The Veda in the Light of Sri Aurobindo
The Veda or at least the Samhita of the Rigveda appears to be the earliest literary composition of humanity. There might have been earlier or contemporaneous compositions but they seem to have been lost in the tides and ebbs of time and we do not know what thoughts and aspirations they might have expressed. Considering, however, that there was, in the earlier stages, a remarkable tradition of mysteries, Orphic and Eleusinian in Greece, of occult lore and magic in Egypt and Chaldea, of Magi in Persia, and of the Rishis in India, there might have been in them something common but what could have been their contents, can probably be imagined only with the aid of the Veda, which is the only remnant of its kind of those early times.
How old is the Veda is not known and there are speculations and considerations, which supposed for
it an almost enormous antiquity. However, the text of the Veda that we possess today seems to have remained uncorrupted for over two thousand years because an accurate text, accurate in every syllable, accurate in every accent, was a matter of supreme importance to Vedic ritualists. The sanctity of the text prevented such interpolations, alterations and modernising versions as have affected the text form of the Mahabharata.
There does not seem to be much doubt that the Samhita has substantially remained unaltered, after it was arranged by the great sage and compiler Vyasa. Thanks to the fidelity of the ancient memorisers and their successors, who continue their tradition to the present day, we have a text, which does not call for the licentious labour of emendation. In the fixed tradition of the Veda, which extends in India over at least four thousand years, it has been held as authoritative and true in the Brahmans and the Upanishads, Tantra and Puranas, in the doctrines of great orthodox philosophical schools and in the teachings of famous saints and sages.
The very term Veda means knowledge and by knowledge, the tradition means the knowledge of the highest spiritual truth of which the human mind is capable. In contrast, the current interpretations of the
Veda and those of modern western scholars lead us to the conclusion that the sublime sacred tradition of the Veda as the book of knowledge is a colossal fiction. According to them, the Vedic text contains nothing more than the naïve, superstitious fancies of the untaught and materialistic barbarians, concerned only with the most external gains and enjoyments and ignorant of all but the most elementary moral notions or religious aspirations. They acknowledge, of course, occasional passages of some profound meaning but they are viewed as quite out of harmony with the general drift of the entire corpus. They want us to believe that the true foundation or starting-point of the later religions and philosophies is the Upanishad; and the Upanishad, in turn, is required to be conceived by us as a revolt of philosophical and speculative minds against the ritualistic materialism of the Vedas.
How are we to understand this contradiction? How can we escape or resolve this contradiction? As we turn the pages of the Vedic literature, we fall into various kinds of confusions, and although we might gain some insights here and there, it is only in Sri Aurobindo that we find a clear statement of the problem and its solution. It is interesting to note that Sri Aurobindo himself had, to begin with, accepted without examination, before himself reading the
Veda, the conclusions of European scholarship both as to religious and historical as well as ethical sense of the Vedic hymns.
It was only after his arrival in Pondicherry in 1910 that in the course of his yogic experiences, his thoughts seriously turned to the Veda. We must remember that by the time he had arrived in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo had already been firmly established in two basic realisations of yoga, and had made a discovery as a basis of his third great realisation of the transition between the mind and the supermind and to the supermind itself.
The first realisation was that of the transcendental silent Brahman. He had attained to this realisation within three days of his concentration at Baroda, in 1907, when under the instruction of an adept, Lele, he could bring about utter silence of the mind.
His second major realisation had come to him when he was detained in Alipore jail in 1908 during the course of his trial under the charge of sedition. It was in the jail that the earlier realisation of the silent Brahman expanded into the realisation of the universal dynamic Divine, and he realised the dynamic presence and action of Sri Krishna Vasudeva everywhere. It was again in the same jail
that Sri Aurobindo heard the voice of Swami Vivekananda for a fortnight and received the knowledge of planes of consciousness between the mind and the supermind.
