Sri Aurobindo made a very important statement in The Foundations of Indian Culture, in which he spoke of the immediate work of India. He said that there were three tasks that India had to accomplish.
The first task is to recover the ancient spiritual knowledge in its fullness, in its amplitude —this is the first task. And this means of course, basically, the recovery of the Veda, Upanishads, the Gita, the Puranas and Tantras. This is, one might say, the basic stuff of what can be called the ancient spiritual knowledge of India. I underline the word “knowledge” because, usually, though this knowledge is contained in what are called Scriptures, Scriptures are sometimes regarded as revelations which were made once for all and have to be accepted unquestioningly. Therefore, philosophers do not accept them as bodies of knowledge. The Vedas are Scriptures; the Upanishads, the Gita, Tantra, Puranas are Scriptures; but they must still be considered as books of knowledge, because India does not regard them as revelations made for all times which cannot be repeated or which cannot be verified. According to the Vedic tradition, the faculty of revelation can be so developed that one can have a constant stream of revelations. Therefore, it is not something which comes once and for all: one can have repeated revelations, and revelations can be verified by revelations, and they can be experimented upon. What is more, they can be enlarged as in scientific knowledge —you can enlarge upon the knowledge; you can even overpass; you can have a new revelation, a new knowledge. So Sri Aurobindo has deliberately used the word, “ancient Indian spiritual knowledge.”
This has to be recovered. It has to be recovered because it has greatly been lost. Mother once wrote down a message for me in which She said: “India has or rather had the knowledge of the Spirit.” She wanted to underline that India could not take pride in having today a living knowledge of the Spirit. India has deviated a long way from the possession of that knowledge and therefore it has to be recovered. This is the first task.
As for the second task, Sri Aurobindo said that India has to pour that knowledge and therefore it has to be recovered. This is the first task.
As for the second task, Sri Aurobindo said that India has to pour that knowledge into new modes of philosophical, scientific and critical knowledge. This is a very difficult task. In fact, it has been made easy because Sri Aurobindo himself wrote a huge philosophical work called The Life Divine, in which he has demonstrated how the ancient knowledge can be poured into philosophical modes of thinking, and how in modern times it can be presented in a modern fashion. He has even shown how we can advance from the past towards the new.
The third task, Sri Aurobindo has said, is to deal with the contemporary problems in a new manner, and to realise a spiritualised society. These are the three tasks, of which the last one, he said, is the most difficult task. And the proportion to which India can accomplish these three tasks — to that extent India will have fulfilled her mission. In fact Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have initiated the third task, and this great seat called Auroville is India’s effort inviting the whole world to meet and attempt to create a spiritualised society.
But these last two tasks will depend very largely upon the recovery — the first task — the recovery of the ancient spiritual knowledge. It is a very difficult terrain. It is so complex, and it is buried under such a plethora of interpretations, that it is extremely difficult to penetrate into it; it is like a jungle. I, for instance, have been brought up in India right from childhood in the real India tradition; the Veda was my constant childhood friend — I had a home in which Veda was recited every day. And yet, in spite of this kind of upbringing, it was only when I came to Sri Aurobindo that I really entered into the real portals of Vedic knowledge. Till that time, all that I knew of the Veda and the Upanishads and the Gita and the Puranas was that they were a real dense forest, difficult to penetrate; it was difficult to walk, even one mile, into that big terrain. When we recited the mantras of the Veda, the hymns of the Veda, we understood a little, because sometimes the words were not so difficult and you could make out some meaning of them. But as far as penetrating into what we can call knowledge, it was a constant failure.
In fact, many of us who read the Western scholars interpreting the Veda found in their interpretations an echo of our own lack of understanding. The Western scholars came across this great body of Vedic knowledge in the early nineteenth century…
Perhaps many people may not know that vast corpus of the Veda itself. Apart from the interpretations of the Veda, which are also huge, the mere text of the Veda itself is very vast. What is called Veda consists of four huge books: the first one is called Rig Veda; the second is called Yajur Veda; the third is called Sama Veda; and the fourth is called Atharva Veda. These are four huge volumes. Rig Veda is the biggest. It has ten chapters and totally it has ten thousand verses. Ten thousand verses! In a recent publication, the mere Sanskrit text along with the English translation has come to twelve volumes, the Rig Veda alone. The Atharva Veda is half of the Rig Veda, the Same Veda is the shortest and the Yajur Veda is more than one fourth of the Rig Veda. Basically, the Rig Veda is regarded as the Veda, and Sri Aurobindo made a study of this Rig Veda in depth.
