within us.

These three internal forms of Agni create the three main paths of Yoga practice. Agni’s speech form is the basis of Mantra Yoga or the repetition of sacred sounds like OM or longer prayers like the Gayatri mantra. Mantra practice creates an internal fire that helps purify the subconscious mind and make the mind receptive to meditation. Agni’s prana form is the basis of Prana Yoga or yogic breathing practices of pranayama. Pranayama increases the fire of prana (Pranagni) within us that cleanses the nadis of the subtle body and helps unloosen the knots or granthis of the heart. Agni’s mind form is the basis of Dhyana Yoga or the yoga of meditation. The mind form of Agni or the buddhi is the discriminating part of the mind that allows us to distinguish truth from falsehood, reality from unreality and the Self from the not Self. These three forms of Agni and their related yogic paths take us to the Jivatman or our individual Self and help us understand its basis in the Paramatman or Supreme Self.

There are many Vedic yajnas or fire-sacrifices both external and internal. External yajnas consist of offerings of special substances of wood, ghee, milk or rice into the sacred fire. Internal yajnas consist of offerings of speech (mantra), breath (prana), and mind (meditation) into our internal fires. Vedic Yoga practices of mantra, pranayama and meditation are the main internal yajnas. Yoga itself is the inner sacrifice in all of its forms. The fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita explains these different internal sacrifices which reflect the different practices of Yoga including pranayama (Prana-yajna), pratyahara (Indriya-yajna), dharana (Mano-yajna) and dhyana (Buddhi-yajna). Each relates to a different form or aspect of Agni on the levels of body, breath and mind.

The highest Yajna is the Atma-Yajna or Self-sacrifice in which we offer the ego into the Self. This is the also the highest form of meditation or the mind-sacrifice, as the ego is the root of the mind. For this Yajna, the Agni is the Atman or true Self in the heart. Self-inquiry is perhaps the ultimate form of this Atma-Yajna or Self-sacrifice, in which the ego can be directly consumed. It is also called the knowledge-sacrifice (Jnana-yajna) that proceeds through the power of the fire of Self-knowledge (Jnanagni)

As the Gita states:

Preferable to the material sacrifices is the knowledge-sacrifice (Jnana-yajna). All actions are comprehended in knowledge.

As a fire when enkindled burns up dry wood and turns it to ashes, so the fire of knowledge (Jnana-agni) turns all our karmas to ashes.

Bhagavad Gita IV. 33, 37

In this Self-sacrifice, the Self is not only the offering; the Self is the offerer and the fire in which the offering is given. In this regard we are again reminded of the words of the Gita.

Brahman is the process of offering. Brahman is the substance offered. Brahman is the offerer, who places the offering into the fire of Brahman. Brahman alone is attained by this action of absorption in Brahman.

Gita IV.24.

If we look at Self-inquiry as a Self-sacrifice or Atma-yajna, we gain a new perspective to take our practice to a deeper level beyond the complications of the outer mind.

The Flame in the Heart

The Vedas not only equate the Self with fire, they also equate the heart, which is the seat of the Self, with fire. The Self is said to exist like a flame the size of a thumb in the heart. This small flame in the heart is the real person, power and presence that allows the body and mind to function. It is like the pilot light in a stove that lights all the other burners on the stove. The light of the Self lights all the other fires of the body, prana, senses and mind. Even the digestive fire can only work with its support.

This flame of the Self sustains us through all our states of waking, dream and deep sleep and through the entire process of birth or death. Even prana or the life-force is but its manifestation or shadow. This flame leaves the body at death and carries the samskaras that propel us on to another birth. Only for those who are fully Self-realized, who have totally merged into their inner fire, are able to escape this process.

This Self in the heart is clearly explained in the Narayana Sukta which states:

"In the middle of the heart is a great fire (Mahan Agni) that carries all light and looks to every side. It is the first eater and dwells apportioning our food, the undecaying seer.

He gives heat to the entire body from the feet to the head.

In the middle of this fire is the subtle crest of a flame pointed upwards, shining like a streak of lightning from a dark blue rain cloud.

In the middle of the crest of this flame the Paramatman dwells. He is Brahma (Creator), Shiva (Transformer), Vishnu (Preserver), Indra (Ruler), OM and the supreme Lord."

The great fire (Mahan Agni) in the heart is the subtle body (or linga) and the being behind it of lightning-like appearance is the individual soul or Jivatman. At its core is the atomic point of the Supreme Self which is the doorway into the infinite light, the Sun of suns, the God of Gods. Indeed we could say that the hridaya or heart that Ramana emphasizes is also this flame that dwells there. The heart, Agni and Atman are ultimately three ways of looking at the same supreme truth.

Ramana, Agni and Skanda

Not surprisingly as the great teacher of Self-Inquiry, Ramana himself was regarded as an incarnation of Agni. He was identified with Skanda, the younger son of Shiva and Parvati, who himself is the child of fire or Agni. Skanda is born of Agni and carries his form and his powers. Skanda is also called Kumara, the Divine fire child. This six day old child has the power to destroy all the negative forces of time and ignorance symbolized by the demon Taraka. He is also called Guha or the one who dwells in the cavity of the heart. To find him, we must trace our way back to the cavity of the heart, which is to trace our thoughts back to their origin in the I behind the I. This process is explained as early as the Rig Veda I. 65-73 in the hymns of the great Rishi Parashara, though in cryptic Vedic mantras.

In the Vedas, Agni is called Jatavedas or the knower of all births as he knows the births of all creatures as their indwelling Self. Jatavedas is the Jiva or the individual soul hidden in the body. This Jiva when awakened discovers its unity with the Supreme. Then it becomes Vaishvanara or the universal person, which symbolizes the liberated soul. Jatavedas or the individual fire becomes Vaishvanara, the fire of the universal Self, which is the other main Vedic name of Agni (not to be confused with Vaishvanara as merely the soul of the waking state in later Vedantic thought). Vaishvanara is this Divine child who has realized its unity with the Divine Father, Shiva.

Ganapati Muni, Ramana’s disciple and spiritual brother, the great mantric seer who knew both the Vedas and the Puranas, not only lauded Ramana as Skanda, he spoke of the unity of Skanda and Agni, and identified Ramana with Agni. He states in his Agni-Devata-Tattva-Nirupanam (The elucidation of the truth of the deity Agni) that "Agni Vaishvanara, who dwells in the cave of the heart, is indeed Ramana. Ramana is not different from Kumara. Vaishvanara is Sanat Kumara. "

This means that Agni, Skanda and Ramana are the same. Skanda as Kumara is also Sanat Kumara or the eternal child. Sanat Kumara is the primal or adi guru for humanity in Vedic and Upanishadic thought. He is the guru of all gurus and the inner guru that we must all eventually contact. Ramana is the incarnation of that supreme Guru within us. This all-seeing flame in the heart is the true Guru of all that took a wonderful outer manifestation in the form of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

As the guru of the heart, Ramana did not put much emphasis on outer formalities. As the incarnation of the inner fire he showed how all teachings and practices could be consumed like fuel in the great fire of Self-knowledge.

Cultivating the Inner Fire

Self-inquiry is a lot like cultivating a fire. Our awareness grows by offering our speech, breath and mind into the witnessing Self that is the eternal and inextinguishable flame within us. It is the quality and consistency of our offering that is the main factor in growing this flame, not any outer formulas or formalities. We must maintain our awareness like a fire, keeping it from going out even for an instant by continually offering our mental modifications into it as its fuel.

Indeed we could say that the modifications of the mind are nothing but the smoke coming forth from an improperly burning fire of awareness. When that inner flame burns cleans and consistently then there is only pure light and the mind itself gets merged in its source.

For Self-inquiry to be a living process we must invoke and incarnate that inner flame of knowing in our daily lives. Self-inquiry is not a matter of ordinary thinking or logic. It is not a matter of emotion or feeling either. It is not a matter of just blanking or stopping the mind as it is. Nor is it some esoteric intuition. It is the most fundamental form of knowledge, perception or consciousness that we have. It is cultivating the pure light behind all the glitter and shadow of the mind and senses. The Self is the mind behind the mind, the eye behind the eye, the speech behind speech and the prana behind prana as the Upanishads so eloquently state.

Behind all of our senses through which we perceive the external world is a more primary internal sense of self-being through which we know that we exist and through which we are one with all existence. This self-sense is more immediate than all the outer senses which are only possible through it. But it is so immediate and given, our very sense of being, that we take it for granted and ignore it. In the maze of sensory information we lose track of who we really are. We get caught in the movements of the body and the mind and forget our true nature that transcends them and for which alone they work.

We must remember this very subtle inner fire through which the mind and senses shine and reveal their objects of perception. Cultivating this direct awareness of the Self (aparoksha anubhava of Vedanta) is a lot like conducting a fire sacrifice. Behind all of our states of mind, even the most ignorant or confused, like a flame hidden in darkness, the Self shines as the eternal witness of all. What is important is to bring that flame out, like a fire hidden in wood, through the friction of inquiry.

This Self within the heart transcends all the worlds. As the supreme Agni or digestive power, it has the capacity to eat or absorb the entire universe. As the Taittiriya Upanishad ends;

I am food. I am food. I am food.

I am the eater of food. I am the eater of food. I am the eater of food.

I consume the entire universe. My light is like the sun!


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Hymns from the RigVeda

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Marvelous Indra,

always to be worshipped

with hymns and salutations.

Those who desire to observe the eternal rites

and those who desiring riches

are wise enough to invoke you

and seek your presence.

Like loving wives

touching their loving husbands,

their thoughts touch you, O mighty Indra. (Rig Veda I.62)



Dawn, daughter of the sky,

rise with your riches for our welfare.

Rise with ample food.

O Goddess of the dawn,

rise and give us your wealth. (Rig Veda I.48)



Like a boat over the river,

take us across for our welfare.

O Fire, let our sins depart from us. (Rig Veda I.97.8)


The one and the many

...They call Him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni,

and even the swift winged celestial bird Gautaman.

The learned speak of the One Reality in many ways.

They call Him Agni, Yama and Matarisvan. (Rig Veda I. 164.)



O Fire, lead us to riches along the right path.

Shining God, you know the minds of all.

Separate us from the sin that moves crookedly.

Profuse words of praise we offer you. (Rig Veda I.180.1)



O Rudra, through the cures administered by you,

may we pass through a hundred winters.

Drive away from us haters.

Destroy our sins completely

and destroy the spreading sicknesses. (Rig Veda II.33.2)




We meditate upon

that adorable effulgence

of the resplendent Savitur, the life giver.

May he stimulate our intellects. (Rig Veda II.62.10)



Obeisance is all powerful.

I perform obeisance.

Obeisance is the pillar of the earth and the heaven.

Obeisance to the gods.

Obeisance wins them over.

With obeisance I rectify the wrongs,

I might have done to them. (Rig Veda VI.51.8)



O My lord Indra, do not

subject us to the rule of him

who speaks harshly and insultingly,

and who is mean and selfish.

May my thoughts be with you. (Rig Veda VII.31)



Whatever offence we

might have given to the divine beings,

or whatever moral order we

in our ignorance might have violated,

O Varuna, punish us not for such sins. (Rig Veda VII.89.3)



To the sun let your eyes go,

to the wind your life-breath.

By the good deeds you have done,

go to the heaven and then come back again

to live on the earth or take to the waters

if you are comfortable with it.

Remain in the herbs with

the bodies you intend to take. (Rig Veda X.16.3)



He who abandons a friend

who knows his duty of friendship,

has no worth in what he speaks.

What he hears is also false and he

does not know the path of righteous action. (Rig Veda X.71.6)


A Marriage vow

I take hold of your hand for good fortune,

so that with me, your husband,

you may attain to old age.

The gods, Bhaga, Aryaman, Savitur and Pushan

gave you to me for leading the life of a householder. (Rig Veda X. 85.36)


A marriage blessing

Bounteous Indra,

endow this bride

with great sons and fortune.

Give her ten sons and

make the husband the eleventh. (Rig Veda X.85.46)


Your heart is the abode of God

...Like a lotus turned downwards is the heart,

a span below the neck and a span above the navel.

Know that heart to be the abode of God.

Surrounded by nerves, it hangs down like a lotus bud.

At its end is a subtle nerve,

in which is established the Being, who is everything.

A great fire is at its center, which has

flames all around, spreading in all directions.

It is the first partaker, the ageless knower,

who digests and circulates food.

Above and below are its spreading flames.

It keeps its body hot from head to feet.

At its core lies a flame, tapering finely upwards,

like the awn of corn, yellow, bright and subtle,

flashing like a lightening in the heart of a dark cloud.

At the center of this flame is installed the Supreme Being.

He is Brahman. He is Siva. He is Indra.

He is the indestructible Supreme Being, the lord Himself. ( Excerpts from the Taittariya Aranyaka III.13)


Sharing of wealth and food

The gods have given not hunger but death.

And he who eats is subject to deaths.

The wealth of the generous never decreases.

The miserly person has nothing

that can give him happiness.

The mean minded gathers food in vain.

I speak the truth, it is indeed his death.

He who nourishes neither the god nor a friend,

he who eats alone, gathers sin. (Rig Veda X. 117)


The Hymn of Creation

At that time there was neither

existence nor non-existence,

neither the worlds nor the sky.

There was nothing that was beyond.

There was no death, nor immortality.

There was no knowledge of the day and night.

That one alone breathed, without air, by itself.

Besides that there was nothing.

Darkness there was enveloped by darkness.

All this was one water, without any distinction.

It was inactive, covered by void.

That one became active by the power of its own thought.

There came upon it at first desire,

which was the first seed of the mind.

Men of vision found in their meditative state,

the connection between the Being and the Non-Being.

All gods were subsequent to this creative activity.

Then who knows from where this came into existence!

Where this creation came from ,

whether He supported it or not,

He who is controlling it from the highest of the heavens,

He perhaps knows it or He knows it not ! (Rig Veda X.129)

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The Samhitas were Iyrical collections of hymns, prayers, incantations, and sacrificial and magical formulae. From what must have been a vast corpus of such writings, four great collections have come down to us - the oldest surviving literary efforts of mankind. In order of their age, they are

l Riveda, which contains hymns and prayers to be recited during the perfomance of rituals and sacrafices,

2 Samaveda, which contains melodies to be sung on suitable occasions,

3 Yajurveda, which contains sacrificial formulae for ceremonial occasions, and

4 Atharvaveda, a collection of magical fommulae and spells.

The Brahmanas, the second great division of Vedic literature, have been described as practical handbooks for those conducting sacrifices. As the Brahmana communities gradually dispersed from the north to the eastem and southem parts of the country, there arose a need for a record of ritual procedures and duties for a travelling class of priests, and a means of allocating special tasks among different priests.

For mathematics, a more important source is provided by the 'appendices' to the main Vedas, known as the Vedangas. These were classified into six branches of knowledge: (I) phonetics, the science of articulation and pronunciation, (2) grammar, (3) etymology, (4) metronomy (chandah), the art of prosody, (s) astronomy, and (6) rules for rituals and ceremonials (kalpa). In the last two Vedangas are found the most important sources of mathematics from the Vedic period. The evidence is usually in the form of sutras, a peculiar form of writing which aims at the utmost brevity and often uses a poetic style to capture the essence of an argument or result. By avoiding the use of verbs as far as possible and compounding nouns at great length, a vast body of knowledge was made easier to memorize. Condensation into sutras was also a way of eking out scarce writing materials. This was the form in which the contents of the Brahmanas were preserved, and it was adopted later not only by various philosophical and scientific schools, but also by writers of books on statecraft (arthasastra) and sex manuals (kamasastra).

We have referred to the Kalpasutras as an important source of Vedic mathematics. This ritual literature included Srautasutras, which gave directions for constructing sacrificial fires at different times of the year. Part of this literature dealt with the measurement and construction of sacrificial altars, and came to be known as the Sulbasutras. The term originally meant rules goveming 'sacrificial rites', though later the word sulba came to refer to the cord of rope used in measuring altars. Most of what we know of Vedic geometry comes from these sutras.

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The Mantric Approach of the Vedas

By Vamadeva

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The Vedas are mantric teachings. They consist of various mantric chants or hymns cognized by different seers or Rishis from the Cosmic Mind. They set forth Dharma or natural law, which is mantra in manifestation. As such the Vedas are impersonal and eternal, just as cosmic law cannot vary. This same mantric knowledge gives rise to different sciences (vidyas) according to the angle of vision with which we approach it. Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology, Yoga, and Vedanta all arise from it and represent different ways of looking through it.


The Vedic language is based upon an earlier more primordial language of seed (bija) mantras. These are single syllable sounds or roots like OM that have multiple meanings and indications depending upon their intonation and the intention with which they are used. Out of the bija or root language arises the language of the Vedic texts, which is already differentiated, though not fully, into nouns and verbs. These bijas are explained more in Tantra, which in its true sense (apart from current popular distortions) is also a science of the Divine Word.


To introduce the reader to the Vedic mantric approach we will introduce a few important bija mantras and then the main Vedic chant, the Gayatri mantra, of twenty four syllables. This will also help the reader understand the vision behind the American Institute of Vedic Studies, why it takes the name Vedic studies, and why it combines various Vedic disciplines. It is all a manifestation of the mantra. It is that mantric knowledge that we are directing our students toward, not to any mere book learning, nor reliance on the word of another. That inner mantra of the heart which comprehends all is the goal of our work.