After his acquittal from the jail, Sri Aurobindo continued the inner yogic development, which led him to leave Calcutta under the direct command of the Divine, and arrive at Pondicherry, after a short sojourn at Chandernagore. At Chandernagore, Sri Aurobindo lived in deep meditation, where while in his descending process of Yoga, he had reached the last level of physical subconscient, in his ascending process, he had vision to the extreme Overmind border. At a certain stage of intensity, Sri Aurobindo found himself precipitated into the Supreme light. He had touched the Supermind.
After coming to Pondicherry, when he began to study the Veda, Sri Aurobindo discovered that the Supermind was a lost secret of the Veda. He found, in the Rigveda, many clues to his own experiences, and came to understand how the Vedic Rishis had opened the great passage, mahas panthah. He himself has given brief indications of his discovery of the secret of the Veda, and they are so interesting that we may refer to some of them here:
“My first contact with Vedic thought came
indirectly while pursuing certain lines of selfdevelopment in the way of Indian Yoga, which, without my knowing it, were spontaneously converging towards the ancient and now unfrequented paths followed by our forefathers. At this time there began to arise in my mind an arrangement of symbolic names attached to certain psychological experiences which had begun to regularise themselves; and among them there came the figures of three female energies, Ila, Saraswati, Sarama, representing severally three out of the four faculties of the intuitive reason, – revelation, inspiration and intuition…
…It did not take long to see that the Vedic indications of a racial division between Aryans and Dasyus and the identification of the latter with the indigenous Indians were of a far flimsier character than I had supposed. But far more interesting to me was the discovery of a considerable body of profound psychological thought and experience lying neglected in these ancient hymns. And the importance of this element increased in my eyes when I found, first, that the mantras of the Veda illuminated with a clear and exact light, psychological experiences of my own for which I had found no sufficient explanation either in European psychology or in the teachings of Yoga or of Vedanta,
so far as I was acquainted with them, and, secondly that they shed light on obscure passages and ideas of the Upanishads to which, previously, I could attach no exact meaning and gave at the same time a new sense to much in the Puranas.”1
There is a profound statement in one of the hymns of Vamadeva, where the poet speaks of secret words of knowledge that expressed their meaning only to the seer: “ninya vacamsi nivacana kavaye kavyani.” This statement appears to be illustrated strikingly when we see that the secret words of the Veda that were ignored by the priest, the ritualist, grammarian, pundit, historian and mythologist, revealed their secret to the seer-poet, Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s experiences confirm the belief of the Vedic Rishis that their mantras were inspired from a higher hidden plane of consciousness and contained a secret knowledge and that the words of the Veda could only be known in their true meaning by one who is himself a seer or a mystic.
In one of the hymns of the Rigveda, the Vedic word is described (Rigveda X.71) as that which is supreme and the topmost height of speech, the best and the most faultless. It has been said that it is something that is hidden in secrecy and from there comes out and is manifested. It enters, we are told,
into the truth-seers or Rishis and it is found by following their track of the speech. We are told that all cannot enter into its secret meaning. It is declared that those who do not know the inner sense are as men who though seeing, see not, hearing, hear not; only to one here and there, the Word desiring him, like a beautifully robed wife to a husband lays open her body. We are further told that others unable to drink steadily of the milk of the Word, the Vedic cow, move with it as one that gives no milk, to him the Word is a tree without flowers or fruits. All this seems to be confirmed in Sri Aurobindo’s experience of the Vedic hymns. It seems, as though, as soon as Sri Aurobindo touched the Vedic Word, the inner and secret vibrations of that Word began to reveal its resonances with his spiritual experiences and that Word began to reveal its secret.
The hymns of the Veda possess, according to Sri Aurobindo, a finished metrical form, a constant subtlety and skill in the technique, great variations of style and poetical personality. They are not, he asserts, the works of rude, barbarous, and primitive craftsmen, but are the living breath of a supreme and conscious art, forming its creations in the puissant but well governed movement of a self-observing inspiration.