But when this study was made by the Western scholars in the nineteenth century, they found after studying the Vedas that they seemed to be the compositions of barbarians, naïve in their imagination, superstitious, materialist, seeking for wealth, progeny, cows and horses. Not understanding the real depth and not understanding the connections of ideas, they felt that the entire Vedic corpus was imply a bundle of worthless material, which may be studied for historical reasons to show to people what barbaric people of ancient times thought and conceived and imagined, but for no other purpose. In fact, Max Mueller, after interpreting the whole of the Veda, wrote a letter to his wife: “I have now” — I do not quote exactly the words — “I have now accomplished the task of translating the whole of the Rig Veda. And when people, even in India, will read my translation and understand what the Veda contains, they will find that there is nothing in it, and then they will easily turn to Christianity and embrace it.” This was the confidence with which he translated, and many others who came to translate and many of those who interpreted the Veda coincided in their interpretations. And many of the Indian scholars who read these Western scholars, also dared not depart from their interpretation. Even a philosopher like Radhakrishnan while writing on the Veda in his book called Indian Philosophy, says, “Sri Aurobindo sees a great light and psychological truth in the Veda,” but he remarks: “But when we see that Western scholars do not agree with him, we also cannot agree with Sri Aurobindo.” This is the remark of a man like Radhakrishnan, who is supposed to be one of the foremost philosophers of India! You can see, therefore, how difficult it is for scholars to understand the Veda.
Now there is a history of the interpretation of the Veda, and this history has to be understood before we can appreciate how Sri Aurobindo penetrated through this great forest of the Vedic interpretations and brought out a great light out of the Vedic verses. This interpretation starts with the Upanishads. The Upanishads claimed that what was written in their compositions were nothing but reaffirmation of the Veda. Now, this is a very important point because the Upanishads are regarded by all scholars all over the world as being of tremendous importance and full of light. On this there is no dispute, neither in the East nor in the West. And the Upanishads themselves declare that they are nothing but affirmations of the Veda. Therefore, at least for the Upanishadic seers, the 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 the Veda is a book of knowledge. The Puranas also claimed that Veda was 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 that 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 AD called Sayana. He was himself the 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! To study them requires a long life time and therefore to differ from him would require a further time. Therefore, after a long period, Sayana’s interpretation ultimately became the standard interpretation of the Veda in India. And if you read Sayana’s interpretation, then it would seem that the Vedic Rishis and the greatness of the 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 own claim that Veda contains knowledge, is a proposition that cannot be sustained. Sayana himself was a ritualist, who believed that the Vedas were written for ritualistic purposes. He revered the Veda, he was not like the Vedic interpreters of the modern time, the scholars of Western scholarship. He revered the Veda, he had respect for the Veda, but he believed that it was simply a book of rituals. Mantras have a magical effect, and if you recite these mantras properly they will give you certain rewards. In other words, these seemingly magical superstitions are not superstitions according to Sayana — these are magical mantras which can be recited, which can produce results in your life: results in terms of materialistic gains, progeny, wealth and so on. Such was the meaning of the Veda according to Sayana. It was on the basis of Sayana that Vedic scholars of the West made their interpretations. They went one step further, and whatever reverence there was in Sayana for the Veda was blotted out, and they tried to prove that the Vedas were important only from the point of view of primitive history, but of no further use of mankind in the future. It had no message.
Now Sri Aurobindo himself, when he came to study the Veda in the early stages of his life, without studying Veda properly, had felt that may be these modern interpretations were quite meaningful; may be they were 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, criticising Sayana very severely and affirmed that the Veda is a book of knowledge. Sri Aurobindo himself has written a very illuminating article and essay on Dayananda. If one reads it, one 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. When Sri Aurobindo turned to Veda seriously for the first time after coming to Pondicherry, he had already had three great realisations of his yoga. By that time, he had the realisation of the Brahmic nirvana, 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 not a clue, either in Western psychology, that is, modern psychology or ancient psychology or anywhere. But these experiences were rising in his consciousness; as he says himself, he had particularly the experiences of what the Veda calls Ila, Saraswati, Sarama, Daksha. These are four female energies described in the Veda and, without knowing this, Sri Aurobindo had already had the experience of these energies. What were 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. It 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 finding them in the Veda. It is not as if he found the confirmation later in his own experiences. It is the other way round. He already had the experiences of these highest powers of consciousness and he 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, are revealed only to the kavi, to the poet, to the seer. And this is confirmed in the case of Sri Aurobindo: the secret meaning of the Veda was revealed only to the seer, to Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo studied the Veda in depth. In depth: to cover such a huge mass of Vedic knowledge, within two or three years, is really something like a Herculean labour! And he accomplished it within a short time, as if he dived into the Veda, collected all the treasures within a short time, brought the jewels and diamonds out and then began to express and put them before mankind. This was in 1914. That is to say, in 1910 he came to Pondicherry, and by 1914, within four years, he had attained 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. If one reads The Secret of the Veda, one can see a masterly interpretation; it is a masterly interpretation because Sri Aurobindo found 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.