Five Main Bija Mantras




OM is the most important of all mantras. All mantras generally begin and often also end with OM. However, there is much confusion about OM. OM is the mantra of assent. It means yes and affirms and energizes whatever we say after it. That is why all mantras begin with OM. OM is also the mantra of ascent and causes our energy to rise upward into the infinite. OM is expansive and increases the fire, air and ether elements, particularly ether. It also gives strength, protection and grace. It connects us with the guidance power of the inner Guru.


The Four Great Goddess Mantras


There are four great Goddess mantras that govern the prime forms of energy as magnetic force, electrical force, heat, and delight. This is a Tantric teaching that reflects the Vedic Word and the four main Vedic deities.




HRIM (pronounced Hreem) is the prime mantra of the Great Goddess and ruler of the worlds and holds all her creative and healing powers. HRIM governs over the cosmic magnetic energy and the power of the soul and causal body. It awakens us at a soul or heart level, connecting us to Divine forces of love and attraction. HRIM is the mantra of the Divine Maya that destroys the worldly maya. It has a solar quality to it but more of a dawn-like effect. It is charming and alluring, yet purifying . Through it we can control the illusion power of our own minds.


In Vedic terms HRIM is a mantra of the Sun, particularly in terms of illumination. It increases our aspiration and receptivity to Divine light, wisdom and truth. It opens the lotus of the heart to the inner Sun of consciousness. It is a mantra of the region of heaven or the consciousness space in which all the worlds exist.




KRIM (pronounced Kreem) is the great mantra of Kali, the Goddess of energy and transformation. It governs over prana as lightning or electrical energy. KRIM grants all spiritual faculties and powers — from the arousing of kundalini to opening the third eye. It has a special power relative to the lower chakras, which it can both stimulate and transform. It helps awaken and purify the subtle body. As a mantra of work and transformation KRIM is the mantra of Kriya Yoga, the Yoga of practice. It is the main mantra of the Yoga Shakti. As it is a strong mantra it should be used with care.


KRIM is a mantra of Indra, the supreme deity of the Vedas, the Divine as the cosmic lord and enlightenment force. KRIM is the thunderbolt or vajra that destroys the serpent of the ignorance and releases the light of absolute truth. It represents the force of the atmosphere (Atmic sphere) and carries the supreme life force.




HUM (pronounced Hoom) is a mantra of the inner fire or thermogenic force. It both calls the divine down into us and offers our soul upward to the Divine for transformation in the sacred fire of awareness. It is a Shiva mantra but also a mantra of Chandi, the fierce form of Kali. It is used to destroy negativity and creates great passion and vitality. As a powerful mantra it should also be used carefully. Yet it can be used in a more gentle manner to invoke divine grace and protection. Through it we can offer ourselves or our afflictions into the Divine for purification and transformation.


HUM is a Vedic mantra of Agni or fire. It is the mantra used to make offerings into the sacred fire. It also is used to call or invoke the fire and to make it flame up more brilliantly. It represents the soul hidden the body, the Divine immanent in the world. It governs the earth and the material sphere in general.




SHRIM (pronounced Shreem) is a mantra of love, devotion and beauty, relating to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Beauty and divine grace. Yet SHRIM works at a deeper level than merely to give us the good things of life, including health. It takes us to the heart and gives faith and steadiness to our emotional nature. SHRIM allows us to surrender to, take refuge in, or be immersed in whatever we offer the mantra to. It is the mantra of beauty and delight and has a pleasing lunar quality. It also relates to the head and can be used to flood the senses with divine beauty and delight. It promotes health and aids in fertility and rejuvenation.


In Vedic terms SHRIM is a Soma mantra. It gives love, joy, bliss, beauty and delight. It has the light of the Moon and governs the mind and the realm between the atmosphere and heaven. It purifies and integrates the various aspects of our nature and renders them into ambrosia.


These four mantras can be used together with OM:




This brings about an integral development of body, mind and soul in harmony with the Divine or inner Self.


The Gayatri Mantra, the Essence of the Vedas


This great mantra consists of three parts. The first is the chants to the seven worlds. The second is the mantra proper of twenty-four syllables. The third is a summary of the mantra's energies. The following is a brief explanation of the mantra as presented in the Mahanarayana Upanishad.


The Head of the Gayatri


OM Bhuh!- the physical realm or earth, realm of being or food

OM Bhuvah! - the vital plane or atmosphere, realm of becoming or breath

OM Suvah! - the mental plane, space or heaven, realm of illumination

OM Mahah! - the sphere of cosmic mind, realm of Dharma

OM Janah! - the realm of creation or bliss

OM Tapah! - the realm of consciousness-force

OM Satyam! - the realm of absolute truth


The Body of the Mantra



Tat - That

Savitur - Of Savitar, the solar Creator

Varenyam - Supreme

Bhargo - Effulgence

Devasya - Of the God

Dhimahi - We meditate

Dhiyo - Intelligences, minds

Yo - Who

Nah - Our

Prachodayat - May direct


"We meditate upon the supreme effulgence of the Divine Solar Creator that he may direct our minds."


The Tail of the Gayatri



Apo - the Cosmic Waters

Jyoti - the Cosmic Light

Rasomritam - the Immortal Essence

Brahma - the Absolute

Bhur - the physical

Bhuvas - the atmospheric

Suvar - the realm of space

OM - the four higher realms


"OM, the waters, the light, the immortal essence, Brahman, earth, atmosphere, heaven, OM."


The Gayatri mantra (Rig Veda III.62.10) is perhaps the greatest Vedic mantric chant. It was first cognized by the Rishi Vishwamitra, who himself is a form of the Sun that is the friend (Mitra) of all (Vishwa). Rishi Vishwamitra is the embodiment of tapas or ascetic force and his mantra carries that power of light, energy and transformation. Through it one can be born again (dwija) or twice born in truth, in the heavenly stream of Divine wisdom.


The mantra is chanted at sunrise, noon and sunset. At dawn it is called Gayatri, the youthful form of the Goddess, consort of Lord Brahma, the creator. It is called Savitri, the mature form, at noon, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is called Sarasvati, the elderly form, at sunset, the consort of Lord Vishnu.


The Supreme Self, Paramatman, or Savitar, is the conscious being within the cosmic sun or Light of lights. The mantra is his creative force, the Divine Word. Savitar is the master of all transformations and the director of all higher evolution. He is the Self of Brahman, the pure being of the Absolute.


Harnessing the Power of the Inner Sun


This mantra releases the supreme solar power, the power of the inner sun of Self-realization and cosmic creation. Those wishing to bring about a new creation or new dawn for humanity of this dark age, should chant this mantra. Those wishing to transcend this world of Samsara can also use the mantra as a stairway to the infinite. This mantra also grants intelligence, creative vision and healing powers.


Used with the chants to the seven worlds it unfolds all the secrets of the universe outwardly and inwardly.


The Gayatri mantra is central to Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. For Yoga it sets in motion the Divine will toward transformation, stimulating the Kundalini force. For Vedanta it grants Self-knowledge, knowledge of the solar Self. For Ayurveda it gives the power of the cosmic prana that is born of the sun. For Jyotish it gives knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies ruled by the cosmic sun.


Note: the exact pronunciation and intonation of the mantra requires personal instruction. This mantra is not something to be merely toyed with but requires entering into the stream of transmission of Vedic knowledge.


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Even the earliest of Hindu works the Vedas remarkable for their religious instinct and religious fervour were on an exploring mission to reach that great ideal of integration and peace. The earnestness and the utter honesty of the Vedic seers were beyond anybody‘s question. Their prayers were simple and ancient, full of confidence devotion and certitude. Their problem was neither ploytheism versus monotheism normany versus one. Their problem was one of relief for their heart and relief for their mind and a consequential spiritual experience.


The term Veda derived from the root vid refers to a doctrine based not so much on faith or revelation but in a higher knowledge attained through a process of deep religious insight and direct seeing. The Vedas are seen by the Rishis and therefore these Rishis are called Vedic seers. The Vedas do not give us theories or theologies. The hymns contain reflections of a consciousness that is in communion with a reality beyond. The sense of a supreme God beyond penetrates the seer‘s consciousness and he questions "Who knows whence this creation came? (Rg. Veda X, 129, 6) and he replies that beyond in the super sky there is an ‘adhyaksah‘ a supreme ruler the true source of this universe (Rg. Veda X, 129, 7). There is a passage in one of the important Upanishads that declares that there is no sanction for any sage or Rishi to chant the Vedas, unless he directly sees and communes with the supreme beyond rooted in the Super-Sky.


The passage runs thus:


rco aksare parame vyoman yasmin


deva adhi visve niseduh yas tam na


veda kim rea karisyati ye it tad


viduh te imesamasqte,


(Svet-ch. 4, 8.)


In this passage it is pointedly asked, of what avail are the Vedas to him, who does not know the indestructible, highest, Etherial Being in whom all the Gods and all the Vedas reside? The Vedas are not all inclusive. They are given pride of place, because they are the earliest records of inspired wisdom and deep inner experience. The Hindu always keeps himself as a Sakshi (witness) to all the historic and all the religious movements of this world. He recognises the truth and value of much that has been proclaimed by all shades of Agamic Jnanis and saints of later periods.



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Vedas, An Overview

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Primary or Classic Vedas consist of invocations to the One Divine and the divinities of nature, such as the Sun, the Rain, the Wind, the Fire and the Dawn - as well as prayers for matrimony, progeny, prosperity, concord, domestic rites, formulas for magic, and more. They are composed in beautiful metrical verses, generally of three or four lines.



The heart of the entire Veda with 10,552 verses.

Rg-Veda Interpretation (Poorna Pragnya)


Mainly liturgical selections from the Rg-Veda arranged for melodious chanting, apr. 2000 verses


as Sama-Veda, but for cadenced intonation, apr. 2000 verses


Nearly 6,000 verses of prayers, charms and rites are unique

Besides its Samhita, each Veda includes one or two Brahmanas, ceremonial handbooks, and Aranyakas, ritual interpretations, plus many inestimable Upanishads, metaphysical dialogs. In all there are over 100,000 Vedic verses, and some prose, in dozens of texts.


The Vedangas and Upavedas are collections of texts that augment and apply the Vedas as a comprehensive system of sacred living.



Jyotisha Vedanga

delineates auspicious timing for holy rites.

look at astrology and Jai Maharaj's texts

Kalpa Vedanga defines

public rituals in the Srauta and Sulba sutras,

domestic rites in the Grihya Sutras and

religious law in the Dharma Sastras.

Four other Vedangas ensure the purity of mantra recitation, through knowledge of phonetics, grammar, poetry and the way of words.

The Upavedas expound profound sciences:


Artha-Veda unfolds statecraft

Ayur-Veda sets forth medicine and health

Dhanur-Veda discusses military science

Gandharva-Veda illumines music and the arts

Sthapatya-Veda explains architecture


In addition, the Kama Sutras detail erotic pleasures. The Agamas, too, have ancillary texts, such as the Upagamas and Paddhatis, which elaborate the ancient wisdom.


The Epics maybe the Mahabharata and Ramayana as the two main classics.

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The Rig Veda is the oldest of the Vedas. All the other Vedas are based upon it and consist to a large degree of various hymns from it. It consists of a thousand such hymns of different seers, each hymn averaging around ten verses. The Rig Veda is the oldest book in Sanskrit or any Indo-European language. Its date is debatable. While the term Vedic is often given to any layer of the Vedic teachings including the Bhagavad Gita, technically it applies primarily to the Rig Veda.

The Rig Veda is the book of Mantra. It contains the oldest form of all the Sanskrit mantras. It is built around a science of sound which comprehends the meaning and power of each letter. Most aspects of Vedic science like the practice of yoga, meditation, mantra and Ayurveda can be found in the Rig Veda and still use many terms that come from it.


While originally several different versions or rescensions of the Rig Veda were said to exist, only one remains. Its form has been structured in several different ways to guarantee its authenticity and proper preservation through time.


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Teachings of the Vedas

By His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


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(Delivered as a lecture by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on October 6, 1969, at Conway Hall, London, England.)

Ladies and gentlemen, today's subject matter is the teachings of the Vedas. What are the Vedas? The Sanskrit verbal root of veda can be interpreted variously, but the purport is finally one. Veda means knowledge. Any knowledge you accept is veda, for the teachings of the Vedas are the original knowledge. In the conditioned state, our knowledge is subjected to many deficiencies. The difference between a conditioned soul and a liberated soul is that - the conditioned soul has four kinds of defects. The first defect is that he must commit mistakes. For example, in our country, Mahatma Gandhi was con sidered to be a very great personality, but he committed many mistakes. Even at the last stage `of his life, his assistant warned, "Mahatma Gandhi, don't go to the New Delhi meeting. I have some friends, and I have heard there is danger." But he did not - hear. He persisted in going and was killed. Even great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, President Kennedy-there are so many of them - make mistakes. To err is human. This is one defect of the conditioned soul.


Another defect: to be illusioned. Illusion means to accept something which is not: maya. Maya means "what is not." Everyone is accepting the body as the self. If I ask you what you are, you will say, "I am Mr. John; I am a rich man; I am this; I am that." All these are bodily identifications. But you are not this body. This is illusion.


The third defect is the cheating propensity. Everyone has the propensity to cheat others. Although a person is fool number one, he poses himself as very intelligent. Although it is already pointed out that he is in illusion and makes mistakes, he will theorize: "I think this is this, this is this." But he does not even know his own position. He writes books of philosophy, although he is defective. That is his disease. T hat is cheating.


Lastly, our senses are imperfect. We are very proud of our eyes. Often, someone will challenge, "Can you show me God?" But do you have the eyes to see God? You will never see if you haven't the eyes. If immediately the room becomes dark, you cannot even see your hands. So what power do you have to see? We cannot, therefore, expect knowledge (veda) with these imperfect senses. With all these deficiencies, in conditioned life we cannot give perfect knowledge to anyone. Nor are we ourselves perfect. Therefore we accept the Vedas as they are.


You may call the Vedas Hindu, but "Hindu" is a foreign name. We are not Hindus. Our real identification is varnasrama. Varnasrama denotes the followers of the Vedas, those who accept the human society in eight divisions of varna and asrama. There are four divisions of society and four divisions of spiritual life. This is called varnasrama. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita [4.13], "These divisions are every where because they are created by God." The divisions of society are brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. Brahmana refers to the very intelligent class of men, those who know what is Brahman. Similarly, the ksatriyas, the administrator group, are the next intelligent class of men. Then the vaisyas, the mercantile group. These natural classifications are found everywhere. This is the Vedic principle, and we accept it. Vedic principles are accepted as axiomatic truth, for there cannot be any mistake. That is acceptance. For instance, in India cow dung is accepted as pure, and yet cow dung is the stool of an animal. In one place you'll find the Vedic injunction that if you touch stool, you have to take a bath immediately. But in another place it is said that the stool of a cow is pure. If you smear cow dung in an impure place, that place becomes pure. With our ordinary sense we can argue, "This is contradictory." Actually, it is contradictory from the ordinary point of view, but it is not false. It is fact. In Calcutta, a very prominent scientist and doctor analyzed cow dung and found that it contains all antiseptic properties.


In India if one person tells another, "You must do this," the other party may say, "What do you mean? Is this a Vedic injunction, that I have to follow you without any argument?" Vedic injunctions cannot be interpreted. But ultimately, if you carefully study why these injunctions are there, you will find that they are all correct.


The Vedas are not compilations of human knowledge. Vedic knowledge comes from the spiritual world, from Lord Krsna Another name for the Vedas is sruti. Sruti refers to that knowledge which is acquired by hearing. It is not experimental knowledge. Sruti is considered to be like a mother. We take so much knowledge from our mother. For example, if you want to know who your father is, who can answer you? Your mother. If the mother says, "Here is your father," you have to accept it. It is not possible to experiment to find out whether he is your father. Similarly, if you want to know something beyond your experience, beyond your experimental knowledge, beyond the activities of the senses, then you have to accept the Vedas. There is no question of experimenting. It has already been experimented. It is already settled. The version of the mother, for instance, has to be accepted as truth. There is no other way.


The Vedas are considered to be the mother, and Brahma is called the grandfather, the forefather, because he was the first to be instructed in the Vedic knowledge. In the beginning the first living creature was Brahma. He received this Vedic knowledge and imparted it to Narada and other disciples and sons, and they also distributed it to their disciples. In this way, the Vedic knowledge comes down by disciplic succession. It is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita that Vedic knowledge is understood in this way. If you make experimental endeavor, you come to the same conclusion, but just to save time you should accept. If you want to know who your father is and if you accept your mother as the authority, then whatever she says can be accepted without argument. There are three kinds of evidence: pratyaksa, anumana and sabda. Pratyaksa means "direct evidence." Direct evidence is not very good because our senses are not perfect. We are seeing the sun daily, and it appears to us just like a small disc, but it is actually far, far larger than many planets. Of what value is this seeing? Therefore we have to read books; then we can understand about the sun. So direct experience is not perfect. Then there is an anumana, inductive knowledge: "It may be like this"-hypothesis. For instance, Darwin's theory says it may be like this, it may be like that. But that is not science. That is a suggestion, and it is also not perfect. But if you receive the knowledge from the authoritative sources, that is perfect. If you receive a program guide from the radio station authorities, you accept it. You don't deny it; you don't have to make an experiment, because it is received from the authoritative sources.


