Sri Aurobindo and The Veda

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Sri Aurobindo has said that Vedic poetry is mantric poetry. And this is a very important point to be underlined. Vedic poetry is mantric poetry. What does it mean? In fact Sri Aurobindo has explained the meaning of mantric poetry in his great book called ‘The Future Poetry’, and to understand the value of Vedic poetry, we must read this great book ‘The Future Poetry’. And to say very briefly, Sri Aurobindo has said: To arrive at mantra – mantra cannot be translated into English, but, let us say, what Sri Aurobindo calls the highest expression, which is poetical in character is, let us say, it is mantra. And in India, mantra is that rhythmic expression which, when recited, produces a physical effect, ─ this is called mantra. If you say Tathastu, in a mantric form, let it be so, it will be so, physically. This is the Indian tradition, that if you have attained to mantric power in your poetry then any mantric expression will produce physical effects. Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Savitri’ is entirely mantric in character. This is how Sri Aurobindo has shown what he has written in The Future of Poetry, that Future Poetry will be mantric, he has said, and to give an example of it the whole of ‘Savitri’ is now available to us which is mantric in character and that is why Savitri is not merely poetry, it is effective force in action. And that is true of the Vedic mantras and, in very brief, Sri Aurobindo said: The mantric poetry must satisfy three criteria: first, it must have the highest intensity of rhythm. In fact Sri Aurobindo has said that the one mark of poetry is rhythmic words. There is no poetry if there are no rhythmic words; prose and poetry differ in this: in prose you may not have rhythmic words, but poetry is marked by rhythmic words. But highest intensity of rhythmic words, that is a mark of mantra, not merely rhythmic words. There are so many poems which are in rhythms, but that is not highest poetry, not mantric. Mantric poetry must have the highest intensity of rhythmic expression. That is the first mark.

Second, highest intensity of style. What is style? It is the perfect correspondence with the mode of expression and the meaning of expression. What you want to say is conveyed exactly by the mode in which that meaning is suitable to it. The higher intensity of style is a second mark of mantric poetry.

And the third mark is the highest vision of the highest truth. The intensity of that vision, because all poetry or all art is basically a perception. Where there is no perception, it is not poetry, not art, not sculpture. Perception and the deep perception, such a perception that you go on, deeply perceiving, until that perception gives out an image. That is called the depth of perception. All art is nothing but this: a perception, perceived so deeply, so deeply, that what you are perceiving begins to take a form, an image. And when you can express that image, you are an artist. In poetry, the highest vision of the truth, not anything, not like experience of a stone, or of sleep, or a beautiful moon or a sun, not that, but the highest vision of the highest truth, the widest truth, the most comprehensive truth, and the deepest experience of it. When that is captured in your poetry that is mantra. And Sri Aurobindo has said: The entire corpus of the Veda is mantric poetry. So you can imagine, apart of the meaning of the Veda, if the very poetic form has got this much of power, how could it be termed as primitive or barbaric at all. This is the first point that we have to make with regard to what Sri Aurobindo has said about the Veda.

I am sorry, I am taking too long a time in expounding, but the subject itself is too long, and please bear with me, because I want to say what I want to say. So, I only made the first point, that Vedic poetry is mantric poetry.
The second point I want to make is that Sri Aurobindo discovered that Vedas have been written in a secret way. That is to say, outwardly it has one meaning, inwardly it has another meaning. Although there is a parallelism. And there was a reason behind it. The reason was that a secret knowledge had to be communicated, and if that communication falls into the hands of an uninitiated, he can misuse it both for himself and the others. Fortunately, in the modern time, some of the secrets of knowledge are very difficult, even if you start learning; it takes twenty, thirty years to find out the secret of that knowledge. But we know that once it is known, like atomic energy, or any other, even making telephone, and Internet and so on, you know how misuses can be made of all these instruments and what terrible effects it has already produced in our civilisation. Now this was known to the Vedic seers that knowledge if it is given to an uninitiated can be very harmful to the people – and yet it had to be communicated. So they developed a secret code, and Sri Aurobindo calls it algebraic code; that is, Veda is written in a form of algebra. If you do not know algebra and you read the book of algebra, what meaning can you make out of it? Unless the meaning of the figures and symbols is known to you, you cannot make out anything out of an algebraic book. The Veda is therefore algebraic in character. Now this is a second point I want to make, that Veda is difficult to understand, the meaning of it is secret because of this fact. It is written in algebraic form. You use the word cow, in an ordinary sense we all know what is cow, but in the algebraic form, cow means light. And if you read the Veda throughout, wherever the word cow comes, you put the word light, it will fit in very well. But if you don't put cow for light, it will look very bizarre. The cow stands before a horse, and what is the light, what is the luminous meaning in it? Nothing! A cow stands before the horse. But the same thing, you turn it, and say, the horse is the symbol for Power, Energy, Shakti, cow is Light, so Chit–Shakti. Cow and horse together is a symbol for Chit–Shakti, which makes a tremendous meaning. Now, you put it anywhere in the whole of the Veda, wherever it comes, you put these two words, do not use cow and horse, you simply use the word light and power. It will make a very simple, luminous, obvious meaning. But if you don't know this, then everything look bizarre, and it may look very primitive, and barbaric. This is the reason why many people, not knowing the algebra of Veda, have come to the conclusion that the Veda is barbaric and primitive. Now, it is Sri Aurobindo's tremendous insight, because of his own experiences, that he discovered this algebra of the Veda. And The Secret of the Veda, this all–great book, I do not know if you have seen the book, The Secret of the Veda. It is volume number 10 in the Centenary Edition. This Secret of the Veda gives you the algebraic meanings of various words and terms which have been used in the Veda.

The third point I want to make is that this Veda contains a very deep knowledge of reality, of the world, and of the self. Triple knowledge: god–knowledge, world–knowledge, and soul–knowledge (self–knowledge). Now, what is that knowledge, what is the content of that knowledge? And please allow me at least fifteen minutes to tell you this particular aspect, because it is perhaps the most important aspect that we should like to know.

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