In the light of this, he says, the Upanishads also can be understood properly. In fact, although the Upanishads are famous for their knowledge, even today if one goes to scholars and ask them for an interpretation of the Upanishads, one will see that three fourth of the Upanishads, even now, is a closed door. Even today, even those who praise the Upanishads to the sky, whether in the East or in the West, if one asks them questions, one really finds 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, the Upanishads cannot truly be understood. Fortunately, Sri Aurobindo has also written for us at least two great commentaries on two important Upanishads: Isha Upanishad and Kena Upanishad, and he translated eight Upanishads in totality. That is tremendous help for understanding the Upanishads properly.
Similarly, if one does not understand the Veda properly, one cannot properly understand the Bhagavad-Gita. It is not a secret book like the Veda, it is not like the Upanishads, so pregnant with meaning. And yet the Bhagavad Gita, too, cannot be understood properly if the Veda is not understood. In other words, the recovery of the ancient knowledge — Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagvad Gita — cannot be achieved except in the light of what Sri Aurobindo has written on the Veda. That is why I consider Sri Aurobindo’s The Secret of the Veda to be of the highest importance.
Now I have spoken till now as if the Veda is important for India, for the recovery of India, but actually speaking, the Veda may be looked upon as the only document of ancient times available to the whole of humanity. That is to say, if you trace world history, and if you try to find out what was the earliest composition from the earliest stage of humanity, nothing is available to us today — except the Veda. This is the only document, the only composition that is available to humanity. There were of course many other traditions in ancient times, and there was certainly a great tradition of knowledge. There were traditions which you find in ancient Chaldea, in ancient Persia, in Egypt, in Greece, but all these traditions have been lost. There is hardly anything available in the form of any text. There are ideas; there are mythologies. Even Greek mythology which is available is a later statement of the earlier Ileusian tradition. But as far as texts and their secret knowledge are concerned, these are lost.
So, if one wants to know what was the earliest thought of mankind, and if one wants the proof of that earliest document of mankind, one has to turn to the Veda only, because it is the only document available for the whole of humanity. Thus, if one wants to reconstruct even human history, and the thought of human history, all the nations have to turn to the Veda to get the description of the earliest thoughts of mankind, for which one has proof. And what a proof! We must remember that right from the beginning this Vedic text was so much revered in India (obviously because at that time it was considered to be a book of knowledge. Whatever one may say about it in modern times, it was known to the Vedic seer that it contained the supreme secret knowledge), that a tradition had developed that this knowledge should never be allowed to be lost. And a system was evolved in India so that one section of people of India had the obligation to memorise either all the four Vedas or at least one Veda. This has been the tradition. And not memorising in a haphazard manner. A very special system of memorising, singing, chanting the mantras of the hymns was evolved, where every syllable was measured, and its place was fixed absolutely. Fortunately, even today, in spite of great losses of many kinds, there are at least two thousand chanters, singers, who can recite the Veda exactly as it was recited five thousand years ago. I have myself, in one of the capacities of my governmental work, made a survey in India, and we have a large number of singers of the Veda, in Andhra Pradesh particularly, and also in different parts of India, and I have tried tape-recording some of the chanting of these Vedic recitations. The speciality of this method of singing is that it is sung in seven different ways, and all the seven ways should coincide, so there is no mistake occurring anywhere.