Vedic knowledge is called sabda-pramana. An other name is sruti. Sruti means that this knowledge has to be received simply by aural reception. The Vedas instruct that in order to understand transcendental knowledge, we have to hear from the authority. Transcendental knowledge is knowledge from beyond this universe. Within this universe is material knowledge, and beyond this universe is transcendental knowledge. We cannot even go to the end of the universe, so how can we go to the spiritual world? Thus to acquire full knowledge is impossible.


There is a spiritual sky. There is another nature, which is beyond manifestation and nonmanifestation. But how will you know that there is a sky where the planets and inhabitants are eternal? All this knowledge is there, but how will you make experiments? It is not possible. Therefore you have to take the assistance of the Vedas. This is called Vedic knowledge. In our Krsna consciousness movement we are accepting knowledge from the highest authority, Krsna. Krsna is accepted as the highest authority by all classes of men. I am speaking first of the two classes of transcendentalists. One class of transcendentalists is called impersonalistic, Mayavadi. They are gener ally known as Vedantists, led by Sankaracarya. And there is another class of transcendentalists, called Vaisnavas, like Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnu svami. Both the Sankara-sampradaya and the Vaisnava-sampradaya have accepted Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sankaracarya is supposed to be an impersonalist who preached impersonalism, impersonal Brahman, but it is a fact that he is a covered personalist. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita he wrote, "Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is beyond this cosmic manifestation." And then again he confirmed, "That Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, is Krsna. He has come as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva." He particularly mentioned the names of His father and mother. So Krsna is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by all transcendentalists. There is no doubt about it. Our source of knowledge in Krsna consciousness is the Bhagavad-gita, which comes directly from Krsna. We have published the Bhagavad-gita As It Is because we accept Krsna as He is speaking, without any interpretation. That is Vedic knowledge. Since the Vedic knowledge is pure, we accept it. Whatever Krsna says, we accept. This is Krsna consciousness. That saves much time. If you accept the right authority, or source of knowledge, then you save much time. For example, there are two systems of knowledge in the material world: inductive and deductive. From deductive, you accept that man is mortal. Your father says man is mortal, - your sister says man is mortal, everyone says man is mortal-but you do not experiment. You accept it as a fact that man is mortal. If you want to research to find out whether man is mortal, you have to study each and every man, and you may come to think that there may be some man who is not dying but you have not seen him yet. So in this way your research will never be finished. In Sanskrit this process is called aroha, the ascending process. If you want to attain knowledge by any personal endeavor, by exercising your imperfect senses, you will never come to the right conclusions. That is not possible.


There is a statement in the Brahma-samhita: Just ride on the airplane which runs at the speed of mind. Our material airplanes can run two thousand miles per hour, but what is the speed of mind? You are sitting at home, you immediately think of India - say, ten thousand miles away - and at once it is in your home. Your mind has gone there. The mindspeed is so swift. Therefore it is stated, "If you travel at this speed for millions of years, you'll find that the spiritual sky is unlimited." It is not possible even to approach it. Therefore, the Vedic injunction is that - one must approach-the word--compulsory" is used-a bona fide spiritual master, a guru. And what is the qualification of a spiritual master? He is one who has rightly heard the Vedic message from the right source. And he must practically be firmly established in Brahman. These are the two qualities. Otherwise he is not bona fide.


This Krsna consciousness movement is completely authorized from Vedic principles. In the Bhagavad- gita Krsna says, "The actual aim of Vedic research is to find out Krsna. " In the Brahma-samhita it is also stated, "Krsna, Govinda, has innumerable forms, but they are all one." They are not like our forms, which are fallible. His form is infallible. My form has a beginning, but His form has no beginning. It is ananta. And His form-so many multiforms-has no end. My form is sitting here and not in my apartment. You are sitting there and not in your apartment. But Krsna can be everywhere at one time. He can sit down in Goloka Vrndavana, and at the same time He is everywhere, all-pervading. He is original, the oldest, but whenever you look at a picture of Krsna you'll find a young boy fifteen or twenty years old. You will never find an old man. You have seen pictures of Krsna as a charioteer from the Bhagavad- gita. At that time He was not less than one hundred years old. He had great-grandchildren, but He looked just like a boy. Krsna, God, never becomes old. That is His supreme power. And if you want to search out Krsna by studying the Vedic literature, then you will be baffled. It may be possible, but it is very difficult. But you can very easily learn about Him from His devotee. His devotee can deliver Him to you: "Here He is, take Him." That is the potency of Krsna's devotees.


Originally there was only one Veda, and there was no necessity of reading it. People were so intelligent and had such sharp memories that by once hearing from the lips of the spiritual master they would understand. They would immediately grasp the whole purport. But five thousand years ago Vyasadeva put the Vedas in writing for the people in this age, Kali yuga. He knew that eventually the people would be short-lived, their memories would be very poor, and their intelligence would not be very sharp. "Therefore, let me teach this Vedic knowledge in writing." He divided the Vedas into four: Rg, Sama, Atharva and Yajur. Then he gave the charge of these Vedas to his different disciples. He then thought of the less intelligent class of men-stri, sudra and dvija- bandhu. He considered the woman class and sudra class (worker class) and dvija-bandhu. Dvija-bandhu refers to those who are born in a high family but who are not properly qualified. A man who is born in the family of a brahmana but is not qualified as a brahmana is called dvija-bandhu. For these persons he compiled the Mahabharata, called the history of India, and the eighteen Puranas. These are all part of the Vedic literature: the Puranas, the Mahabharata, the four Vedas and the Upanisads. The Upanisads are part of the Vedas. Then Vyasadeva summarized all Vedic knowledge for scholars and philosophers in what is called the Vedanta-sutra. This is the last word of the Vedas.


Vyasadeva personally wrote the Vedanta-sutra under the instructions of Narada, his Guru Maharaja (spiritual master), but still he was not satisfied. That is a long story, described in Srimad Bhagavatam. Vedavyasa was not very satisfied even after compiling many Puranas and Upanisads, and even after writing the Vedanta-sutra. Then his spiritual master, Narada, instructed him, "You explain the Vedanta sutra." Vedanta means "ultimate knowledge," and the ultimate knowledge is Krsna. Krsna says that throughout all the Vedas one has to understand Him: vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham. Krsna says, "I am the compiler of the Vedanta-sutra, and I am the knower of the Vedas." Therefore the ultimate objective is Krsna. That is explained in all the Vaisnava commentaries on Vedanta philosophy. We Gaudiya Vaisnavas have our commentary on Vedanta philosophy, called Govindabhasya, by Baladeva Vidyabhusana. similarly, Ramanujacarya has a commentary, and Madhvacarya has one. The version of Sankaracarya is not the only commentary. There are many Vedanta commentaries, but because the Vaisnavas did not present the first Vedanta commentary, people are under the wrong impression that Sankaracarya's is the only Vedanta commentary. Be sides that, Vyasadeva himself wrote the perfect Vedanta commentary, Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam begins with the first words of the Vedanta-sutra:janmady asya yatah.. And that janmady asya yatah is fully explained in Srimad Bhagavatam. The Vedanta-sutra simply hints at what is Brahman, the Absolute Truth: "The Absolute Truth is that from whom everything emanates." This is a summary, but it is explained in detail in Srimad Bhagavatam. If everything is emanating from the Absolute Truth, then what is the nature of the Absolute Truth? That is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Absolute Truth must be consciousness. He is self-effulgent (sva-rat). We develop our consciousness and knowledge by receiving knowledge from others, but for Him it is said that He is self-effulgent. The whole summary of Vedic knowledge is the Vedanta-sutra, and the Vedanta-sutra is explained by the writer himself in Srimad-Bhagavatam. We finally request those who are actually after Vedic knowledge to try to understand the explanation of all Vedic knowledge from Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita.


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Hinduism have thousands of scriptures and they were written by thousands of Christ like masters and they were written in centuries.


Ancient Hindu scriptures Vedas state:"LET NOBLE THOUGHTS COME TO US FROM ALL SIDES."


Hindu scripture Srimad Mahabhagavatam states:



people around the world will open up themselves to good thoughts and stop limiting themselves with dogmas and demagoguery.


Since "UTMOST FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND ACTION" is the cardinal principle of Hinduism, almost all Hindu saints have written scriptures and they never ever attach their names to the scriptures.


All of them wrote whatever they tele pathically understood after deep meditation. In fact, most of the Hindu scriptures were written as "THIRD PARTY DISCUSSING WITH FOURTH PARTY".


For example, Bhagavad Gita is a narration of truths from Lord Krishna [FIRST PERSON] to warrior prince [sECOND PERSON] Arjuna, seen and heard telepathically by Vidhura [THIRD PERSON] and telling that to blind king Dhartharashtra [FOURTH PERSON] and of course, FIFTH PERSON, Veda Vyasa [nobody knows whether that name is a nickname!] writing the whole narration.


Hindu epic Ramayana was written as a story told my bird who just lost her mate to the vicious arrow of a hunter. So much so, Hindus have thousands of scriptures, from extreme atheistic nature as well as extreme devotional nature. Once again, nobody knows who wrote all those scriptures and how much time they took to write all those scriptures.


Hindu scriptures can be broadly classified into two groups.


One is SRUTI - THAT WHICH IS HEARD literature.


Another one is SMRITI - THAT WHICH IS REMEMBERED literature


VEDAS And UPANISHADS belong to SRUTI format. For long time there were no written literature on them. In fact, the word UPANISHAD can be broken down as UPA [near] NI [down] SHAD [sit] meaning that teachings of Upanishads were conveyed from masters to students when students sat very next to masters and nobody overheard those teachings.


All Hindu scriptures were considered as revealed truths of God. In fact Hindu scriptures say that ALL HINDU SCRIPTURES WERE WRITTEN BY GOD.


According Christian theologians Holy Bible is considered to be HOLY SPIRIT INSPIRED BOOK. According to Mimamsa school of thought, all sruti literature existed all through eternity in the form of sounds. Therefore those sounds of words of Vedas and Upanishads are very important to Hindus.





1. RIG VEDA== [knowledge of hymns]

2. YAJUR VEDA = [ knowledge of liturgy]

3. SAMA VEDA == [ knowledge of Music4. ATHARVA VEDA ======== [ knowledge given Atharvana]



TOTAL 108 UPANISHADS . Principle ones 13. Some of the Upanishads are named after the sages who answered all questions. Some as per the first word in the Upanishad.


















A. VEDANGAS: scriptures attached to Vedas.


1. DHARMA SUTRAS: [ THE Codes of Manu, Yatnyavalkya etc]

2. JYOTHISHA [ astrology and astronomy ]

3. KALPA [rituals and legal matters]

4. SIKSHA [phonetics ]

5. CHHANDAS [measurements]

6. NIRUKTA [Etymology]

7. VYAKARANA [ grammar ]




: 6 of them


1. NYASA: by sage Gautama wrote Nyaya sutras

2. VAISHESHIKA: by sage Kanada wrote Vaisheshika sutra

3. SAMKHYA: by sage Kapila- Gita starts with this philosophy

4. YOGA: by Pathanjali who wrote PATHANJALI YOGASUTRA

5. MIMAMSA: by sage Jaimini who wrote MIMAMSA SUTRA

6. VEDANTA: by sage Veda Vyasa



VEDANTA [AT THE END OF VEDAS meaning it started at the end of Vedic age] has

two parts.



great exponent ADI SANKARA

2. DWITA PHILOSOPHY - TWO - almost all Vaishnava saints




1. RAMAYANA - story of Rama, written by Valmiki

2. MAHABHARATA - story of Pandvas & Kauravas

220,000 verses, 18 chapters BHAGAVAD GITA is part of this epic


3. PURANAS - 18 are most important MAHABHAGAVATAM - is the most read important scripture of ISKCON[HAREKRISHNA]


4. TANTRAS - started during vedic age. consistsof cosmology, erotic exercises etcTantra is very important and very vast.


There are still a lot more scriptures in Hinduism. I should say that there are more than 1000 scriptures in Hinduism.




Each VEDA consists of four sections.


The word Veda comes from the root 'Vid',to know. The word "Veda" in SANSKRIT language means "wisdom" or "knowledge"


1 SAMHITA --hymns to deities

2 BRAHMANA--description of rituals

3 ARANYAKA -"forest texts" dealing with philosophy

4 UPANISHAD -- highest form of philosophical contemplation


The Hindu Rig Veda is the foremost book of Hindus. It is the oldest book in the world. Nobody knows when Rig Veda was written. According to B.G. Tilak it was written in 5000 BC. German philosopher Max Muller dates 1500 BC.


According some it took centuries to write this book from 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. In the book "The Celestial Key to the Vedas:" B. G. Sidharth states

that earliest portions of the Rig Veda can be dated as far back as 10,000 B.C. German philosopher Max Muller who translated many Hindu scriptures wrote "The Rig-Veda "is the most ancient book of the world. The sacred hymns

of the Brahmanas stand unparalleled in the literature of the whole world; and their preservation might well be called miraculous."



It is the very first SRUTI literature. It is divided into 10 books called MANDALAS or CIRCLES. Each MANDALA is divided into many ADHYAYAS or chapters.


Rig Veda has 10,417 verses. Mandala one is the prayer book of the ancient Rishis [ saints]. Mandala 2 , to 7th describes all the details about the families of the Prajapathis like Vasishta, Bhrighu etc. Mandala 8th again

contain hymns. Mandala 9th is devoted to hymns to Soma in association with Soma rituals. Mandala 10th is very philosophical and it contains HYMNS like PURUSHA SUKTA







A Rig Vedic hymn has 3 parts.


1. first part is an exhortation

2. second part is the praise of the deity

3. third part is a special request


The religion of Rig Veda is called BRAHMANISM. As I stated above, in Rig Veda you see Aryans worshiping all the powers of nature like VAYU, VARUNA, SURYA, SOMA, and AGNI. The Rig Veda does not seem to be a scripture composed during a particular time period. It might have taken several centuries to make this scripture.


There is quite a lot to write about Hindu scriptures


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Thirty years ago, when I began my spiritual journey, I was studying English literature, and if you study English literature you will be taught that English and all of the romance languages of Europe can be traced back to the Latin, and then from the Latin back to the Greek. Modern Western history teaches us that the trail mysteriously stops at that point in time, although it is a well-known fact that the ancient Greeks sat at the feet of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. So when India was discovered by the West a few centuries ago there was a clash of cultures over the origins of human civilisation. The West held a viewpoint of time that ended with the Greeks whereas the East, and India in particular, spoke of a time span of well over fifty thousand years. The Western vision simply could not accommodate this understanding. So they made up a story to explain away this anomaly. When people from the West colonised India and began to study the Indian culture, they established a chair of Sanskrit at Oxford University called the Boden chair. The main function of the Boden chair of Sanskrit was to translate the Bible into Sanskrit. The people who studied Sanskrit then went to India and occupied various ministerial posts within the British Government, and they began to study the Vedas. As they began studying, they discovered that Sanskrit was the mother language for both Greek and for Latin, and in fact, for all the romance languages of Europe. This discovery gave rise to the modern science of Linguistics. The classification of modern languages was only made possible by an understanding of Sanskrit.


This revelation caused a problem because at that time India was a colony of the British. As one of my professors used to say, "You refer to India as the sub-continent, but could you tell me exactly what it is sub too?" Of course, the saying was intended to imply subordinate to Her Majesty the Queen. It was a bit of an embarrassment to run into a culture that not only claimed that its history went back fifty or sixty thousand years, but that it was also the basis for your own language and literature! The British couldn't accept this and so the scholars of the time made up a theory, which said that there was a group of people called the Aryans, who lived in the Steppes of Russia, and this horseback riding people rode into India one thousand five hundred years ago with these books called the Vedas under their arms. Unfortunately, what they did not take into account was the fact that the Vedas contained astronomical calculations that went back seven thousand years! Now there is no instance or evidence of a horseback riding culture having observatories who watched the stars over a period of seven thousand years. Nevertheless, Western scholars overlooked this inconsistency and believed the theory that the Aryans came riding into India and conquered the dark skinned Dravidians with their superior technology and their superior wisdom.


This theory was very similar to the one put forward by Adolph Hitler in his promotion of the Aryan Race. He took this great term Aryan from the Vedic culture, a term which literally means noble people who are trying to liberate their soul from the darkness of matter. It has nothing to do with race, has nothing to do with culture, but it has everything to do with spiritual aspiration, with the liberation of the atma from tamas or darkness. Hitler took this word because he believed that Aryans were the people who had invaded India from the North and he thought that his ancestors came from them. No one has honoured the fact, until very recently anyway, that Sanskrit is the language from which all the other languages of the world evolved.


