Sri Aurobindo and The Veda

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This interpretation starts with the Upanishads. Upanishads claimed that what they have written in their compositions are nothing but reaffirmations of the Veda. Now, this is a very important point because Upanishads are regarded by all scholars all over the world to be of tremendous importance and full of light. On this there is no dispute either in the East or in the West. And the Upanishads themselves declare that they are nothing but affirmations of the Veda. Therefore, at least for the Upanishadic seers, Vedas are books of knowledge. When we come to the Bhagavad Gita, which is regarded to be the quintessence of the Veda, it also mentions that Veda is a book of knowledge. Puranas also claimed that Veda is a book of knowledge. Tantra also regards Veda as a book of knowledge. Indian schools of philosophy regard Veda as an authority, and it is a tradition in Indian philosophy if your conclusions of philosophical thought do not coincide with what is in the Veda, then your conclusions are wrong, but what is in the Veda is true. Such is the tradition in Indian philosophy. In spite of this great tradition of the authoritativeness of the Veda, there came a school of interpretation, and a long line of interpretation, starting with Yaska, one of the great interpreters of the Veda. And this line ended with a great scholar of the fourteenth century A.D. called Sayana. He was himself a Prime Minister of a state in South India and also a great Vedic scholar, and he had the possibility of employing a whole huge mass of scholars to assist him. And Sayana interpreted all the four Vedas – a huge task he accomplished, and it is itself so big that it requires a long life time to study and therefore to differ from him would require a further time, and therefore Sayana's interpretation ultimately became the standard interpretation of the Veda in India, after a long period. And if you read Sayana's interpretation, then it would seem that Vedic Rishis and the greatness of Vedic Rishis and the claim that Vedic texts contain knowledge is a colossal fiction. If you read Sayana, you would be obliged to conclude that his claim that Veda contains knowledge � that proposition cannot be sustained. Sayana himself is a ritualist, who believes that Vedas were written for ritualistic purposes. He reveres the Veda, not like the Vedic interpreters of the modern scholars of western Scholarship. He reveres, he has a respect for the Veda but he believes that Veda is simply a book of rituals. And if you recite Mantras, they have magical effect and it will give you certain rewards if these mantras are recited properly. In other words they are magical superstitions, ” not superstitious according to Sayana, but magical mantras which can be recited, which can produce results in your life. Results as of materialistic gains, of progeny and wealth and so on, such will be the meaning of the Veda according to Sayana. It was on Sayana's basis that Vedic scholars of the West made their interpretations and they went one step further. Whatever reverence there was in Sayana for the Veda was blotted out, and it was proved that Vedas are important only from the point of view of the primitive history, but of no further use for mankind in the future. It has no message. Now Sri Aurobindo himself, when he came to study the Veda in his early stages of his life, without studying Veda properly, had felt that these modern interpretations may be quite meaningful, may be quite valid. This was the climate of the modern Indians and even now it is largely so. One of the last interpretations of the Veda was by a great scholar of the nineteenth century in India called Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati. He interpreted the Veda. He criticised Sayana very severely and affirmed that Veda is a book of knowledge. Sri Aurobindo himself has written a very illuminating article and essay on Dayananda. When you have time you may like to read it, and you can see what a great tribute Sri Aurobindo has paid to Dayananda.

And yet Sri Aurobindo does not coincide his own interpretation with the interpretation of Dayananda. It was when Sri Aurobindo had already had three great realisations of his yoga, and when he came to Pondicherry that he turned to Veda seriously for the first time. By this time he had the realisation of the Brahmic nirvana, of which we have read so greatly, under the guidance of the Maharashtrian yogi called Lele. He had a further realisation of the universal Vasudeva Krishna in the Alipore jail and he had already in the Alipore jail also heard the voice of Vivekananda, for fifteen days uninterruptedly, where Sri Aurobindo was given the knowledge of the planes between the mind and the Supermind. It was after this background that Sri Aurobindo had numerous experiences to which he had no clue, either in western psychology or modern psychology or ancient psychology or anywhere, but these experiences were rising in his consciousness; as he says himself. Particularly, he had the experiences of what in the Veda are called Ila, Saraswati, Sarama, Daksha. These are four female energies described in the Veda and, without knowing this; Sri Aurobindo already had experience of these energies. And he had no clue as to what these energies are? What are these powers which were rising in his own consciousness on their own? And then when he happened to read the Veda, with this background, he directly contacted and understood and found a confirmation of his own experiences in the Veda. This was the way in which the key of the Veda was found by his own personal experiences which preceded his understanding of the Veda. It is not as if these experiences came to him after reading the Veda and then finding them in the Veda he confirmed his own experiences, it is the other way round. He already had the experiences of these highest powers of consciousness and found a clue to them in the Rig Veda. It is said in the Veda that only the seer can understand the words of the seer. This is the Vedic expression itself ninya vachamsi, that is, secret words, kavaye nivachanani, they are revealed only to the kavi, to the poet, to the seer, and it is confirmed in the case of Sri Aurobindo: the secret meaning of the Veda was revealed only to the seer, to Sri Aurobindo. After studying this Veda, Sri Aurobindo has... � I am now going rapidly because this is a vast subject and I am only trying to give you the summary, the essence of the matter, ” after studying the Veda in depth ” now this, when I say in depth, to cover within two or three years, such a huge mass of Vedic knowledge, is really something like an Herculean labour which he accomplished within a short time as if he dived into the Veda and collected all the treasures within a short time and brought the jewels and diamonds out of the Veda. Then he began to express and put them before mankind. It was in 1914, that is to say, 1910, he came to Pondicherry, and by 1914, within four years, he had attained to such a mastery of the secret meaning of the Veda that he began to write a series of articles under the title The Secret of the Veda, and if you read The Secret of the Veda, you can see a masterly interpretation; it is a masterly interpretation because he finds the proof of his own interpretation in the Veda itself. It is by internal evidence that he shows that the interpretation he has given follows clearly and obviously, luminously, from the Vedic verses themselves. It is in the light of this that he says that Upanishads also can be understood properly. In fact, although Upanishads are famous for their knowledge, even today if you go to the scholars to ask the interpretation of the Upanishads, three fourths of the Upanishads, is a closed door, even today. Even those who praise Upanishads to the sky, whether in the East or in the West, even they when they read the Upanishads and you ask them questions you really find that they are absolutely out of their depth. They cannot explain, and it is quite obvious because unless you understand the Veda, and the secret of the Veda, Upanishads cannot truly be understood. Fortunately Sri Aurobindo has written for us also, at least two great commentaries, on two important Upanishads: Isha Upanishad and the Kena Upanishad, and he has translated eight Upanishads in totality. That is a tremendous help that we can get to understand the Upanishads properly. Similarly if you do not understand the Veda properly, you cannot understand properly the Bhagavad Gita, although Bhagavad Gita is not a secret book like the Veda, nor like the Upanishads, so pregnant with meaning. And yet the Bhagavad Gita too cannot be understood properly, if you do not understand the Veda. In other words, the recovery of the ancient knowledge � Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, ” cannot be achieved except in the light of what Sri Aurobindo has written on the Veda. That is how I consider Sri Aurobindo�s Secret of the Veda to be of the highest importance.
 

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