Seven different methods! And the last method, which is called the ganapatha, the method in which you first pronounce the first syllable, then you pronounce the second syllable, then you go back to the first syllable, and pronounce again the second, and then pronounce the third, then you go back again to the second, and then pronounce the first, and then again you go back to the second, and third, and fourth, and go back to the third, and second, and first, until you come to the end of a verse, which takes nearly from ten to fifteen minutes, even to recite one mantra like: Agnim ile purohitam yagnasya devamritvijam hotaram ratnadhatamam. This is a simple verse, the very first verse of the Rig Veda. This recitation in this ganapatha takes at least fifteen minutes because of this method. And it is chanted, it is not only recited like prose, it is chanted. In fact, even the chanting is so wonderful. These repetitions are so beautiful and so marvellous that when you hear the chanting, you would like to go on hearing, hearing, hearing again and again… marvellous! And then the whole of Rig Veda, ten thousand verses! You can imagine what a tremendous feat that is to recite and memorise in this way! And these memorise remembering both ways, and every word, as they move forward and backward, they have complete memory of it. It is a part of the training: right from the childhood at the age of four or five they start memorising. This is a part of their work. The tradition is so revered that even till today we have at least two thousand people in India who can recite exactly in the way in which it was recited five thousand years ago. This is the reason why today we have an accurate text, about which there can be no question at all. If anybody has doubts about the text, you can just call a singer and ask him to recite in the ganapatha: every syllable is caught, even today, so that it is not left to the printer’s mistakes. Printing came much later. In fact, throughout the history of India, it has been an oral tradition. That is why, as Sri Aurobindo says, today we have almost an accurate text of the Veda. Not only of the Veda, this is true also of the Brahmans, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads and many other scriptures. The same method was used. It is tremendous. What a prodigious memory these Brahmins developed!
In any case, there is no dispute about the fact that these Vedic texts are accurate. Whether we understand them or not is something else, but on this question there is no doubt that these are the most ancient texts available to mankind. So if human history has to be written correctly, if the thought of human mind has to be written historically, there is no recourse for mankind except to go back to the Veda. So the importance of the Veda is not only for India but for the whole world. It is the world’s earliest text available and therefore it tells us what the earliest man thought, what he conceived. If one wants to find out, one has got to go back to the Veda.
These texts may not be the most ancient of all because, as Sri Aurobindo says, it is very clear that the Vedas were preceded by a very great civilisation, a very powerful stage of civilisation. And it was only when that age was declining that the fragments of the knowledge of these Vedic seers were put together by a Rishi called Vyasa. In any case this is what the tradition says: there was a great Rishi called Vyasa, who knew the Vedas in their fullness and who made an anthology. So these four Vedas are not the full text of all that was available as the Veda in that civilisation. But this is only an anthology, these are only selections, it is a miscellany you may say. What we call Veda is therefore an imperfect statement of what was developed in that ancient time.
What must have been that civilisation at that time can only be imagined first when we understand the light that Sri Aurobindo had shed upon these texts, and secondly when we understand the poetic brilliance. One of the marks by which one can see whether poetry is barbaric or naive or primitive or very developed is the metrical perfection. As Sri Aurobindo remarks, if you read the Veda simply, the rhythms of the Veda are like the chariots of the Gods. They have a perfect symmetrical form - perfect. And this is a remark of Sri Aurobindo, who is one of the greatest poets. It is his tribute to the Vedic rhythms. What we find in the Veda are perfect symmetrical forms. So even if one does not understand the meaning of the Vedas, even if one thinks that they are barbaric, at least the poetical form is not barbaric, that is certain. Barbarians could not have produced that kind of symmetrical perfection of rhythms throughout the Veda. It is lyrical in its sublimity; both lyricism and epic character are present. If one recites the Vedic verses, - actually one should enjoy reciting the Vedic verses - if one knows the Sanskrit language, and even if one does not know and simply listens, one will experience that the rhythms, the symmetrical forms, the sounds, the ringing of these Vedic verses are perfect. As Sri Aurobindo says, as you sing these Vedic verses, you feel as if you were flying with your wings. This is the kind of power that the Vedic verses possess.
Sri Aurobindo 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 book. In short, Sri Aurobindo has said: To arrive at mantra - the word mantra cannot be translated into English, but, let us say, what Sri Aurobindo calls the highest expression, poetical in character is mantra. And in India, mantra is that rhythmic expression which, when recited, produces a physical effect. If you say tathastu, in a mantric form, "Let it be so", it will be so, physically. This is the Indian tradition: any mantric expression will produce physical effects. Sri Aurobindo's Savitri is entirely mantric in character. Sri Aurobindo had said in The Future of Poetry that future poetry will be mantric. The whole of Savitri is now available to us. It is mantric in character, and that is why Savitri is not merely poetry, it is effective force in action. And that is also true of the Vedic mantras. In 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 merely rhythmic words are not enough; the mark of mantra is the highest intensity of rhythmic words. There are so many poems which are in rhythm, but that is not the highest poetry, that is 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 between the mode of expression and the meaning of expression. What you want to say is conveyed exactly by the mode suitable to that meaning. The highest 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. All poetry or all art is basically a perception. Where there is no perception, there is no poetry, no art, no sculpture. A deep perception. One goes on, deeply perceiving, until that perception produces an image. That is called a depth of perception. All art is nothing but a perception, perceived so deeply, so deeply, that what you are perceiving begins to take a form, an image. And if you can express that image, you are an artist. When the vision and experience of the highest truth, the widest truth, the most comprehensive truth not just anything like the experience of a beautiful moon or a sun - is captured in your poetry, that is mantra. And Sri Aurobindo has said that the entire corpus of the Veda is mantric poetry. So if the very poetic form of the Veda has got this much of power (apart from its meaning), 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. Vedic poetry is mantric poetry.