Vedic poetry is mantric poetry, and as Sri Aurobindo points out in his ‘The Future Poetry’, the mantra is only possible when three highest intensities of speech meet and become indissolubly one, _ a highest intensity of rhythmic movement, a highest intensity of interwoven verbal form and thoughtsubstance, of style, and a highest intensity of the soul’s vision of truth. The Vedic poets are, in Sri Aurobindo’s view, masters of a consummate technique and 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.
Sri Aurobindo discovered in the utterances of the greatest seers Vishwamitra, Vamadeva, Dirghatamas and many others, the most extraordinary heights and amplitudes of a sublime and mystic poetry. Sri Aurobindo concluded that 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 he found that all the future spirituality of Indian people was contained there in seed or in first expression.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the Vedic Rishis had discovered secrets and powers of Nature, which were not those of the physical world but which could bring occult mastery over the physical world and physical things and to transmit and systematise that occult knowledge and power was also one of their serious occupations. Elaborating this point, he says:
“But all this could only be safely done by a difficult and careful training, discipline, purification of the nature; it could not be done by the ordinary man. If men entered into these things without a severe test and training it would be dangerous to themselves and others; this knowledge, these powers could be misused, misinterpreted, turned from truth to falsehood, from good to evil. A strict secrecy was therefore maintained, the knowledge handed down behind a veil from master to disciple. A veil of symbols was created behind which these mysteries could shelter, formulas of speech also which could be understood by the initiated but were either not known by others or were taken by them in an outward sense which carefully covered their true meaning and secret.”2
Sri Aurobindo proceeded, in due course, to study Brahmanas and the Upanishads, and various other interpretations of the Veda. He examined Vedic scholars, beginning from Yaska ending with Sayana, studied the mythological, legendary and historical elements, tested the modern theories and other reliance on comparative philology, studied Tilak’s contributions, Swami Dayananda’s interpretation as also the thesis put forward by Mr. Ayer. He finally came to frame a hypothesis on which he conducted his own inquiry. According to this hypothesis:
“The Veda has a double aspect and that the two, though closely related, must be kept apart. The Rishis arranged the substance of their thought in a system of parallelism by which the same deities were at once internal and external Powers of universal Nature, and they managed its expression through a system of double values by which the same language served for their worship in both aspects. But the psychological sense predominates and is more pervading, close-knit and coherent than the physical. The Veda is primarily intended to serve for spiritual enlightenment and self-culture.”3
The task that Sri Aurobindo undertook was to restore the primary intention of the Veda, and in this task he welcomed each of the ancient and modern
systems of interpretation and found in each of them an indispensable assistance. He found that Yaska and Sayana supplied the ritualistic framework of outward symbols and the large store of traditional significances and explanations. In the Upanishads, he found various clues to the psychological and philosophical ideas of the Vedic Rishis, and he underlined their method of spiritual experience and intuition. In European scholarship, he appreciated the critical method of comparative research, which when perfected, would be found capable of increasing immensely the materials available and, therefore, eventually, of giving a scientific certainty and firm intellectual basis. From Swami Dayananda, he received the clue to the linguistic secrets of the Rishis and the idea of the One Being with the Devas, expressing in numerous names and forms the manysidedness of His unity.
According to the psychological theory, which Sri Aurobindo has presented in his The Secret of the Veda and Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Veda recognises an Unknowable, Timeless, Unnameable behind and above all things, and not seizable by the studious pursuits of the mind. A clear enunciation of this view
is to be found in the Rigveda, in the first Mandala, in the 170th Sukta, where Indra declares:
“It is not now, nor is It tomorrow; who knoweth That which is Supreme and Wonderful? It has motion and action in the consciousness of another, but when It is approached by the thought, It vanishes.”
Impersonally, it is That, – the one existence, – tad ekam, but to the pursuit of our personality it reveals itself out of the secrecy of things as God or deva, the nameless that has many names.
The Supreme Reality is divine existence, builder of the worlds, Lord and begetter of all beings, Male and Female, Being and Consciousness, Father and Mother of the worlds and their inhabitants. He is also their son, and ours; for he is the Divine Child born into the worlds, who manifests himself in the growth of the creature.