Some very exciting things have been happening in recent years. You probably know that the Vedas refer to three sacred rivers in India, the Jamuna, the Ganga and the Saraswati, but if you go to India today, you will find no Saraswati River. There is only the Jamuna and the Ganga. Therefore, some scholars have argued that the Vedas were just legends, stories made up by Indians to prove that their culture was indeed fifty thousand years old. However, quite recently, satellite photography has provided evidence of the dried up bed of the Saraswati, meandering just like a river, many miles away from the Ganga. Thus, modern technology has proved what the scholars of India have always proclaimed, that there was a river but that it had dried up. Indian history relates that there was a thriving culture all along the Saraswati River but that culture migrated over to the Ganga River when the river dried up sometime between 10,000 and 7,000 B.C.


So with the discovery of the Saraswati River whole groups of archaeological facts have now begun to fall into place. Archaeologists are re-examining the sites of the ancient cities of India and it is now generally accepted that there was no Aryan invasion of India. The Aryans did not come from the foot hills of Russia simply because they were already in India. The evidence clearly shows that this Indian culture existed over fifteen thousand years ago and that it was from this group of people that the great culture of the country of Bharat, now known as India, came.


The Mahabharata, the great Sanskrit epic of ancient India, records the history of Bharat and the Bhagavad-Gita. It contains within it, the events of five thousand years ago when Lord Krishna appeared and spoke to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, which saw the triumph of the Pandavas over the Kauravas, the triumph of good over evil. That event marked the beginning of Kali Yuga. So the Sanskrit of the Vedas refers to an era before that time and to the existence of a pool of knowledge that has survived for thousands of years. That is why India and Indian culture is the mother of all modern civilisations.


You could say that our greatest enemy is forgetfulness, because history, which is nearly always a subjective viewpoint, erases memory and the true story gets lost. In India, however, scholars have been trying to maintain the story of ancient Bharat because this story, this history, is in fact the story of God coming down to Earth. That is what is so significant about the history of Bharat. It is an actual record, a recollection of God coming down to Earth and of His teaching, His Life and the display of His powers.


The Vedic scholars understood that it is difficult for us to learn things in this physical world. For example, we are all trapped in this room right now and we don't know what's going on outside. This is a similar situation to us living in the physical world. We live in the physical world but our physical senses cannot see outside of it. There are three ways of learning, of getting knowledge. Firstly, we learn through our senses, we experience something through one of our senses, be it sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell. Secondly, we can make an inference as to the reality of something, we can speculate as to what the reality might be, based on our present knowledge. For example, we can speculate as to the size of the sun in the sky based on our own knowledge that distant things appear smaller than closer things, but as we draw closer to them they become bigger. Therefore, we deduce that the sun must be large, but if we want to know what is inside the sun, how can we find out? If we want to know who created the sun or how the sun was created, how can we answer such questions?


The sages and rishis of the Vedic culture had great wisdom. They understood that you really can't get ultimate answers about life from your own investigations into matter or from your own speculations. You will never get such conclusive knowledge. They recognised that there was a third method of getting knowledge, namely, from the descent of knowledge by the Divine. This descent of knowledge is sometimes called Divine testimony. It is a testimony given by the Divine so that we may have an understanding of things that exist beyond our sight, beyond our senses and beyond our speculation. This Divine testimony is transmitted to us through sound, through the vibration of the spoken word, as recorded in the Vedas. So the Vedas are a recording of the actual words spoken by God Himself to Brahma the Creator and to the great cosmic beings who created the Universe. Ever since that time, these sounds have been passed down from master to student, in a disciplic succession, whose sacred trust was not to alter or deviate from the original knowledge, and to keep it as pure as the day it was given.


The culture that was dedicated to that sacred trust worshipped the Goddess Saraswati and so her name was given to the river along which they lived. That Golden Age culture worshipped Saraswati as the Goddess of pure swath, which means truth. Saraswati was the consort of Brahma, and so first, I had better tell you a little about of Brahma. Brahma was born from Vishnu. Now the legend goes that Vishnu lies in a divine sleep at the bottom of the Universe with a lake in his navel. A lotus flower grows up out of the lake and when the flower opens Brahma and Saraswati appear on the lotus. Brahma soon begins to ask from whence he came, and so he climbs down the lotus saying that he is going to find out! Well he goes as far as he can go but he still can't find an end to the lotus stem. So he comes back up in frustration only to have Saraswati tell him that it doesn't matter because she came with a mantra and that if he chants this mantra and does a certain meditation then he will understand why he is here. So Brahma says a thank you to Saraswati and then sits down and chants the mantra. When he has perfected the mantra Vishnu does indeed come to him, shakes his hand and says "Hi, nice to meet you, I am God, and I'm here now to tell you how to create the Universe." This story is very important because, you see, the Vedic vision of life is that we are all, at all times, supported by great love and great intelligence and that everything that we see in the physical world has behind it that great love and great intelligence. So the Earth is not just a rock on which we are walking around; the Earth is Bhumi, the grandmother of us all, who gives us our bodies, feeds us and nourishes us. She is not inanimate and unintelligent; she is divine and beautiful, a deva, full of wisdom and intelligence beyond our understanding. What the sages of old recognised was that even though we are trapped by being in our physical bodies, the one thing that we can do is to contact Brahma, is to contact Vishnu, is to contact Bhumi, by the sound of a mantra.


We have a practical demonstration of this with television today. Everyone across the country gets the same television show that is being broadcast from the base station. So the whole world can know what the sages have always known, that the Universe is supported by love, by intelligence and by truth and by the good intentions of the Creator who created it for our well being. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita "In the beginning of creation I sent forth generations of men and demi-gods, or devas, and if you do this sacrifice to Vishnu it will give you all good things." The original Aryan culture recognised this. It proclaimed that we are all atmas, we are all souls, here on this Earth to have a human experience. The Vedas are sometimes called Sruti which means mother. Why is this so? Because if you want to know who you father is, you ask your mother. The authority on your father is your mother!


So truly, the Vedas are a whole body of knowledge given to us through sound to help us to understand that which is beyond our perception and our speculation. The teachers and the avatars that are sent to us always personify the Vedas and that is why from Sai Baba's lips you will only hear sat, which translates as truth. I've never heard Sai Baba say anything but pure sat. That is how you tell a true guru. They embody their teachings. They teach by their example. Within our own heart, each one of us has Paramatma, the supreme atma or soul, which is God, present. So when someone honours us or praises us they are in fact honouring and praising the Paramatma within us. If you look into someone's eyes, you are looking into their heart, because the eyes are the window of the heart, and so you are seeing the deity within the heart, which is Paramatma. So when I look into your eyes I'm having the honour of looking into your heart and of seeing the aspect of the deity that is dwelling there. I have the privilege of seeing a divine vision. You are giving me darshan of your Paramatma. So everyone should tend the deity in his or her heart very carefully. This, of course, is what Sai Baba is teaching.


When you chant the mantras of the Vedas your body resonates to the sound and an important process takes place. You've probably heard many people say that meditation is simply a means of emptying the mind of self and, in one sense, this is true, especially if your mind is full of garbage and bad thoughts. However, the Vedas have another viewpoint on this. Let me give you an analogy to show you. If there is some ink (bad thoughts) in a glass and you want to get the ink out of the glass, there are two methods of doing this. The first one is simply by tipping the glass and by shaking the ink out. Inevitably, though, some ink will cling to the glass and will not come out. This analogy applies to people who are living in a busy material world and who are probably creating fresh garbage as fast as they get rid of the old. It's not very easy to empty your being of garbage. The other way, the way of the Vedas, is to fill the glass with milk, because ink floats on milk. If you fill the glass with milk, the ink will float to the surface and then it will flow out of the glass leaving the glass full of milk.


You've probably heard the Sanskrit word paramahamsa, which literally means supreme swan. The swan is a symbol of purity. Incidentally, the Goddess Saraswati rides on a swan. The swan is also a symbol of So Hum, the basic mantra of the breath, the incoming (so) and the outgoing (hum). When you reverse the mantra, it is hamsa which means swan. Saraswati is the Goddess of speech. She wears a white sari which she keeps white by purity, she wears crystal beads and she rides on a swan. Why a swan? The swan has a secret. If you pour milk on the water, the swan can take the milk out of the water, because there is an acid in the mouth of the swan that allows it to absorb the milk and leave the water behind.


So the swans or the paramahamsas (the pure ones) know what is the nectar, the milk, and are able to drink in the nectar and leave the water (the world) behind. So by drinking in the sacred sounds of the Vedas and sounding the mantras you are in fact filling the glass of your being with this sacred milk, the Vedic sound vibration. This sacred milk fills your being and displaces all of the ink, the tamas or darkness, from your being. The real presence of the Divine occurs when the transcendental divine sound flows through us.


The Sanskrit language was a gift from the Devic Realm, a gift that would last throughout the Ages. It was a gift from the divine beings who created the Earth to those who would live on the Earth. It is the perfect way to ensure the perpetuation of divine truth. Sanskrit is such a perfect language that NASA, the American space agency, contemplated using it as a programming language. I'll give you a comparison so that you will understand just how perfect Sanskrit is! Imagine that Bill Gates came out with a version of Windows that was so good that it did not need to be upgraded for 2,500 years! He would have created a monopoly. Well Sanskrit has the monopoly on languages, because Sanskrit is a perfect language. It cannot be improved upon.


My teacher of Sanskrit was raised in a Brahmin family where both his parents spoke pure Sanskrit in the house. They were that developed. As such, he learned a grammatical rule every day and his father would give him eight rupees every time he learned a grammatical rule of Sanskrit. As a matter of interest, there is a Sanskrit grammar in India that lists 3,800 grammatical rules. My Sanskrit teacher knew them all by heart. Now there was a time when the whole culture of India was like this, when everyone was educated to this standard.


A famous trial took place when the English were governing India. Two men were accused of being thieves. There was a witness who was a Brahmin and at the trial, he was put on the stand to give his evidence. However, when he was being sworn in it became self-evident that he could not speak English, which was a problem since the trial was being conducted in English, the two thieves who were being tried were English and the conversation that he had overheard, when they talked about the crime, was in English! So the judge rightly inquired as to how he was going to give his testimony. The lawyer for the prosecution said that although the Brahmin didn't speak or understand English, he had memorised their conversation! So the Brahmin took the stand to give his testimony and he replayed their conversation in English verbatim, exactly as he had heard it. The two thieves were convicted of the crime. It's on the record. So this level of scholarship, of understanding, was prevalent amongst the Vedic culture.


Thousands of years later we can still resonate to these holy sounds. There are great exponents, such as Sai Baba, of the Vedic way of life, of the Vedic culture. We, in turn, need to support what he is doing by becoming students of the Vedas, by imbibing the Vedic culture. The Vedas are the milk, the nectar, that we seek. So instead of reading other things and filling our mind with other teachings we should dig deeply into the Vedas. It may take a little bit of extra effort to learn the stories of the Vedas and to become a part of them, but once they are inside you, then your heart will be filled with sat or truth. The whole essence of the Vedic culture is that you have to make a choice. You choose what you will eat each day. If you eat all kinds of food that is not vegetarian, food that is not good for you, food that is not sacred, then your temple will become filled with all kinds of garbage. That is your choice. If you listen to all kinds of negative things rather than to sacred sounds, if you fill your heart with garbage, that is your choice too. It is the same with all of your senses. You have to discipline yourself; you have to practise certain austerities, to do tapas. This may not be comfortable for you, it may not be easy for you, but it is the path that all true seekers have to walk. It is hard work to study the Vedas, to the read the Bhagavad-Gita or the Mahabharata, to imbibe Sai Baba's discourses, but it is important that you do this regularly to ensure that that sacred vibration is vibrating within you. The great yogis realise that whatever the tongue vibrates the ears have to listen to, that whatever the ears listen to the mind has to think about, that whatever the mind thinks about it will become. That is the great secret of walking the spiritual path.


Lord Krishna, at the end of the Bhagavad-Gita, says to Arjuna, "Arjuna have you heard me with full attention, have you really been listening to what I have been saying and are you now ready to act upon my instructions?" This warning, of course, holds true if you are listening to any holy conversation, if you are listening to Sai Baba or to any true follower of the Vedas, to any guru. A guru simply means he who speaks the truth, so anyone, at any moment, can speak the truth to you and in that moment can be your guru, and listening to the outer guru is but a preparation for listening to the guru within you. The Paramatma is present in everyone and so there are millions of gurus in incarnation. A guru could be anyone on the street who, all of a sudden, speaks the truth to you. You have to ensure, though, that your ego does not block the truth. If you have learned how to hear and to imbibe the truth, if your body is accustomed to a diet of the Vedas and of the sacred sounds, so you will be able to distinguish between good and bad sounds, just as you distinguish between good and bad food. If food doesn't smell or taste good, you won't eat it. So you learn to recognise good sound vibrations, and by controlling what you hear you control what you speak, you control the very nature of your being. You will find that you will only emanate sacred sounds and people will only hear sacred sounds coming from you. Sacred sounds are the mantras and the stories of the Vedas.


So you should tell each other the stories of the Vedas and thus pour milk inside your being which will cleanse you of all negativity. If you can memorise a pop song that you hear on the radio, you can memorise a Vedic chant. Remember the analogy of the milk displacing the ink. "Am I filling myself with milk?" is the question that you should all be asking yourselves. "What am I doing each day to drink from the divine stream of truth?" is the question that you should pose to yourselves. The analogy of the three rivers is that they flow down from the celestial regions serving God. Nobody in the divine realms ever forgets that they are serving God. Here in the material realm in which we live, we tend to forget that fact. So we must choose between remembrance and forgetfulness. The divine sound of the Vedas will lead us back to the Source, will make us remember.


One of my favourite stories is of an elderly man who was sitting in the square of a village in India, holding a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita upside down and he was crying. The people around him were laughing at him and were making fun of him. A yogi walked up to the group and asked why they were making fun of the man. The people said "Look, can't you see, he's pretending to read the Bhagavad-Gita, but he's holding the book upside down!" So the yogi went to the man and asked, "Why are you crying? Are you upset because they are making fun of you?" The man replied "No, no, that doesn't bother me at all." The yogi said "Then why are you crying? Is it because you can't read the book?" The man replied "No, you are right, I can't read the book. I am crying because I'm thinking about Krishna and Arjuna. I'm thinking about Krishna, who is the supreme Lord of the Universe, and yet he becomes Arjuna's chariot driver." (Now when you are the chariot driver you sit beneath the person being pulled on the chariot, and he puts his feet on your shoulders and pushes down hard on the left or right shoulder to tell you which way to turn the chariot. Naturally, you wind up with bruised shoulders.) "So Krishna, the Lord of all, the supreme divine delight, has taken the lowly position of chariot driver to help Arjuna and to guide him in the battle. When I think of this sacrifice my eyes fill with tears and I cry." The yogi then turned to the group and said, "This man understands the Bhagavad-Gita, even though he cannot read it."


Every seeker must have a guru, a guru who will lead them out of the darkness. When you have a guru, the way to honour your guru is to become like him. This is what Sai Baba wants, for you all to be like him. Sathya Sai Baba's very name is truth. Sathya or sat means truth. When you imbibe his teachings you imbibe truth, you become truth. When you are in the company of truth, you are having satsang. That is what you are doing right now. It is a time when you place all the things that you would normally talk about to one side and concentrate on talking about the things that are good for your atma. By doing this you ensure that no ego is present, so that you can truly imbibe sat or truth. When you have true satsang you are filling yourselves with sat from the reservoir of the Vedic knowledge that has been passed down to you, through much effort and sacrifice, by all of the sages of the past.


By following Sai Baba you have all embarked on the path to becoming yogis, you have become students of the Vedas. You should all have a personal notebook in which you put down your understandings. You should get the Mahabharata. You should get the Ramayana. You should read about the Vedic culture and understand what lies behind the stories of ancient Bharat. You should read Sai Baba's discourses. If you had been a devotee of Sai Baba for twenty or so years and Sai Baba called you in for an interview and asked what you had been doing in those twenty years, would you tell him about mundane things, about your life in the community, or would you tell him about your spiritual insights. If you could recite to him from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata, if you could praise him with a verse from the Bhagavad-Gita, or quote a verse in Sanskrit, it would be like you were singing music to his ears. He would be so happy at your diligence. He would be so delighted that you had really placed your ego to one side, that you were no longer thinking as an American, a Canadian or an Englishman. He would be overjoyed that you had done it of your own free will.


If you study and pursue sat or truth very soon you will discover that you can't live without it. In no time at all you will not be able to imagine a day going by without you reading from the Bhagavad-Gita or the Vedas or from one of Sai Baba's books. As you listen to Sai Baba or read his discourses, you will recognise that his message comes straight from the Vedas. The knowledge of the Vedas is eternal. When the Vedas live inside you, you become eternal, the soul becomes eternal, and you become eligible to go and live in the realm of the Devas and when you went there, you would be an honoured guest. If you could speak the language of the Vedas, you would become eligible to enter the court of the highest realm of the Heavens.


Just consider where our lives would be if we had not met Sai Baba or great yogis like him. We would be bonded to the karma with which we were born, to the limitations of our ancestors, to the limitations imposed on us at birth. I would not be on this stage talking to you today, unless I had embraced this sat, this knowledge of the Vedas and had allowed it to pass through me.