The second point I want to make is that Sri Aurobindo discovered that the Vedas have been written in a secret way. Outwardly it has one meaning, inwardly it has another meaning, although there is a parallelism between the two. 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 modern times, some of the secrets of knowledge are very difficult to find. Even if you start learning, it takes twenty, thirty years to find out the secret of that knowledge. But once it is known, like atomic energy, or any other, even with the telephone, and Internet and so on, you know how people can misuse all these instruments and what terrible effects it has already produced in our civilisation. Now this was known to the Vedic seers: if knowledge is given to an uninitiated, it can be very harmful to the people. Yet it had to be communicated. So they developed a secret code, and Sri Aurobindo calls it an algebraic code. If you do not know algebra and you read a 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. The Veda is therefore algebraic in character. This is a second point I want to make. The Veda is difficult to understand. The meaning of it is secret. It is written in an algebraic form. You use the word "cow". We all know what a cow is in the ordinary sense, 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": what is the luminous meaning in it? Nothing! But if you say: The horse is for Power, Energy, Shakti; the cow is Light. So Chit-Shakti. The cow and the horse together are a symbol for Chit-Shakti, which makes a tremendous meaning. Now wherever these words come, do not use cow and horse, simply use the words light and power. It will make a very simple, luminous, obvious meaning. But if one does not know this, then everything looks 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. It is Sri Aurobindo's tremendous insight (because of his own experiences) that he discovered this algebra of the Veda. His great book The 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. A triple knowledge: god-knowledge, world-knowledge, and soulknowledge (self-knowledge). Now, what is that knowledge, what is the content of that knowledge?
What is God? What is the ultimate reality? It is not the kind of god sitting in the seventh heaven with a long beard. In one of the first statements in the first chapter of the Rig Veda, we find a particular mantra which is very curious: na nunamasti no shvah kastadveda yadadbhutam anyasya chittamabhi samcharenyamutadhitam vinashyati. This Sanskrit couplet says: The ultimate reality is neither today nor tomorrow. Who knows that reality, which is wonderful? Why is it wonderful? It has motion - it is alone, there is no other but it has motion in another. Therefore it is adbhutam, wonderful. It has motion in another, and if you try to approach it through your intellectual thought, where you always distinguish between one and another, and divide the two, and don't understand the mystery of one itself being another, if you apply that intellect on it, it vanishes. In other words, if you try to understand it intellectually, you will never grasp it, because it is wonderful. It does not follow the logic of the finite; it follows the logic of the infinite. The one that is many. As. Sri Aurobindo says in The Synthesis of Yoga, the ultimate reality is simple complex. It is simple-complex at the same time. It is one that is many, it is static that is dynamic. It is the same thing which is said in the Upanishad. In the Isha Upanishad the same idea is expressed: tadejati tannaijati. It moves, it moves not." It is far, it is near. It is wonderful. Now this is the first starting point of the Vedic knowledge of reality, of God. And there are so many other verses to which I do not make reference here for the sake of brevity.