The Supreme Reality is a triple divine principle and the source of the Beatitude. That Reality, the deva, is the Friend and Lover of man, the pastoral Master of the Herds, who gives us the sweet milk and the clarified butter from the udder of the shinning cow of the infinitude, Aditi. This deva is to be found by the soul of man who soars as the Bird,– the Hamsa, passes the shinning firmaments of
physical and mental consciousness, climbs as a traveller and fighter beyond earth of body, and heaven of mind and ascends on the path of the Truth. When the soul discovers the Truth, it attains to the ambrosial wine of divine delight. By drinking that delight, Soma, which is drawn from the sevenfold waters of existence, or pressed out from the luminous plant of the hill of being and uplifted by its raptures, it attains to immortality.
The path to the truth and immortality has been built by the fathers, pitarah, and they, too, like the gods, help us in our journey. There are Ribhus, those ancient human beings, who had attained to the condition of godhead by power of knowledge and perfection in their works and they are invited to participate in our human journey to fashion for us the things of immortality even as they had fashioned for themselves.
Our life here is a battle in which armies clash to help or hinder a supreme conquest. This battle was fought by the human fathers, pitaro manushyah, the divine Angirasas, and they had attained a great victory, which can come to us also by following the path that they have hewn for us. The Angirasas are the hill-breakers, the givers of the oblation, dwellers in the heat and light, slayers of the Vritra, conquerors
of the foes. Angirasas seek the conquest of the world of swar, – the fourth world of the Vedic knowledge.
The thought by which the swar is conquered is the seven-headed thought born from the Truth. It was discovered by Ayasya, the companion of the navagvas. The seven-headed thought of Ayasya enabled him to become universal, possessor of all the worlds of the soul, and by becoming universal, he manifested a certain fourth world, turiyam svid janayad vishwa-janyah. The conquest of the fourth world was the aim of the great work accomplished by the Angirasa Rishis. We, too, are called upon to make that conquest and like the Angirasas, we, too, can attain to the secret well of honey and pour out the bellowing fountains of sweetness in manifold streams. These streams are, indeed, those seven rivers poured down the hill by Indra after slaying Vritra, – the streams of truth, the seven principles of consciousness in their divine fulfilment in the truth and bliss.
These seven principles explain the complex systems of the world, which we find both within and without, subjectively cognised and objectively sensed. It is a rising tier of earths and heavens. These seers often image them in a series of trios. There are three earths and three heavens. There is a triple world
below consisting of heaven, earth, and intervening mid-region, – dyau, prithvi and antariksha. There is a triple world between, the shinning heavens of the sun; and there is a triple world above, – the supreme and rapturous abodes of the godheads.
In other words, there are seven worlds in principle, five in practice, three in their general groupings:
|1. The Supreme Sat-Chit-Ananda||The Triple Divine worlds|
|2. The Link-world Supermind||The Truth, Right, Vast, manifested in Swar, with its three luminous heavens|
|3. The triple lower-world Pure Mind||Heaven (Dyaus, the three heavens)|
|Life-force||The Mid-Regi on (Antarisksha)|
|Matter||Earth (The Three Earths)|
We draw from the life-world our vital being. We draw from the mind-world our mentality; we are ever in secret communication with them. We can consciously dwell in them. We can also rise into solar worlds of the Truth and enter into the portals of the
Superconscient, cross the threshold of the Supreme.
The divine doors can swing open to our ascending soul. The human ascension provides significance to the life of man. Man can rise beyond mind and live in the home of the gods, Cosmic Powers who unyoke their horses in the world of the Supermind, the world of the Truth-consciousness. Man, who ascends to that Truth-Consciousness, strives no longer as a thinker but is victoriously the seer. He is no more manishi; he is a rishi. His will, life, thought, emotions, sense, act are all transformed into values of peace and truth and remain no longer an embarrassed or a helpless vehicle of mixed truth and falsehood. He follows a swift and conquering straightness. He feeds no longer on broken fragments but is suckled by the teats of Infinity. He has to break through and pass out beyond our normal firmaments of earth and heaven and conquering firm possession of the solar worlds, entering on to his highest Heights, he has to learn how to dwell in the triple principle of Immortality.