The Vedic tradition is real. It is not a fairy story. It is history. In the beginning, Vishnu really did speak to Brahma. The Vedic stories take us into the deepest recesses of our heart, where truth wants to manifest. If we allow this to happen, if we finally surrender that ego, and enter into a proper relationship with God, then we will become God. Though we live in darkness, we have a connection to the light. So please, believe in the Vedas and the stories of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad-Gita and the truth that Sai Baba is teaching and know that it is not just coming from him. Sai Baba is a shining representative of truth, that is why he is Sathya, the embodiment of the sat which has been passed down by generations of yogis and sages who have kept the message alive. But what are you going to do with his message? Will it fall on deaf ears? Will you listen to it but then not go home and work with it, become it. You should be students all of your lives, until you can speak and act just like Sai Baba. It is by studying the Vedas and believing in them that you will embody and speak truth in any given situation. People will begin to hear God speaking through you because you will only be letting that divine sound come through. That is the essence of the Vedic culture.


At the end of the document:


Jeffrey has spent the last 30 years studying Vedanta, Yoga, Tantra and Mantra practices. For the last 15 years, he has been a corporate executive, and speaker for Fortune 500 companies. He has degrees in Psychology, Literature and Comparative Religion. Simultaneously he's been practising Vedic Astrology for the last 25 years and has read horoscopes for thousands of clients. Jeffrey travels and lectures in Canada, USA and internationally. He can be reached at 604-681-1099 or vedicstars@uswest.net

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The Mundaka Upanishad

[The sage must distinguish between knowledge and Wisdom. Knowledge is of things, acts and relations. But Wisdom is of Brahman (Supreme Reality) alone; and beyond all things, acts, and relations, He abides forever. To become one with Him is the only Wisdom. - Swami Prabhavananda].

From The Mundaka Upanishad

Translations and explanations by Swami Nikhilananda

Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York

Saunaka, the great householder, approached Angirasa in the proper manner and said: Revered Sir, What is that by the knowing of which all this becomes known? (I.i.3)


Angirasa answered to Saunaka:


To him he said: Two kinds of knowledge must be known – that is what the knowers of Brahman tell us. They are the Higher Knowledge and the lower knowledge.

-Mundaka Upanishad (I.i.4)

[Note: The Hindu philosophers observed that by knowing the nature of clay one knows the nature of everything made of clay, by knowing the nature of iron or gold one knows the nature of everything made of iron or gold. Is there not likewise, they asked, something that is the basic material of the universe, by the knowing of which everything in the universe will be known? Similarly, there should be one cause of the multiple objects of the world, by the knowing of which its effects could be known.

According to Non-dualistic Vedanta an effect has no real

existence apart from its cause. Therefore when a man knows the cause, he also should know that the effect has no reality independent of it. Brahman is the ultimate cause of the universe. When one knows Brahman, one also knows that the universe has no reality independent of Brahman.

"Higher Knowledge": The Knowledge of the Supreme Self, which is beyond duality.

"lower knowledge": The lower knowledge is the knowledge of the phenomenal world. In reality it is ignorance, for it does not lead to the Highest Good. The seer of the Upanishad asks the aspirant to acquire both the knowledge of the relative world and the Knowledge of Ultimate Reality. When by the pursuit of the former he fails to attain true freedom and immortality, he cultivates the latter. The lower knowledge includes the knowledge of righteous actions (dharma) and unrighteous action (adharma) and their results.]

The two kinds of knowledge:


Of these two, the lower knowledge is the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda, siksha (phonetics), kalpa (rituals), vyakaranam (grammar), nirukta (etymology), chhandas (metre) and jyotis (astronomy); and the Higher Knowledge is that by which the Imperishable Brahman is attained.

-Mundaka Upanishad (I.i.5)

[Note: Sri Shankaracharya explains that the Higher Knowledge refers to the actual realisation of the subject matter taught in the Sruti (Vedas). It primarily means the experience of the Imperishable Brahman taught in the Upanishads, and not the mere words contained in them.

"Siksha, kalpa…." : These six, known as the Vedangas, are ancillary to the Vedas. Without the knowledge of them a proper understanding of the Vedas is impossible.

"Is attained": In the case of the Higher Truth, attainment and knowledge are identical. This attainment is the same as the destruction of ignorance. The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman.]





-Swami Ranganathananda (Belur Math)

The first aim and function of all education should be to bring enlightenment to the students. Stuffing the student`s mind with facts and formulae is not education, because it does not bring enlightenment nor confer energy. TRAINING THE MIND, and NOT STUFFING THE BRAIN, is what we need.Thus alone will the student be able to acquire a luminous mind and increased energy of personality. This is what our ancient Upanisads proclaim as the objective of education.This is conveyed to us in one of the famous verses known as SHANTI PAATH or `Peace chant' occuring in the Katha and some other Upanisads.

Sir Julian Huxley, the British biologist, wrote to Swami Ranganathananda:

"Swami, you have given a splendid definition of what education ought to be, and sometimes is. But my visits to India showed me that the aim of a large number of Indian undergraduates was not to enjoy an education of this sort, but to pass examinations and obtain a degree, which is useful in getting jobs."



The `Peace chant ' reads:

Om, Sahanavavatu; sah nau bhunaktu;

saha viryam karavavahai;

Tejaswinavadhitamastu; ma vidvisavahai.

Om shantih, shantih, shantih.

`Om. May Brahman (the one divine Self in all) protect us both (student and teacher); may Brahman nourish us both; may we both acquire energy (by this education); may we not hate each other. Om. Peace, Peace, Peace.'

This peace invocation contains many beautiful sentiments which have inspired Indian education - secular and religious- for a few thousand years.




The invocation expresses the idea of education as the achievement of knowledge and excellence of character in the context of a harmonious relationship between teacher and student. The giving and receiving of knowledge, leading to the making of man, depends on the stimulus of such teacher-student relationship. The teacher gives and the student receives, not only ideas and information, but inspiration as well. In all the true education, teacher and student are not mere individuals, but personalities. Education, according to the Indian sages, is the lighting of one lamp from another lamp.

`MAY WE ACQUIRE ENERGY' says the verse. Every step in education helps man to reach out to newer and newer energy resources within him. All energy is within man, says Vedanta. But they lie in deeper and deeper layers. 'Atmana vindate viryam'- `By the knowledge of the Atman, man gets infinite energy,' says the Kena Upanisad. Education helps man to secure access to the greater and greater energy resources within him. An uneducated rustic youth, timid and helpless, changes, through a few years in school, into a youth with a measure of fearlessness and self-confidence. His education continued further, helps that youth to develop a sense of his own individual identity.

It is this RISING TO THE STATUS OF THE INDIVIDUALITY FROM THE STATE OF THE PRE-INDIVIDUAL MASS MAN that gives man the capacity to take independent decisions, the courage to stand by them and take the consequences, and the ability to deal with the world, and his position in it, as a mature human being. THIS PSYCHIC MATURITY IS ONE OF THE IMPORTANT CRITERIA OF EDUCATION; and it comes only from an education THAT TRAINS THE MIND AND NOT MERELY STUFFS THE BRAIN.

The mental immaturity of a large number of people world-wide is a big problem. It is here that the failure of many education systems is writ large. It does not impart that psychological maturity to many.Swami Vivekananda referred to all such as MOUSTACHED BABIES! They are physically very mature, but mentally they are like babies- dependent, weak, demanding, and bereft of the sense of personal dignity and responsibility. . They have not developed that human energy resource that can identify human problems and rise above them themselves and take their society also with them.

Behind these immature traits in all such people lies the lack of that luminosity or enlightenment which the Upanisads present as the second fruit of true education as mentioned in the peace chant.: TEJASVINAU ADHITAM ASTU- `may we be enlightened by this study, by this education'.

This is the significance of knowledge being compared to light. The logo or the emblem of our society depicts books plus JNANA-DIPA, the light of knowledge. The Upanisads describe the Atman, the Self, as JNANA-SVARUPA or CHIT-SVARUP, of the very nature of knowledge, of the very nature of consciousness. All awakening to knowledge, to consciousness, is, therefore, the manifestation of the Atman, in varying degrees.

This spiritual growth into personality is what twentieth-century biology calls the psycho-social evolution of man. It is man rising above organic evolution, to the spiritual and cultural levels.

This is what Swami Vivekananda calls MAN-MAKING EDUCATION.



From Chhandogya Upanishad

Translations and comments by Swami Nikhilananda

Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York


Narada approached Sanatkumara (as a pupil) and said: Venerable Sir, please teach me.

Sanatkumara said to him: Please tell me what you already know. Then I shall tell you what is beyond.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda as the fourth, the epics (Puranas) and ancient lore (Itihasa or history) as the fifth, the Veda of the Vedas (i.e. grammar), the rules of the sacrifices by which the Manes are gratified, the science of numbers, the science of portents, the science of time, logic, ethics, etymology, Brahma0vidya (i.e. the science of pronunciation, ceremonials, prosody, etc.), the science of elemental spirits, the science of weapons, astronomy, the science of serpents, and the fine arts. All this I know, venerable Sir.

But, venerable Sir, with all these I know words only; I do not know the Self. I have heard from men like you that he who knows the Self overcomes sorrow. I am one afflicted with sorrow. Do you, venerable Sir, help me to cross over to the other side of sorrow.

Sanatkumara said: Whatever you have read is only a name. Verily, a name is the Rig-Veda; (so also) are the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda as the fourth (Veda), the epics and the ancient lore as the fifth, the Veda of the Vedas (i.e. grammar), the rules of the sacrifices by which the manes are gratified, the science of numbers, the science of portents, the science of time, logic, ethics, etymology, Brahma-vidya, the science of elemental spirits, the science of weapons, astronomy, the science of serpents, and the fine arts.

Meditate on the name.

He who meditates on a name as Brahman can, of his own free will, reach as far as the name reaches- he who meditates on a name as Brahman.


Narada said: Venerable Sir, is there anything greater than a name?

Sanatkumara said: Of course there is something greater than a name.

Narada said: Please tell that to me, venerable Sir.


Speech as Brahman

Sanatkumar said: Speech is, verily, greater than a name. Speech makes one understand the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda as the fourth, the epics…the science of serpents, and the fine arts, as well as heaven, earth, air, space, water, fire, gods, men, cattle, birds, herbs, trees, animals, together with worms, flies and ants as also righteousness and unrighteousness, the true and the false, the good and the bad, the pleasant and the unpleasant.

Verily, if there were no speech, neither righteousness nor unrighteousness would be known, neither the true nor the false, neither the pleasant nor the unpleasant.

Speech, verily, makes us know all these. Meditate upon speech. He who meditates on speech as Brahman can, of his own free will, reach as far as speech reaches- he who meditates on speech as Brahman.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, is there anything greater than speech?


Mind as Brahman

Sanatkumara said: Of course there is something greater than speech. Mind is verily greater than speech. Just as the closed fist holds two amalakas, or two plums, or two aksha fruits, so does the mind hold speech and a name. For when a man thinks in his mind that he would read the sacred hymns, then he reads them. When he thinks in his mind that he would perform actions, then he performs them. When he thinks in his mind that he would have sons and cattle, then he desires them. When he thinks in his mind that he would have this world and the other, then he desires them. Mind, indeed, is the Self; mind is the world; mind is Brahman.

Meditate on the mind. He who meditates on mind as Brahman can, of his own free will, reach as far as mind reaches- he who meditates on Brahman.


Will as Brahman

Will (samkalpa) is verily, greater than mind. For when a man wills, then he thinks in his mind, then he utters speech, and then he employs speech in (the recital of) a name. The sacred hymns are included in a name, and all sacrifices are included in the sacred hymns.

Will, indeed, is the goal of all these (beginning with mind and ending in sacrifice); from will they arise and in will they all abide. Heaven and earth willed, air and space willed, water and fire willed. Through the will (of heaven and earth etc.) the rain wills; through the will of the rain, food wills; through the will of food, the pranas will; through the will of the pranas, the sacred hymns will; through the will of the sacred hymns, the sacrifices will; through the will of the sacrifices, the world wills; through the will of the world, everything wills. Such is will. Meditate on will.

He who meditates on will as Brahman can, of his own free will, reach as far as will reaches- he who meditates on will as Brahman.


Consideration as Brahman

Consideration (chitta) is, verily, greater than will. For when a man considers, then he wills, then he thinks in his mind, then he utters speech, then he engages speech in (the recitation of) a name. The sacred hymns are included in a name, and all sacrifices are included in the sacred hymns.

Consideration is, indeed, the goal of all these (beginning with mind and ending in sacrifice); from consideration they arise and in consideration they all abide. Therefore if a person is without consideration, even though he possesses much knowledge, people say of him that he is nothing, and whatever he knows (is useless); for if he were really learned, he would not be so inconsiderate. But if a person is considerate, though he knows but little, to him people are eager to listen. Consideration, indeed, is the goal of all these; consideration is the Self; consideration is the support. Meditate on consideration.

He who meditates on consideration as Brahman, He, being permanent, firm, and undistressed, obtains the worlds which are permanent, firm and undistressed; he can, of his own free will, reach as far as consideration reaches- he who meditates on consideration as Brahman.


Meditation as Brahman

Meditation (Dhyana) is, verily, greater than consideration. Earth meditates, as it were. The mid-region meditates as it were. Heaven meditates, as it were. The waters meditate, as it were. The mountains meditate, as it were. The gods meditate, as it were. Men meditate, as it were. Therefore he who, among men, attains greatness here on earth seems to have obtained a share of meditation. Thus while small people are quarrelsome, abusive, and slandering, great men appear to have obtained a share of meditation. Meditate on meditation.

He who meditates on meditation as Brahman, can, of his own free will, reach as far as meditation reaches- he who meditates on meditation as Brahman.


Understanding as Brahman

Understanding is, verily, greater than meditation. Understanding makes one understand the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda as the fourth, the epics……and the fine arts; heaven, earth, air, space, water, fire, gods, men, cattle, birds, herbs, trees; animals, together with worms, flies and ants; and also righteousness and unrighteousness, the true and the false, the good and the bad, the pleasant and the unpleasant, food and taste, this world and yonder (world). Meditate on understanding.

He who meditates on understanding as Brahman attains the worlds of understanding and knowledge and can, of his own free will, reach as far as understanding reaches- he who meditates on understanding as Brahman.


Strength as Brahman

[Note: Strength: the power of the mind produced from food.]

Strength is, verily, greater than understanding. One strong man causes a hundred men of understanding to tremble. When a man is strong he can rise. If he rises he can attend (on the teachers). If he attends on them he can become their intimate companion (as a pupil). If he is their intimate companion he can watch (their conduct), listen to their instructions, reflect on what he hears, become convinced of what he reflects on, act, and enjoy the result of action. By strength the earth stands firm, by strength the mid-region, heaven, mountains, the gods and men, cattle and birds, herbs and trees and animals, together with worms, flies and ants, by strength the world stands firm. Meditate upon strength.

He who meditates on strength as Brahman can, of his own free will, reach as far as strength reaches- he who meditates on strength as Brahman.


Food as Brahman

Food is, verily, greater than strength. Therefore, if a man abstains from food for ten days (or longer periods), even though he might live, yet he would not be able to see, hear, reflect, become convinced, act or enjoy the result. But when he obtains food, he is able to see, hear, reflect, become convinced, act, and enjoy the result.

He who meditates on food as Brahman obtains the world rich in food and drink; he can, of his own free will, reach as far as food reaches- he who meditates on food as Brahman.


Water as Brahman

Water is, verily, greater than food. Therefore if there is not sufficient rain, then living creatures are afflicted with the thought that there will be less food. But if there is sufficient rain, then living creatures rejoice in the thought that there will be much food. It is water that assumes the form of this earth, this mid-region, this heaven, these mountains, these gods and men, cattle and birds, herbs and trees, and animals, together with worms, flies and ants. Water indeed is all these forms. Meditate on water.

He who meditates on water as Brahman obtains all his desires and becomes satisfied; he can, of his own free will, reach as far as water reaches- he who meditates on water as Brahman.


Fire as Brahman

Fire is, verily, greater than water. For, having seized the air, it warms the space9Akasa). Then people say: ‘It is hot, it burns; it will rain,’ Thus does fire first manifest itself and then create water. Furthermore, thunderclaps roll with lightning upward and across the sky. Then people say: ‘there is lightning, there is thunder; it will rain.’ Here also does fire first manifest itself and then create water. Meditate on fire.

He who meditates on fire as Brahman becomes radiant himself and obtains radiant worlds, full of light and free from darkness; he can of his own free will, reach as far as fire reaches- he who meditates on fire as Brahman.


Akasa (space) as Brahman

The akasa (space) is, verily, greater than fire. For in the akasa exist both the sun and the moon, lightning, stars, and fire. It is through the akasa that a person calls another; it is through the akasa that that the others hears; it is through the akasa that the person hears back. In the akasa we rejoice (when we are together), and in the akasa we rejoice not (when we are separated). In the akasa everything is born, and toward the akasa all things grow. Meditate upon the akasa.