Then comes the world-knowledge. What is the world-knowledge of the Veda? They say that the physical world that we can see is only the outer fringe of the whole world. But even this world consists of three earths, not only one earth. Even the earth that we can see is not one earth. There are three earths. Then there is an intermediate world between earth and heaven. "Heaven" is a word which is used for "mind" in the algebraic language of the Veda. Wherever the word "heaven" comes in the Veda, one has to understand "mind". Wherever the word prithivi, earth, comes, one has to understand it to be the physical. The word antariksha is the algebraic term for intermediate world. So there are three worlds: the world of the physical, the world of the vital and the world of the mental. These are the first three, to which we have a normal access. But then it says: the Vedic seers took a long time in their search to find out turiyam svid. This is another word which is very important in Sanskrit, turiyam svid, "that fourth one". Turiyam svid is again an algebraic term, "that fourth one". There is a short story in the Rig Veda of a Rishi called Ayasya. The story is that there were nine Angirasa Rishis (Angirasa is a name of a clan). Nine Rishis were in search of the highest possible. They were searching, and searching, and searching... At last in their quest they came across a great man called Ayasya. They got his help in this search. These nine Angirasa seers became ten with Ayasya, and then with his help they found turiyam svid, they found "the fourth one" - the fourth reality. The three were the earth, the intermediate world, and heaven: body, life and mind. But with what did they discover the fourth one? Saptadhi is again another algebraic term. Saptadhi, the seven headed-thought. A thought which has seven heads. That is, the mind has to be so wide as to become seven-headed. With the help of the seven- headed thought, Ayasya broke open the fourth world and with the opening of the fourth world he became universal: vishvam ajanayat. He manifested the whole universality. This fourth is regarded as the most important discovery of the Vedic seers.
Sri Aurobindo afterwards told us that "this fourth" is the Supermind. Turiyam svid is the Supermind. So the Vedic seers had discovered the Supermind. And beyond the Supermind, they discovered the triple reality which, in later times, came to be recognised as Sat-Chit-Ananda: Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. So, you now see that the world, as seen in Vedic times, consisted of these planes: the three highest Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. Then comes the supermind, and then come mind, life and matter. This was their world-knowledge. I must say that I am making a great injustice to the Veda by summarising so primitively and so briefly, so naively. But this is the basic formula, you might say, of the world-knowledge of the Veda.
What is soul-knowledge? According to the Rig Veda, this is one of the most secret knowledge. This soul is given an algebraic term in the Veda, it is called Agni. Agni is the mystic fire. Fire is that which you can see outside very easily but, inside, it is our inner self, our inner soul - that which we call "psychic being" in Sri Aurobindo's psychology. This psychic being is our real inner inmost soul. And this was discovered after a long, long search. If you read the Vedic verses, you will find how much is said on Agni. This is so important that Sri Aurobindo himself wrote a full book where he collected and translated all the hymns addressed to the mystic Fire in the Rig-Veda. And this is the most precious knowledge that we have now. Because Agni is the most profound secret of the Vedic knowledge, according to the Veda. In fact, the very first verse of the Veda starts with Agni. Without Agni, without fire, without the knowledge of the mystic Fire, you cannot enter into the portals of Vedic knowledge. You must know yourself very deeply, profoundly, to understand the world, and it is by rising from plane to plane that you rise to the Supreme and you discover this wonderful reality that has motion in the another. This mystic Fire has been described variously in the Veda. There are many Agni mantras in other Vedas also, but it is to the knowledge available in the Rig Veda about the mystic Fire that Sri Aurobindo makes a reference when he describes the psychic being in The Life Divine. And he says: It is the flame that burns in the heart, which is inextinguishable, it is the conscience deeper than the conscience of the moralist. It is the Daemon of Socrates, it is that which turns always towards the truth and beauty and goodness, that which detects the truth from falsehood, unmistakably. That is our true soul which is within ourselves. Without illumining this Fire, you cannot enter into the deeper knowledge contained in the Veda. That is the importance of the mystic Fire. What you are internally is this Fire. And this Fire itself has an origin.
Sri Aurobindo speaks of the origin of the psychic being also. But in the Veda there is a very interesting story. Mother sometimes told that story. She said that a time came in the history of the world when the four emanations which had originated from the ultimate reality separated from the origin, and there came about a complete darkness. When that darkness came, the supreme Divine Mother went back to the Supreme Lord and said: An accident has occurred and there has come about a complete darkness. What is to be done? Then the Lord said: Create some other beings who will not separate themselves from the origin. And that was the origin of Gods. Gods were created. But when the gods saw darkness and when they were asked to go down into the darkness so that the light can come out of it, even they refused. They said: It is so dark, we shall not enter into it. It was then that the Gods saw in the Divine Mother, in Aditi (this is the Sanskrit name for Divine Mother) a special Light, something special, and they said: if that can be brought down, then it can bring back light into this darkness. That Light is the mystic Fire. That is the origin of Agni. His origin is in the Supreme Divine Mother. In one of her talks Mother has said that when the Supreme Divine Mother saw the darkness, a tremendous Love oozed out of Her, and when that Love crystallised and fell upon the darkness, the psychic element which entered into the darkness. And all the psychic beings are nothing but evolutionary developments of this original psychic element which is nothing but Love of the Divine Mother. And that is why the psychic being automatically turns to the Divine Mother in an experience of Love. This is the Vedic truth told in algebraic form.
There is a very important mantra in the Rigveda and it is said that if you recite this mantra, you will be free from all sins. This is the promise given. It is called aghamarshana mantra. Agha means “sin”, marshana means “wiping out”. A mantra which can wipe out all the sins. And that mantra is very simple: ritam cha satyam chabhiddhat tapaso dhyajayata tato ratryajayata tatah samudro arnavah. Why is it called the mantra that can wipe out the sins? Because if you know the origin of all this, what is all this darkness and how darkness can be removed by the power of the Divine Love and by the mystic Fire, if you know this, all sins can be wiped out. That is why it is called the mantra of wiping out the sins.
It simply says: In the beginning there was tapas. (Tapas is nothing else but power of concentration, the power of concentration of the Supreme. There is first the Supreme which I have described earlier, that which is neither here nor there. That Supreme has a power of concentration.) From tapas comes out first, ritam cha satyam, — Truth and Right. In other words, out of the Sat-Chit-Ananda, by the power of tapas comes out Supermind. (satyam, ritam, brihat is the formula of the Supermind. This is what Sri Aurobindo has revealed in The Life Divine. And also in his Secret of the Veda.) So from the power of tapas, comes out this great Supermind. Then, having brought out the Supermind, suddenly something happens: tato ratryajayata, from there arose the Night. A sudden jump — Supermind is the supreme Light, and suddenly there comes the night. In the night there is still some light because of the stars and the moon. But then it says: After the night, tato samudro arnavah, then came a complete ocean of darkness. Not only night but a complete darkness. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls the Inconscience. From the Supermind there was a descent, the separation from the origin. The night came and then came out a complete darkness. And then it says, samudradarnavadadhi samvatsaro ajayata, after this, out of this great darkness came samvatsara; samvatsara is an algebraic term for the mystic Fire. Agni was put here. And once Agni was put there, all the evolution came out. Then there is a description of Surya, Chandra, the sun, the moon, everything came out. It gives a description of the whole world thereafter. Now, this is the fundamental psychic knowledge, the knowledge of the soul. Again I am doing a great injustice to the Veda because I am speaking as if it is so simple and so brief as that, but it is not so. There are hundreds and thousands of verses on this knowledge in the Veda. It is this psychic being which is presided over by hamsa; hamsa is another algebraic term. Hamsa means swan. Over this mystic Fire is a swan which is tied up, according to the Veda, in hundreds nets, and cannot flutter its wings. It is in bondage. But, in this bondage, there is a tremendous battle going on. What is this battle?
In the Veda you find the great story of the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness. The forces of Light are called the Gods. The forces of Darkness are called Dasyus, Panis, Pishachas, Rakshasas, Asuras. There is a great battle between the two. If you want to fight the battle, this battle can be fought, and it can be fought systematically. This is the yoga of the Veda: the mystic discipline by which the psychic being and the soul, which are caught in this great battle, can be liberated. So the first step is the discovery of the mystic Fire within you. This is the first step in the mystic discipline of the Veda. Veda, Sri Aurobindo discovered, is a great book of Yoga. It is not any superstition or magic or any kind of barbaric mantras meant to get some gains here and there. It is a knowledge of the battle of Life. It is a revelation of the real nature of Life: suddenly, in harmony, disharmony comes about. Suddenly, when Rama is to be crowned, Kaikeyi happens to demand certain things overnight; Rama is thrown out and a great tragedy occurs; a battle takes place and only after the battle does the victory come. So, in human life, there are forces of Darkness and forces of Light which are described in detail in the Veda—what are the Gods; and the whole knowledge of the Gods, and how they can help. The Vedic seers found out the existence of the Gods, not as imaginations, or formations, or premonitions, but the real, objective existence of the Gods, and they found out the names of these Gods — the names, the meaning, the secret of each God — the function of each God. It is as if you are going to a Ministry, and you find out who is the minister and who is the secretary and who is the clerk and who is the cashier, what is the function of each one. Unless you know this, you can never succeed in a Ministry. Similarly, in the Ministry of the world, you cannot succeed unless you know who are the Gods, and what are their functions.