He who meditates on the akasa as Brahman obtains the worlds extending far and wide, luminous, free from pain, and spacious; he can, of his own free will, reach as far as the akasa reaches- he who meditates on the akasa as Brahman.


Memory as Brahman

Memory is,verily, greater than the akasa. Therefore, even when many people assemble, if they had no memory they would not hear anyone at all, they would not think, they would not understand. But surely, if they had memory, they would hear, think, and understand. Through memory, one knows one’s sons, through memory one’s cattle. Meditate on memory.

He who meditates on memory as Brahman can, of his own free will, reach as far as memory reaches- he who meditates on memory as Brahman.


Hope as Brahman

Hope is, verily, greater than memory. Kindled by hope, (a person endowed with ) memory reads the sacred hymns, performs sacrifices, desires sons and cattle, desires this world and the other. Meditate on hope.

He who meditates on hope as Brahman- all his desires are fulfilled through hope, his prayers are not in vain; he can, of his own free will, reach as far as hope reaches- he who meditates on hope as Brahman.


Prana (vital force) as Brahman

The prana is, verily greater than hope. As the spokes of a wheel are fastened to the nave, so are all these (beginning with the name and ending with hope) fastened to the prana. The prana moves by the prana. The prana gives prana to the prana. The prana is the father, the prana is the mother, the prana is the brother, the prana is the sister, the prana is the teacher, the prana is the brahmin (priest).

[Note: The prana is the self of all, and includes action, the agent, and the result of action. It manifests itself in three principal forms: the body of Hiranyagarbha, the external air, and the principal vital breath in a living creature. The self (atman) dwells in the body with the support of the prana. When the prana departs from the body, the Self, too, gives it up. The Self, of which the prana forms an upadhi (limiting adjunct), and the consciousness which is behind the body of Hiranyagarbha are both non-different from the Supreme Self. All entities- beginning with names and ending in hope- are fastened to the prana. Of these, the name is the effect and speech the cause; speech is the effect and mind the cause. The cause is greater than the effect. All these entities, bound by the chain of hope, are fastened to the all-pervading prana, which is greater than hope.]

If one says something unbecoming to a father, mother, brother, sister, teacher, or brahmin (priest), then people say: ‘Shame on you! Verily, you are a slayer of your father, a slayer of your mother, a slayer of your brother, a slayer of your sister, a slayer of your teacher, a slayer of a brahmin.’

But if, when the prana has departed from them, one shoves them together with a poker and burns every bit of them, no one would say: ‘You are slayer of your father, a slayer of your mother, a slayer of your brother, a slayer of your sister, a slayer of your teacher, a slayer of a brahmin’.

The prana, verily, is all these. He (i.e. the knower of the prana) who sees this, reflects on this, is convinced of this, becomes an ativadi (superior speaker). If people say to such a man: ‘You are an ativadi,’ he may say: ‘Yes, I am an ativadi’; he need not deny it.

[Note: The word ‘ativadi’ means, literally, superior speaker. It refers to a person who knows not only all the entities that should be known- that is to say, from names to hope- but also the prana, or conscious Self, which is beyond them.]


The knowledge of the Truth

But in reality he is an ativadi who has become an ativadi by the knowledge of the True.

Narada said: May I, venerable Sir, become an ativadi by the knowledge of the True?

Sanatkumara said: But one should desire to know the True.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to know theTrue.

[Note: ‘True’ means that which transcends all phenomena and is infinite.]


Truth depends upon Understanding

Sanatkumara said: When one understands the True, only then does one declare the True. One who does not understand the true does not declare It. Only one who understands It declares the True. One must desire to understand this understanding.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to understand.


Understanding depends upon reflection

Sanatkumara said: When one reflects, only then does one understand. One who does not reflect does not understand. Only one who reflects understands. One must desire to understand this reflection.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to understand reflection.

[Note: Reflection includes reasoning about the object on which one reflects.]


Reflection depends upon Faith

Sanatkumara said: When one has faith, only then does one reflect. One who does not have faith does not reflect. Only one who has faith reflects. One must desire to understand faith.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to understand faith.


Faith depends upon single-mindedness

Sanatkumara said: When one is single-minded (in one’s devotion to the teacher), only then does one have faith. One who does not have single-mindedness does not have faith. Only one who has single-mindedness has faith. One must desire to understand single-mindedness.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to understand single-mindedness.


Single-mindedness depends upon concentration

Sanatkumara said: when one performs one’s duties (i.e. practises concentration), only then does one have single-mindedness. One who does not perform his duties does not have single-mindedness. Only one who performs his duties has single-mindedness. One must desire to understand the performance of duties.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to understand the performance of duties.


Concentration depends upon bliss

Sanatkumara said: When one obtains bliss, only then does one perform one’s duties. One who does not obtain bliss does not perform his duties. Only one who obtains bliss performs his duties. One must desire to understand bliss.

Narada said; Venerable Sir, I desire to understand bliss.


The Infinite is bliss

Sanatkumara said: The Infinite is bliss. There is no bliss in anything finite. Only the Infinite is bliss. One must desire to understand the Infinite.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, I desire to understand the Infinite.


The Infinite and the finite

Sanatkumara said: Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else- that is the Infinite. Where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else- that is the Infinite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite (is) mortal.

Narada said: Venerable Sir, in what does the Infinite find Its support?

Sanatkumara said: In Its own greatness- or not even in greatness.

[Note: ‘Where one sees…’ There exists no seer or organ of seeing other than the non-dual Infinite, or Brahman. All empirical differentiations are absent in the experience of the Infinite. ‘Immortal’ means changeless. ‘In Its own …’ If one wishes to know the support of the Infinite, then it may be said to rest in its own greatness. But the fact is that the Infinite is without support; It is non-dual.]

[it is said that the Infinite rests on Its own greatness. How then can It be without a support?]

Sanatkumara said: Here on earth people describe cows and horses, elephants and gold, slaves and wives, fields and houses, as ‘greatness’. I do not mean this, for in such cases one thing finds its support in another. But what I say is:


Instruction about the Infinite

That Infinite, indeed, is below. It is above. It is behind. It is before. It is to the south. It is to the north The Infinite, indeed, is all this.

Next follows the instruction about the Infinite with reference to ‘I’:

I, indeed, am below. I am above. I am behind. I am before. I am to the south. I am to the north. I am. indeed, all this.

[Note: ‘That Infinite…’ Now is explained why the Infinite does not rest upon anything. It is because there is nothing apart from the Infinite on which It could rest. The Infinite Itself is everything. Therefore It does not rest upon anything. ‘

‘Next follows..’ The purpose of the text is to show the oneness of the Infinite and the Jiva (individual soul).

[To the ignorant the word ‘I’ signifies the body. But here it signifies the Atman, or Self.]

Next follows the instruction about the Infinite with reference to the Self: The Self, indeed, is below. It is above. It is behind. It is before. It is to the south. It is to the north. The Self, indeed, is all this.

Verily, he who sees this, reflects on this, and understands this delights in the Self, sports with the self, rejoices in the self, revels in the Self. (Even while living in the body) he becomes a self-ruler. He wields unlimited freedom in all the worlds.

But those who think differently from this have others for their rulers; they live in perishable worlds. They have no freedom in all the worlds.


[Note: ‘He who sees this:’ That is to say, who knows the Self to be unborn, all-pervading, and free. ‘Delights in the Self’: All his love is centred in the Self alone. ‘Rejoices in the Self’: The pleasure which ordinary people derive from the company of others is enjoyed by the wise from the Knowledge of the Self. ‘Revels in the Self’: He does not derive any joy from the objects of the senses. ‘He… self-ruler’: His freedom is unlimited. ‘Perishable worlds’: Worlds of diversity.]



For Him who sees this, reflects on this, and understands this, the prana springs from the Self, hope springs from the Self, memory springs from the self, the akasa (space) springs from the Self, fire springs from the Self, water springs from the Self, appearance and disappearance spring from the Self, food springs from the Self, strength springs from the Self, understanding springs from the Self, meditation springs from the Self, consideration springs from the Self, will springs from the Self, mind springs from the Self, speech springs from the Self, the name springs from the Self, the sacred hymns spring from the Self, the sacrifices spring from the Self- ay, all this springs from the Self.

[Note; ‘All this’: All things perceived to exist.]

[Prior to obtaining the Knowledge of the true Self, one believes that all entities, from the name to the prana, spring from and disappear into something other than the Self. But when one has realised the Self, one knows that all things appear from and disappear into the Self alone.]

On this there is the following verse:

"The knower of Truth does not see death or disease or sorrow. The knower of Truth sees everything and obtains everything everywhere.

He (the knower) is one (before the creation), becomes three, becomes five, becomes seven, becomes nine; then again he is called eleven, one hundred and ten, and one thousand and twenty.

[Now is described the discipline for inner purification by which Self-Knowledge is attained]:

When food is pure, the mind becomes pure. When the mind is pure the memory becomes firm. When the memory is firm all ties are loosened.

The venerable Sanatkumara showed Narada, after his blemishes had been wiped out, the other side of darkness. They call Sanatkumara Skanda, yea, Skanda they call him.

[Note: ‘The knower of Truth’: That is to say, he who sees all things in the Self. ’Becomes three’: That is to say, fire, water and earth. ‘Becomes seven etc’: The various numbers are intended to show the endless variety of forms the Self assumes after the creation. Again, at the time of dissolution, the self returns to Its pristine unity. ‘Food’: The Sanskrit word dhara in the text means anything that is taken in (ahriyate) by the senses, that is to say, sounds, sights, smells, etc. ‘Mind…pure’: Free from aversion, attachment, or delusion. ‘Memory’: That is to say, the memory that He is the Infinite Self. ‘All ties etc’: Ties created by ignorance, which have accumulated through numerous births and which reside in the heart. ‘Darkness’; Ignorance. ‘Venerable Sanatkumara’: He who knows the origin, the end, the birth and death (of all beings), and also ignorance and Knowledge- such a one is called venerable (bhagavan). (As explained by Sri Sankaracharya). ‘Skanda’: The dictionary meaning of this

word is "wise man"]

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Gist of Cosmological Ideas in Vedas


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Srinivas Madabhushi


Cosmology is an important aspect of ancient Indian thinking and wisdom. Vedas, the towering monuments of human race contain some important ideas on cosmology. Before attempting to examine the cosmological insights revealed in the Vedas, let us examine some of the modern scientific theories on the origin of the universe.


The modern views of cosmogony are summarised by Richard J. Ordway (1971) in his book Earth Science. Kuiper's 'protoplanet hypothesis' in a way is a modification of the 'nebular hypothesis' of Kant and Laplace. The latter presupposes a great cloud of slowly rotating hot gaseous material as the starting point of the universe. As this cloud cooled, it shrank and rotated more rapidly. The cloud got gradually compressed at polar regions into a lens-shaped disc which gradually left off masses of gases which cooled down first to a liquid state and then to solid state, giving rise to planets. If this hypothesis were to be valid, the gases should disperse instead of collecting into planets; the sun should be rapidly spinning and all satellites should be revolving in the west-to-east direction. This and a number of other theories like the 'binary star hypothesis' unsuccessfully attempted to explain cosmogony. According to Kuiper's 'protoplanet hypothesis', the solar system originated from a hot gaseous cloud or nebula, perhaps one-tenth as massive as the sun, that surrounds a large dark central mass that would subsequently form into a star. As the nebula contracted, and flattened, it becomes unstable, and divided into a number of separate clouds of 'protoplanets'. Solid particles accumulated into a central core in each protoplanet and became surrounded by a very large gaseous envelope. The composition of the nebula was chiefly hydrogen, with some helium, and 1 to 2 per cent of heavier elements. The protoplanets were of different sizes, but all were far larger and more massive than the present planets. The satellites were also formed in a similar manner, but they were relatively closer. The rotation of the protosatellites was slowed down by tidal friction until they rotated and revolved at the same rate and in the same direction. Thus they remained spherical and did not subdivide further. The original nebula rotated in a counter-clockwise direction. The tidal attraction of the sun on the protoplanets stretched them into elongated shapes and kept their long axes always pointed towards the sun. This made the direction of rotation the same as the direction of revolution, with periods of rotation and revolution once equal.


By this time the central mass had contracted enough to become a star. As the sun's temperature rose, its radiations and ejected particles ionized the gases around it. These gases interacted with the sun's rotation and transferred most of its angular momentum to the particles in the nebula; they moved faster as a result of the transfer. This solar wind of raditions and ejected particles gradually swept off into space the remaining portion of the nebula and most of the lighter gases of the protoplanets. A comet's tail is directed away from the sun for the same reason. Only a small fraction of the original nebula remains as the masses of the present planets.


Thus the most modern theory on cosmology assumes the pre-existence of a rotating, hot gaseous nebula, but is silent on how this came into being, and which motivated such rotation. With this background let us examine the cosmological ideas and cosmogony in Vedas.


Îg Veda


The Hymn of Creation (X.129) explains the origin of the world as the evolution of existent from non-existent. Water came into being first; from it was evolved intelligence by heat.


n¡sad¡s¢nno sad¡s¢ttad¡n¢Æ A


There was not the non-existent nor the existent then.



tama ¡s¢ttamas¡ g£lhamagre 'praketaÆ salilaÆ sarvam¡ idam A


Darkness was in the beginning hidden by darkness. This all was water.


The Aitareya UpaniÀad states:


¡tm¡ v¡ idameka ev¡gra ¡s¢t A n¡nyat ki´cana miÀat A


(I. 1.1)


In the beginning this was but the absolute self alone. There was nothing else whatsoever.


sa im¡Æ¤allok¡nas¤jata A ambhomar¢cirmaram¡po . . . .


(I. 1.2)


He created these worlds, viz., ambhas; mar¢ci; mara and ¡paÅ.






áatapatha Br¡hma¸a


praj¡patirv¡ idamagra ¡s¢t A . . . tasm¡tpuruÀ¡ttaptad¡po j¡yante A. . . . ap¡Æ tapt¡n¡Æ pheno j¡yante A (V1.1.3)


In the beginning there was only the Creator. From him the 'water' was formed; from the water heated, the 'foam' was formed.


The B¤had¡ra¸yakopaniÀad says


naiveha kiµcan¡gra ¡s¢t A m¤tyunaivedam¡v¤tam¡s¢t A


tanmano'kuruta so'rcannacarat A tasy¡rcata ¡po'j¡yanta A


(I. 2.1)


In the beginning there was nothing. The universe was enveloped by death alone. He produced mind. He moved about worshipping himself. As he was worshipping himself, water was produced.


vkiks ok vdZ% rn~;nika 'kj vklhÙkegU;rA lk i`fFkO;Hkor~A


¡po v¡ arkaÅ tadyadap¡Æ ¿ara ¡s¢ttamahanyata A s¡ p¤thivyabhavatA (I.2.2)


Water verily is arka. What was there as froth of water hardened and it became earth (the cosmic egg, embryonic state of the Universe).


K¤À¸a Yajurveda


The Taittir¢yopaniÀad says:


asadv¡ idamagra ¡s¢t A tato vai sadaj¡yata A


tad¡tm¡naÆ svayamakuruta A tasm¡ttatsuk¤tamucyata iti AA




In the beginning all this was unmanifested. From that emerged the manifested. The Brahman created Itself by Itself. Therefore it is called the self-creator.


The Ka¶hopaniÀad says:


na tatra s£ryo bh¡ti na candrat¡rakaÆ nem¡ vidyuto bh¡nti kuto'yamagniÅ A


tamevabh¡ntamanubh¡ti sarvaÆ tasyabh¡s¡ sarvamidaÆ vibh¡ti AA


(II. ii.15)


There the sun does not shine, neither do the moon and the stars; nor do these flashes of lightning shine. How can fire? He shining all these shine; through his lustre all these are variously illuminated.


Atharva Veda


y¡r¸ave'dhiÆ salilamagra ¡s¢t A


(K¡¸·a; XII. 8)


Earth was formerly water upon the ocean of space.


rohito dy¡v¡ jaj¡na A . . . . aja ekap¡do'hahaddy¡v¡ p¤thiv¢


balena . . . .


(XIII. 6)


Rohita produced heaven and earth. The one footed goat, the sun made firm the heavens and earth with his strength.


The Mu¸·aka UpaniÀad (II.ii.10) reiterates the words of Ka¶hopaniÀad (II.ii.15)


etasm¡jj¡yate pr¡¸o manaÅ sarvendriy¡¸i ca A


khaÆ v¡yurjyotir¡paÅ p¤thiv¢ vi¿vasya dh¡ri¸¢ AA (II.1.3)


From him originate - vital force, mind, all senses, space, air, fire, water and earth that support everything.


tasm¡dagniÅ samidhayo yasya s£ryaÅ A


( II.1.5).


From him emerges the fire (heaven) of which the sun is the fuel.


The M¡¸·£kya K¡rik¡s say:


svapnam¡ye yath¡ d¤Àte gandharvanagaraÆ yath¡ A


tath¡ vi¿vamidaÆ d¤ÀtaÆ ved¡nteÀu vicakÀanaiÅ AA


(II. 3.1)


Just as dream and magic are seen to be unreal, or as is a city in the sky, the whole universe is known to be unreal.