Very briefly I shall give only a few clues. As you rise up and kindle your mystic Fire, the first one that comes in answer is Indra. Indra is a name of a God whom Sri Aurobindo describes algebraically as the God of the illumined mind. You, first of all, come into contact with the illumined mind. He descends, that is his nature — Agni always ascends, the fire always rises up in aspiration. In answer there is a descent of the illumined mind. This is the first God that comes to your help. But he is very powerful and he is able to fight tremendously with the demons. But then, that is not enough. You gain a lot, but that is not the end of the story, you still have to rise higher. And higher than Indra is swah: this is a very special word in the Veda. It is present in the Gayatri mantra.
Om bhur bhuvah swah
tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
Swah is constantly used in the Vedic lore. This swah is a light which has condensed itself by constant rising of the mystic Fire and the constant descent of Indra. It is a very beautiful world of Light. You come across this world of Light. But even that is not the Supreme Light. It is only the medium Light. There is a very famous proposition made in the Veda to distinguish between darkness, the intermediate light, and the Supreme Light. It is said in the Chhandogya Upanishad that Ghora speaks one word to Krishna and gives him the Supreme Knowledge. That mantra he gives is as follows:
udvayam tamasaspari svah pashyanta uttaram
devam devatra suryamaganma jyotiruttamam
This is the mantra: we went beyond darkness and saw the intermediate Light which is swah, but then we did not stop there; we went further; we went to the Gods; we went to Surya, Suryam, we went to the Supreme Light, jyotiruttamam, (it is a jyoti which is uttamam, Supreme). Swah is an intermediate Light. The Supreme Light is uttamam, it is Surya, the sun. The sun, Sri Aurobindo says, is the symbol of the Supermind in the Veda. But before you enter into the Supermind, there are four Gods who stand as sentries. They will not allow you to enter into the sun, into the Supreme realm. You have to be qualified. Who are these four Gods? Varuna — Varuna is the God of Vastness. Unless you become very vast, you cannot enter into it. The narrow-minded can never enter into it. That is why Sri Aurobindo constantly says: widen yourself. This is a Vedic knowledge: Unless you widen yourself fully, you cannot enter into the Supreme Supermind.
The second is Mitra. Varuna is always accompanied by Mitra. Mitra is the God of harmony. As long as you quarrel, you can never enter into that Light. That is certain. There must be harmony, a tapasya of harmony and vastness.
Then comes Aryaman. Aryaman is the Lord of austerity. Great tapasya, the fullness of tapasya you must do, greatest effort, you must master the effort itself.
And then Bhaga. Bhaga is the God of enjoyment. Unless you know how to enjoy truly, you cannot enter into the Supermind. But enjoy truly, that is to say. Usually a small joy is enough to make us dance and flutter and throw away all the energies. You should be able to contain the highest joy in yourself without shaking. In the Veda it is said that when the great soma, the great nectar, falls into the unbaked jar, this jar breaks down. It is only when you are purified, thoroughly purified that your jar becomes baked, and if the joy falls into it, you can hold it. This capacity to hold the joy allows you to enter into the Supermind. This is also called the attainment of Immortality. Amritam. This was the great achievement of the Vedic Rishis. The soul which is tied into hundred nets — the swan which wants to fly, which cannot fly and has to battle — goes beyond Indra into swah, and goes beyond swah to Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga, enters into Surya. And then comes soma. The highest is soma, the great delight. When that delight can be held in the body, that is Immortality. This was the greatest achievement of the Vedic Rishis. Sri Aurobindo has written about this in a chapter called, “The Victory of the Fathers”. That was the Victory of the Vedic Rishis.
To hold the Supermind in the body was the highest achievement of the Vedic Rishis but Sri Aurobindo found that that was not enough. There is a distinction between the Veda and Sri Aurobindo’s discovery. There is one step farther — not one step farther. Mother told me that Sri Aurobindo is not a logical continuity of the past. It is not as if you continue what they were doing and then you get Sri Aurobindo’s path. No. It is something newly discovered. That is why Mother said: Sri Aurobindo does not belong to the past or to history. He is constantly fabricating the future. It was not known that apart from holding the Supreme Light in the body, there is also a possibility of the permeation of Light in the body. Now, this was the new knowledge that Sri Aurobindo gave in his yoga. It is a permeation, a penetration. It is only when there is a permeation of this light into the cells of the body that the human species can be turned into the supramental species. So one can see how much one needs to know the Vedic yoga to understand Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, and how much certainty and confirmation you get by reading the Vedic yoga. One will get many clues in the Veda, in large amplitude; and if Auroville is to be the cradle of this Superman, in which the light of the Supermind has to permeate into the cells of the body, then the Vedic knowledge is indispensable.