The Pra¿na UpaniÀad (III.8) equates the Sun with pr¡¸a, Earth with ap¡na, Space with sam¡na, Air with vy¡na and Luminosity with ud¡na.


pr¡¸¡cchraddh¡Æ khaÆ v¡yurjyotir¡paÅp¤thiv¢ndriyaÆ manaÅ A




From pr¡¸a, Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth were created.


In addition to these traditional four Vedas, the Paµcama Veda Mah¡bh¡rata also has important observations on cosmogony:


¡k¡¿¡dabhavadv¡ri salil¡dagnim¡rutau A


agnim¡rutasaÆyog¡tatassambhavanmah¢ AA


(á¡ntiparvan, 180.16)


Water was formed from the space; from water, fire and wind, and from their reaction the earth was formed.


agnipavana saÆyukta kh¡t samukÀipate jalam A


so'gnim¡ruta saÆyog¡t ghanatvamupapadyate AA


tasy¡k¡¿¡nnip¡taÅ sneh¡ttiÀ¶hati yo'paraÅ A


sa saÆghatv¡m¡p¡tto bh£mitvamanugacchati AA


(á¡ntiparvan, 180.15)


The water produced in the sky by fire and wind attains solid state owing to the reaction of fire and wind. The oily quality of the water produced from the sky takes the form of the earth.


The S¡Ækhya system of Dar¿ana considers the origin of the paµcamah¡bh£tas in the atomic form by means of combinations of the tanm¡tr¡s:


k¤À¸ap¡d¡c¡rya (tattvatrayavivara¸am)atr¡yaÆ kramaÅ - bh£tadeÅ ¿abdatanm¡traÆ j¡yate, ¿abdatanm¡traÆ bh£t¡dir¡v¤¸oti, tata ¡k¡¿o j¡yate, tato'sm¡t ¿abdatanm¡tr¡t spar¿a tanm¡traÆ j¡yate, spar¿atanm¡traÆ ¿abdatanm¡tram¡v¤¸oti, evaÆ ¿abdatanm¡trav¤t¡d ¡k¡¿asah¡yak¡t spar¿atanm¡tr¡d v¡yurj¡yate, tato'sm¡t spar¿atan-m¡tr¡t r£patanm¡traÆ j¡yate, r£patanm¡traÆ spar¿atanm¡tra-m¡v¤¸oti, evaÆ spar¿atanm¡tr¡v¤t¡d v¡yusah¡yak¡t r£patanm¡tr¡d tejo j¡yate A evam¡di A


The ¿abdatanm¡tra produced the Space and also the spar¿atanm¡tra and the combination of the Space with the spar¿atanm¡tra produces the Atmosphere (V¡yu). The r£patanm¡tra is produced from the spar¿a tanm¡tra and envelopes the spar¿atanm¡tra. From the enveloped spar¿atanm¡tra, the r£patanm¡tra with the help of the V¡yu produces the fire etc.


The cosmological ideas in Vedas can thus be summarised as:



1. In the beginning there was neither the non-existent nor the existent.


2. The Supreme cosmogonic force by the sheer Will to produce the universe first in the form of darkness enveloped in darkness.


3. The cosmological waters ambhas got manifested next in the form of undifferentiated fluid in darkness where there was no light whatsoever.


4. From the cosmic waters, combined with the motivation to move and probably as a consequencce of the friction, fire called arka got generated.


5. Due to the action of the fire and water, wind was produced and the combination of wind, fire and water produced a froth which got solidified subsequently to form the earth.


6. The Supreme Brahman who is like an uplifted thunderbolt, makes the entire universe to emerge and to move. Thus the cosmic fluid originates due to the motion induced by the Will of the Supreme Soul moves the undifferentiated atoms into an undifferentiated cloud of dark fluid which because of the friction of motion attains heat and gives rise to the cosmic earth (the cosmic egg or the embryonic state of the universe), which is the protostar of the modern concept of cosmogony. The further motion of the cosmic fluid along with the cosmic earth produced the ekapada aja, the sun. The sun is the Pr¡¸a and from this Pr¡¸a the Paµcabh£tas originated.


The specific contributions by Vedas to the cosmogony, in superiority to the most modern cosmological concepts, thus include: (a) The concept of non-existent and non-non-existent state simultaneously; (b) The Supreme Will which motivated the non-differentiated atoms to combine to get differentiated into various forms like the nebula - ambhas; the frictional fire - arka; the protostar - cosmic earth (brahm¡¸·a) and finally the sun which is the pr¡¸a which differentiated the paµcamah¡bh£tas.


In spite of the unprecedented advancements in the science and technology, we are still as enlightened as the Vedic seers and their philosophical idea -


iyaÆ vis¤Àtiryata ¡babh£va yadi v¡ dadhe yadi v¡ na A


yo'sy¡dhyakÀaÅ parame vyoman so a´ga veda yadi v¡ na veda AA


(]ÎV, X.129)


Where from has this cosmogony come; who is its chief architect? whether he knows or not - is still as valid and as beautiful as when it was composed.





Aitareya UpaniÀad : Gambhirananda, Eight UpaniÀads, Vol. II pp. 1-76, Ramakrishna Mission Publication.


Atharva Veda: Sattavalekarah, Sripad Damodara, 520 p.


B¤had¡ranyakopaniÀad : Ramakrishna Mission, Madras.


Ka¶hopaniÀad: Gambhirananda, Eight UpaniÀads, Vol. I, pp. 91-220, Ramakrishna Mission Publication.


M¡¸·£kyopaniÀad : Gambhirananda, Eight UpaniÀads, Vol. II, pp. 173-404, Ramakrishna Mission Publication.


Mu¸·akopaniÀad : Gambhirananda, Eight UpaniÀads, Vol. II, pp. 77-172, Ramakrishna Mission Publication.


Ordway, Richard, J., 1971, Earth Science, 705p. Affiliated East-West Publication.


Pra¿nopaniÀad : Gambhirananda, Eight UpaniÀads, Vol. II, pp. 405-506, Ramakrishna Mission Publication.\


Îg Veda: Arthur A. MacDonnel, 1971, A Vedic Reader, Oxford Publication.


áatapatha Br¡hma¸a : Ed., by A. Chinnaswami Sastri, 1984, Chowkambha Publication.


S¡´khya: Krishnapadacharya, quoted in Gaur, D. S., and Gupta, L.P., 1970, Paµcamah¡bh£ta with special reference to Ëyurveda, I.J.H.S., Vol. 5, no.1, pp. 51-67.


á¡ntiparvan: Mah¡bh¡rata, Ed. by S. Suktankar, Vishnu.


Taittir¢yopaniÀad : Gambhirananda, Eight UpaniÀads, Vol. I, pp. 221-398, Ramakrishna Mission Publication.


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The Vedas: Soil of Buddhism

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By Harischandra Kaviratna

In ancient cultures, such as that of the Indo-Aryans or the Druids, literacy and education were not considered of general major importance, because they were not regarded as means to acquire material prosperity but merely as instruments to realize spiritual illumination and religious insight. And indeed, throughout the centuries mystics of both East and West have attained enlightenment and union with supreme Reality not through scholastic study, not through dialectic discourses, but through self-negation and intuitive, direct comprehension. Rarely have those of great intellectual stature penetrated to the deepest esoteric truths embedded in the symbology of scriptural texts. With this in mind, we can better understand the conviction of the Brahmins that the sacred knowledge would be perverted when put into writing; the Vedas had to be heard. Yet, at the same time, in favoring the age-old method of orally instructing their pupils, they caused the complete neglect of the written word, which did not re-emerge before the sixth century BC at the dawn of the new intellectual epoch in India.


Throughout the Buddhist canon we come across passages which presuppose the existence of that very ancient religious tradition known as the Vedas, in which even the Great Mendicant (Buddha) had acquired perfect mastery under the renowned sage Visvamitra. Yet the source of this literature, if it can be called such in the modern sense of the word, is shrouded in mystery. Professor Maurice Winternitz writes in A History of Indian Literature:


Vedic literature led us well-nigh into "prehistoric" times; and for the beginning of epic poetry, too, we had to dispense with all certain dates. It is only with the Buddhist literature that we gradually emerge unto the broad daylight of history, and we have seen that the darkness of the history of the Vedic and epic literature is somewhat illuminated by this light.

Buddhism, in the eyes of many European scholars the most fragrant flower of Indian thought, sprang from the tired soil of the Vedic religion. Although its system of philosophy differs vastly in some of its cardinal tenets from Brahmanism, any critical student is fully aware that Buddhism has absorbed many of the teachings of the earliest Upanishads. For a fuller understanding of Buddha's spiritual teachings, a study of the atmosphere in which they developed, at the convergence as it were of Vedic and non-Vedic streams, is almost indispensable.


The sacred tradition of the Vedas was already in the possession of the Aryans when they came from Europe many, many millennia ago. Its purely mystic religio-philosophy was not only closely related to that of their relatives in Iran (where it took the form of the Avesta), but is also similar to the Eleusinian and Orphic creeds of the Western Aryans who migrated to and established their cultural empires in Greece, Central Europe and the Emerald Isle. However, the seeds of degradation had been planted in the Aryan religion before that great family divided for reasons still unknown.


The Vedas are the supreme authority for all orthodox schools. Six systems (Samkhya, Yoga, Vedanta, Mimamsa, Nyaya, and Vaiseshika) belong to the Astika Darsana, the term Darsana literally meaning "vision," vision of the Absolute Truth. On the other hand, Charvaka (materialism), Jainism and Buddhism, for instance are termed Nastika, i.e. not based on the Vedas. Each of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Saman and Atharvan) is again divided into four sections, namely, Samhita (collection of hymns), Brahmanas (treatises on sacrifices and rituals), Aranyakas ("forest books" for hermits about sacrifices and contemplation), and the Upanishads, dealing with deeper metaphysics and theosophical speculations. Classical writers from the fifth millennium BC to the first century AD such as Manu, mention only the first three Vedas, and it seems fairly certain that the Atharvan originally was independent from the threefold knowledge or trayi.


Orthodox Hindus hold that the Vedas existed even before the creation of the world, co-eternal with Brahman. In The Cultural Heritage of India Swami Shri Madhavananda aptly observes:


. . . by the word "Veda" which literally means knowledge, no books are primarily meant, but the sum total of the knowledge of God, which concerning itself as it does, with abstract principles, is necessarily eternal. Just as gravitation existed before Newton, and would have remained just the same even if he had not discovered it, so these principles existed before man, and will remain for ever. Their connection with man is that they were revealed to certain exceptionally gifted persons called rishis or sages, who visualized them and handed them down through a succession of disciples.

It seems safe to assert that the hymns were collected and codified by these rishis somewhere near the present Punjab more than six thousand years ago, and gathered into the Rig-Veda Samhita, the world's earliest masterpiece. It is a voluminous work, its bulk comparable to the Iliad and Odyssey combined. Its 1017 original hymns, systematically arranged in ten mandalas and containing over ten thousand stanzas in all, are addressed to terrestrial and celestial devas or divinities, whose characteristics were somewhat modified when the Aryans, after their successful invasion of India, arrived in their new surroundings in Aryavarta (country of the Aryans).


This fertile plain, extending from the glittering snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the fragrant Vindhya ranges, and from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal, inspired their poets to sing of its picturesque countryside and scenic beauty. For instance, one seer-poet, in simple and charming style, depicts the Sindhu (Indus) as outstanding among all the rivers that run through Aryavarta to the sea:


The sound rises up to heaven above the earth; she stirs up with splendor her endless power. As from a cloud, the showers thunder forth, when the Sindhu comes, roaring like a bull. . . .

Sparkling, bright with mighty splendor she carries the waters across the plains -- the unconquered Sindhu, the quickest of the quick, like a beautiful mare -- a sight to see.

Rich in horse, in chariots, in garments, in gold, in booty, in wool, and in straw, the Sindhu, handsome and young, clothes herself in sweet flowers.

The Aryans, having learned from the native inhabitants the cultivation of rice paddy and other grains, soon became the wealthiest people of the then-known world, with time for recreation, for arts, for philosophy and reflection. Consequently, most of the hymns of the Rig-Veda are not just odes to the beauty of nature, but are musings about a transcendental reality beyond the visible natural phenomena. In the ninth mandala of the Rig-Veda we come across the following hymn:


O Pavamana, place me in that deathless undecaying world, wherein the light of heaven is set and everlasting luster shines;

Make me immortal in that realm where dwells the King Vivasvan's son, where is the secret shine of heaven, where are those waters young and fresh.

Make me immortal in that realm where they move even as they list, in the third sphere of inmost heaven where lucid worlds are full of light;

Make me immortal in that realm of eager wish and strong desire, the region of radiant moon, where food and full delight are found;

Make me immortal in that realm where happiness and transports, where joys and felicities combine and longing wishes are fulfilled.

It is said that the rishis, while in a spiritual trance, came in direct contact with the devas of whom they sang and whom they considered as expressions of the cosmic intelligence, manifestations of the immanent divine principle. Thus they conceived of nature as a living organism controlled by conscious, intelligent entities.


To denote these deities, the poets coined a special appellative term, deva, for which there is no adequate equivalent in modern European languages. It literally means the "shining one" or the "donor." The rain, therefore, is a deva, because it gives nourishment to all life on earth. Sun, moon and stars are devas, because they shed cosmic light throughout the solar system and universe. The Ganges, Indus and Sarasvati are deified rivers, because they irrigate the arable lands of Aryavarta. In addition, many gods of the pluralistic pantheon had been great heroes, warriors and philanthropists, who later were regarded as devas for their valor, patriotism and benevolence. Indra, the Maruts, Vayu and Matarisvan are some of these deified beings, sublimated into prominent rank among the gods.


The religion of the Vedas is neither naturalism nor anthropomorphism, neither polytheism nor monotheism, but is a unique mysticism, a synthesis of all the prevalent religious cults known to the ancient Aryans. After they entered the fertile Punjab valley and established their permanent home in Northern India, one of their first concerns was to collect and codify their holy tradition, the Vedas, which were at that period scattered over different parts of Aryavarta, preserved by the various families. The disdain of the Aryans for alien cultures and religious cults directly contributed to the purity in which the Vedas were held, no outside influence marring their pristine beauty, and hardly any foreign divinities finding a place in their early pantheon.


The Vedic pantheon is a complicated one, deserving separate treatment. For the time being the following general picture must suffice. The rishis divided the universe into three spheres or lokas, namely, Dyurloka or the celestial world, over which Savitri, the solar deity, presided; Antarikshaloka or the intermediate sphere, supervised by Indra; and Bhurloka or the terrestrial world, under the reign of Agni (Fire). However, when esotericism was ousted by exotericism, symbolism by ritualism, idealism by sacerdotalism, this early spiritual concept soon dwindled into a polytheistic sacrificial creed. The three spheres of the vertical universe of the original Vedic sages was believed to be the abode of thirty-three gods: the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas, Dyaus (Zeus) and Prithivi (earth). Later 3,339 gods and goddesses were assigned to these spheres, and finally their number was increased by some authorities to 330,000,000! Commentators like Sayana (14th century) and others who deeply reflected on this subject, believed that these gods were the personifications of the innumerable virtues and qualities of the eternal divine principle.


When at last the cultural life of the Aryans became completely dominated by the priesthood, the emergence of a ritualized form of religion was inevitable. The Brahmin priests made every effort to persuade the masses that the only way to salvation was through sacrifice. So the triumphant and haughty Aryans, ever coveting more cattle, gold and sons, began to employ professional hymnologists, specialists in phonetics and other branches of literary arts, to address long chants to the gods and goddesses that they might shower upon them prosperity and longevity. Animal sacrifice, introduced during the Epic period, received more and more emphasis. In due course it would stir feelings of opposition which ultimately would result in a definite schism in the ceremonial Vedic religion, and in the birth of the tradition of nonviolence, but for centuries it held its central place in the Brahminical worship. A second, new Veda, called Yajurveda, delineating the execution of sacrifices and various other rituals, was soon formulated; in it we find, partly in prose and partly in verse, hymns addressed to the sacred utensils and other objects used. A third Veda, the Samaveda, comprising the specific lyrical incantations which were to be uttered at particular occasions, was also added, with most of its hymns taken from the early Rig-Veda.


The extremely complicated ceremonial system compelled the priests to acquire perfect mastery of their tradition, for the exclusiveness of their class, in which lay the safeguard of their power, demanded rigid rules of behavior and stringent methods of learning. Only warriors, Brahmins and merchants were entitled to study, or even hear, the Vedas, and thus were considered to be "twice-born," while all other classes were called sudras. The establishment of the hereditary right to perform sacrifices gradually paved the way for the caste-system. Ruling princes and great landlords paid for the education of Brahmin youths who dedicated themselves to the priesthood. These young men had to undergo arduous training, primarily intended to bring about inner and outer purification. Truthfulness, forbearance, purity and uprightness were ideally some of the cardinal moral virtues which an orthodox Brahmin had to cultivate. Hypocrisy and dishonesty were regarded as unpardonable sins. Their deep conviction that they represented the divinities in this world and thus had to endeavor to live a life of godliness, kept the spiritual culture of the officiating Brahmins strong through many centuries.


(From Sunrise magazine, October 1972. 1972 by Theosophical University Press)

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Mathematics and the Spiritual Dimension


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I remember the time my father pulled me aside and said, "Son, you can explain everything with math." He was a rationalist, and for him God existed only in the sentiments of the uneducated. At the time I believed him, and I think his advice had a lot to do with my decision to pursue a degree in physics. Somewhere along the way, however, in 1969, something happened (something many people are still trying to figure out) which drew me away from the spirit of that fatherly advice and subsequently my once promising career.


Unfortunately, I think I went too far to the other side. I threw reason to the wind, so to speak, and unceremoniously became a self-ordained "spiritual person." Science, the foundation of which is mathematics, as I saw it, had nothing to offer. It was only years later, when the cloud of my sentimentalism was dissipated by the sun of my soul's integrity, that I was able to separate myself from yet another delusion-the first being the advice of my father, and the second being the idea that I could wish myself into a more profound understanding of the nature of reality.


Math cannot take the mystery out of life without doing away with life itself, for it is life's mystery, its unpredictability-the fact that it is dynamic, not static-that makes it alive and worth living. We may theoretically explain away God, but in so doing we only choose to delude ourselves; I = everything is just bad arithmetic.


However, before we can connect with our heart of hearts, our real spiritual essence, we cannot cast reason aside. With the help of the discriminating faculty we can know at least what transcendence is not. Withdrawing our heart from that is a good beginning for a spiritual life.


Mathematics has only recently risen to attempt to usurp the throne of Godhead. Ironically, it originally came into use in human society within the context of spiritual pursuit. Spiritually advanced cultures were not ignorant of the principles of mathematics, but they saw no necessity to explore those principles beyond that which was helpful in the advancement of God realization. Intoxicated by the gross power inherent in mathematical principles, later civilizations, succumbing to the all-inviting arms of illusion, employed these principles and further explored them in an attempt to conquer nature. The folly of this, as demonstrated in modern society today, points to the fact that "wisdom" is more than the exercise of intelligence. Modern man's worship of intelligence blinds him from the obvious: the superiority of love over reason.


A common belief among ancient cultures was that the laws of numbers have not only a practical meaning, but also a mystical or religious one. This belief was prevalent amongst the Pythagoreans. Prior to 500 B.C.E., Pythagoras, the great Greek pioneer in the teaching of mathematics, formed an exclusive club of young men to whom he imparted his superior mathematical knowledge. Each member was required to take an oath never to reveal this knowledge to an outsider. Pythagoras acquired many faithful disciples to whom he preached about the immortality of the soul and insisted on a life of renunciation. At the heart of the Pythagorean world view was a unity of religious principles and mathematical propositions.


In the third century B.C.E. another great Greek mathematician, Archimedes, contributed considerably to the field of mathematics. A quote attributed to Archimedes reads, "There are things which seem incredible to most men who have not studied mathematics." Yet according to Plutarch, Archimedes considered "mechanical work and every art concerned with the necessities of life an ignoble and inferior form of labor, and therefore exerted his best efforts only in seeking knowledge of those things in which the good and the beautiful were not mixed with the necessary." As did Plato, Archimedes scorned practical mathematics, although he became very expert at it.


The Greeks, however, encountered a major problem. The Greek alphabet, which had proved so useful in so many ways, proved to be a great hindrance in the art of calculating. Although Greek astronomers and astrologers used a sexagesimal place notation and a zero, the advantages of this usage were not fully appreciated and did not spread beyond their calculations. The Egyptians had no difficulty in representing large numbers, but the absence of any place value for their symbols so complicated their system that, for example, 23 symbols were needed to represent the number 986. Even the Romans, who succeeded the Greeks as masters of the Mediterranean world, and who are known as a nation of conquerors, could not conquer the art of calculating. This was a chore left to an abacus worked by a slave. No real progress in the art of calculating nor in science was made until help came from the East.


In the valley of the Indus River of India, the world's oldest civilization had developed its own system of mathematics. The Vedic Shulba Sutras (fifth to eighth century B.C.E.), meaning "codes of the rope," show that the earliest geometrical and mathematical investigations among the Indians arose from certain requirements of their religious rituals. When the poetic vision of the Vedic seers was externalized in symbols, rituals requiring altars and precise measurement became manifest, providing a means to the attainment of the unmanifest world of consciousness. "Shulba Sutras" is the name given to those portions or supplements of the Kalpasutras, which deal with the measurement and construction of the different altars or arenas for religious rites. The word shulba refers to the ropes used to make these measurements.


Although Vedic mathematicians are known primarily for their computational genius in arithmetic and algebra, the basis and inspiration for the whole of Indian mathematics is geometry. Evidence of geometrical drawing instruments from as early as 2500 B.C.E. has been found in the Indus Valley.1 The beginnings of algebra can be traced to the constructional geometry of the Vedic priests, which are preserved in the Shulba Sutras. Exact measurements, orientations, and different geometrical shapes for the altars and arenas used for the religious functions (yajnas), which occupy an important part of the Vedic religious culture, are described in the Shulba Sutras. Many of these calculations employ the geometrical formula known as the Pythagorean theorem. This theorem (c. 540 B.C.E.), equating the square of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle with the sum of the squares of the other two sides, was utilized in the earliest Shulba Sutra (the Baudhayana) prior to the eighth century B.C.E. Thus, widespread use of this famous mathematical theorem in India several centuries before its being popularized by Pythagoras has been documented. The exact wording of the theorem as presented in the Sulba Sutras is: "The diagonal chord of the rectangle makes both the squares that the horizontal and vertical sides make separately."2 The proof of this fundamentally important theorem is well known from Euclid's time until the present for its excessively tedious and cumbersome nature; yet the Vedas present five different extremely simple proofs for this theorem. One historian, Needham, has stated, "Future research on the history of science and technology in Asia will in fact reveal that the achievements of these peoples contribute far more in all pre-Renaissance periods to the development of world science than has yet been realized."3


The Shulba Sutras have preserved only that part of Vedic mathematics which was used for constructing the altars and for computing the calendar to regulate the performance of religious rituals. After the Shulba Sutra period, the main developments in Vedic mathematics arose from needs in the field of astronomy. The Jyotisha, science of the luminaries, utilizes all branches of mathematics.


The need to determine the right time for their religious rituals gave the first impetus for astronomical observations. With this desire in mind, the priests would spend night after night watching the advance of the moon through the circle of the nakshatras (lunar mansions), and day after day the alternate progress of the sun towards the north and the south. However, the priests were interested in mathematical rules only as far as they were of practical use. These truths were therefore expressed in the simplest and most practical manner. Elaborate proofs were not presented, nor were they desired.


A close investigation of the Vedic system of mathematics shows that it was much more advanced than the mathematical systems of the civilizations of the Nile or the Euphrates. The Vedic mathematicians had developed the decimal system of tens, hundreds, thousands, etc. where the remainder from one column of numbers is carried over to the next. The advantage of this system of nine number signs and a zero is that it allows for calculations to be easily made. Further, it has been said that the introduction of zero, or sunya as the Indians called it, in an operational sense as a definite part of a number system, marks one of the most important developments in the entire history of mathematics. The earliest preserved examples of the number system which is still in use today are found on several stone columns erected in India by King Ashoka in about 250 B.C.E.4 Similar inscriptions are found in caves near Poona (100 B.C.E.) and Nasik (200 C.E.).5 These earliest Indian numerals appear in a script called brahmi.


After 700 C.E. another notation, called by the name Indian numerals, which is said to have evolved from the brahmi numerals, assumed common usage, spreading to Arabia and from there around the world. When Arabic numerals (the name they had then become known by) came into common use throughout the Arabian empire, which extended from India to Spain, Europeans called them "Arabic notations," because they received them from the Arabians. However, the Arabians themselves called them "Indian figures" (Al-Arqan-Al-Hindu) and mathematics itself was called "the Indian art" (hindisat).


Mastery of this new mathematics allowed the Muslim mathematicians of Baghdad to fully utilize the geometrical treatises of Euclid and Archimedes. Trigonometry flourished there along with astronomy and geography. Later in history, Carl Friedrich Gauss, the "prince of mathematics," was said to have lamented that Archimedes in the third century B.C.E. had failed to foresee the Indian system of numeration; how much more advanced science would have been.


Prior to these revolutionary discoveries, other world civilizations-the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Romans, and the Chinese-all used independent symbols for each row of counting beads on the abacus, each requiring its own set of multiplication or addition tables. So cumbersome were these systems that mathematics was virtually at a standstill. The new number system from the Indus Valley led a revolution in mathematics by setting it free. By 500 C.E. mathematicians of India had solved problems that baffled the world's greatest scholars of all time. Aryabhatta, an astronomer mathematician who flourished at the beginning of the 6th century, introduced sines and versed sines-a great improvement over the clumsy half-cords of Ptolemy. A.L. Basham, foremost authority on ancient India, writes in The Wonder That Was India, "Medieval Indian mathematicians, such as Brahmagupta (seventh century), Mahavira (ninth century), and Bhaskara (twelfth century), made several discoveries which in Europe were not known until the Renaissance or later. They understood the import of positive and negative quantities, evolved sound systems of extracting square and cube roots, and could solve quadratic and certain types of indeterminate equations."6 Mahavira's most noteworthy contribution is his treatment of fractions for the first time and his rule for dividing one fraction by another, which did not appear in Europe until the 16th century.


B.B. Dutta writes: "The use of symbols-letters of the alphabet to denote unknowns, and equations are the foundations of the science of algebra. The Hindus were the first to make systematic use of the letters of the alphabet to denote unknowns. They were also the first to classify and make a detailed study of equations. Thus they may be said to have given birth to the modern science of algebra."7 The great Indian mathematician Bhaskaracharya (1150 C.E.) produced extensive treatises on both plane and spherical trigonometry and algebra, and his works contain remarkable solutions of problems which were not discovered in Europe until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He preceded Newton by over 500 years in the discovery of the principles of differential calculus. A.L. Basham writes further, "The mathematical implications of zero (sunya) and infinity, never more than vaguely realized by classical authorities, were fully understood in medieval India. Earlier mathematicians had taught that X/0 = X, but Bhaskara proved the contrary. He also established mathematically what had been recognized in Indian theology at least a millennium earlier: that infinity, however divided, remains infinite, represented by the equation /X = ." In the 14th century, Madhava, isolated in South India, developed a power series for the arc tangent function, apparently without the use of calculus, allowing the calculation of to any number of decimal places (since arctan 1 = /4). Whether he accomplished this by inventing a system as good as calculus or without the aid of calculus; either way it is astonishing.


By the fifteenth century C.E. use of the new mathematical concepts from India had spread all over Europe to Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, among others. A.L. Basham states also that "The debt of the Western world to India in this respect [the field of mathematics] cannot be overestimated. Most of the great discoveries and inventions of which Europe is so proud would have been impossible without a developed system of mathematics, and this in turn would have been impossible if Europe had been shackled by the unwieldy system of Roman numerals. The unknown man who devised the new system was, from the world's point of view, after the Buddha, the most important son of India. His achievement, though easily taken for granted, was the work of an analytical mind of the first order, and he deserves much more honor than he has so far received."


Unfortunately, Eurocentrism has effectively concealed from the common man the fact that we owe much in the way of mathematics to ancient India. Reflection on this may cause modern man to consider more seriously the spiritual preoccupation of ancient India. The rishis (seers) were not men lacking in practical knowledge of the world, dwelling only in the realm of imagination. They were well developed in secular knowledge, yet only insofar as they felt it was necessary within a world view in which consciousness was held as primary.


In ancient India, mathematics served as a bridge between understanding material reality and the spiritual conception. Vedic mathematics differs profoundly from Greek mathematics in that knowledge for its own sake (for its aesthetic satisfaction) did not appeal to the Indian mind. The mathematics of the Vedas lacks the cold, clear, geometric precision of the West; rather, it is cloaked in the poetic language which so distinguishes the East. Vedic mathematicians strongly felt that every discipline must have a purpose, and believed that the ultimate goal of life was to achieve self-realization and love of God and thereby be released from the cycle of birth and death. Those practices which furthered this end either directly or indirectly were practiced most rigorously. Outside of the religio-astronomical sphere, only the problems of day to day life (such as purchasing and bartering) interested the Indian mathematicians.


One of the foremost exponents of Vedic math, the late Bharati Krishna Tirtha Maharaja, author of Vedic Mathematics, has offered a glimpse into the sophistication of Vedic math. Drawing from the Atharva-veda, Tirtha Maharaja points to many sutras (codes) or aphorisms which appear to apply to every branch of mathematics: arithmetic, algebra, geometry (plane and solid), trigonometry (plane and spherical), conics (geometrical and analytical), astronomy, calculus (differential and integral), etc.


Utilizing the techniques derived from these sutras, calculations can be done with incredible ease and simplicity in one's head in a fraction of the time required by modern means. Calculations normally requiring as many as a hundred steps can be done by the Vedic method in one single simple step. For instance the conversion of the fraction 1/29 to its equivalent recurring decimal notation normally involves 28 steps. Utilizing the Vedic method it can be calculated in one simple step. (see insert for examples of how to utilize Vedic sutras)


In order to illustrate how secular and spiritual life were intertwined in Vedic India, Tirtha Maharaja has demonstrated that mathematical formulas and laws were often taught within the context of spiritual expression (mantra). Thus while learning spiritual lessons, one could also learn mathematical rules.


Tirtha Maharaja has pointed out that Vedic mathematicians prefer to use the devanagari letters of Sanskrit to represent the various numbers in their numerical notations rather than the numbers themselves, especially where large numbers are concerned. This made it much easier for the students of this math in their recording of the arguments and the appropriate conclusions.


Tirtha Maharaja states, "In order to help the pupil to memorize the material studied and assimilated, they made it a general rule of practice to write even the most technical and abstruse textbooks in sutras or in verse (which is so much easier-even for the children-to memorize). And this is why we find not only theological, philosophical, medical, astronomical, and other such treatises, but even huge dictionaries in Sanskrit verse! So from this standpoint, they used verse, sutras and codes for lightening the burden and facilitating the work (by versifying scientific and even mathematical material in a readily assimilable form)!"8 The code used is as follows:


The Sanskrit consonants


ka, ta, pa, and ya all denote 1;


kha, tha, pha, and ra all represent 2;


ga, da, ba, and la all stand for 3;


Gha, dha, bha, and va all represent 4;


gna, na, ma, and sa all represent 5;


ca, ta, and sa all stand for 6;


cha, tha, and sa all denote 7;


ja, da, and ha all represent 8;


jha and dha stand for 9; and


ka means zero.


Vowels make no difference and it is left to the author to select a particular consonant or vowel at each step. This great latitude allows one to bring about additional meanings of his own choice. For example kapa, Êapa, papa, and yapa all mean 11. By a particular choice of consonants and vowels one can compose a poetic hymn with double or triple meanings. Here is an actual sutra of spiritual content, as well as secular mathematical significance.


gopi bhagya madhuvrata


srngiso dadhi sandhiga


khala jivita khatava


gala hala rasandara



While this verse is a type of petition to Krishna, when learning it one can also learn the value of pi/10 (i.e. the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter divided by 10) to 32 decimal places. It has a self-contained master-key for extending the evaluation to any number of decimal places.


The translation is as follows:


"O Lord anointed with the yogurt of the milkmaids' worship (Krishna), O savior of the fallen, O master of Shiva, please protect me."


At the same time, by application of the consonant code given above, this verse directly yields the decimal equivalent of pi divided by 10: pi/10 = 0.31415926535897932384626433832792. Thus, while offering mantric praise to Godhead in devotion, by this method one can also add to memory significant secular truths.


This is the real gist of the Vedic world view regarding the culture of knowledge: while culturing transcendental knowledge, one can also come to understand the intricacies of the phenomenal world. By the process of knowing the absolute truth, all relative truths also become known. In modern society today it is often contended that never the twain shall meet: science and religion are at odds. This erroneous conclusion is based on little understanding of either discipline. Science is the smaller circle within the larger circle of religion.


We should never lose sight of our spiritual goals. We should never succumb to the shortsightedness of attempting to exploit the inherent power in the principles of mathematics or any of the natural sciences for ungodly purposes. Our reasoning faculty is but a gracious gift of Godhead intended for divine purposes, and not those of our own design.


[Reprinted with permission

from Saranagati OnLine Magazine]


1. E.J.H. Mackay, Further Excavations at Mohenjo-daro, 1938, p. 222.


2. Saraswati Amma, Geometry in Ancient and Medieval India, Motilal Banarsidas, 1979, p. 18.


3. Dr. V. Raghavan, Presidential Address, Technical Sciences and Fine Arts Section, XXIst AIOC, New Delhi, 1961.


4. Herbert Meschkowski, Ways of Thought of Great Mathematicians, Holden-Day Inc., San Francisco, 1964.


5. Howard Eves, An Introduction to the History of Mathematics, Rinehart and Company Inc., New York, 1953, p. 19.


6. A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India, Rupa & Co., Calcutta, 1967.


7. B.B. Dutta, History of Hindu Mathematics, Preface.


8. Jagadguru Swami Shri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji Maharaja, Vedic Mathematics, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1988.


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