The secret of ascension is sacrifice. The Vedic sacrifice is symbolic in character. Just as we find in the Gita the word yajña used in symbolic sense for all actions, whether internal or external, even so, the
Vedic yajña is psychological in character to indicate that all action is consecrated to the gods or to the Supreme. If yajña is the action consecrated to the gods, then the yajamana, the sacrificer, is the doer of the action. The offerings of yajña are principally ghrita and soma. Ghrita, which means clarified butter, indicates in its esoteric sense rich or warm brightness representing clarity of thought. Soma is the delight that is born from the purification of all the members of the being, widely spread out of the sieve of purification.4
The fruits of the offering are also symbolical, namely, cows, horses, gold, offspring, men, physical strength, victory in battle. Physical light is psychologically a symbol of divine knowledge. Cow and horse symbolise two companion ideas of light and energy – consciousness and force, – chit shakti. Offsprings are symbolically flowers of new consciousness, while men and physical strength are symbolical of spiritual valour and courage. The gods to whom sacrifice is to be offered have psychological functions. To the Vedic seers they are living realities. They are not simple poetic personifications of abstract ideas; they are beings of the Supreme Being.
The first god to be invited to our human journey in our sacrifice is Agni, which symbolises the seventongued power of the soul, a force of God instinct with knowledge. Agni opens the way for the action of Indra, who symbolises the power of pure existence, self-manifested as the divine mind. As Agni rises upward from earth to heaven, so Indra is the light instinct with force, which descends from heaven to earth. Indra comes down to our world as the hero with shinning horses and slays darkness and division with his lightning, poured down in the lifegiving heavenly waters, finds in the trace of the hound, Sarama, symbolising intuition, the lost or hidden illuminations. He makes that Sun of Truth mount high in the heaven of our mentality.
Surya is the sun, the master of the Supreme Truth, truth of being, truth of knowledge, truth of possession and act and movement and functioning. Surya is also Savitri, the creator or manifester of all things, and illuminations we seek are the herds of this Sun, who come to us in the track of Usha, who symbolises the divine dawn. These illuminations lead us up to the highest beatitude, which is symbolised by Soma.
But if the truth of Surya is to be established firmly in our mortal nature, there are four conditions
that are indispensable: First, we have to establish Varuna who symbolises vast purity and clear wideness destructive of all sins and crooked falsehood. Varuna is always accompanied by Mitra, who symbolises the luminous power of love and comprehension, leading and forming into harmony our thoughts, acts and impulses. But this is not enough; we have to establish in us an immortal puissance of clear, discerning aspiration symbolised by Aryaman. The last condition is that of happy spontaneity of the right enjoyment of all things dispelling the evil dream of sin and error and suffering. This condition is fulfilled by Bhaga.
There are many other gods as Vayu, the master of life-energy, Brihaspati, the power of the soul; Ashwins, the lords of bliss; Vishnu, the all-pervading godhead; and Shiva and Rudra, the mighty, who breaks down all defective formations and who is also the supreme healer.
There are also female energies, among whom Aditi, infinite mother of the gods, comes first, and there are five powers of truth-consciousness: mahi or bharati – vast word; Ila, the power of revelation; Saraswati, the power of inspiration; Sarama, the power of intuition, the hound of heaven, who descends into the cavern of the subconscient and
finds from there hidden illuminations; and dakshina, the power to discern rightly, to dispose the action and the offering and to distribute in the sacrifice to each godhead its portion. Each god, too, has his female energy.
In our ascension, we need to develop all the powers, symbolised by various godheads, so that we may attain to perfection. Perfection must be attained at all our levels, in the wideness of earth, our physical being and consciousness; in the full force of vital speed and action and enjoyment and nervous vibrations typified as the horse; in the perfect gladness of heart of emotion and a brilliant heat and clarity of mind throughout our intellectual and psychical being, in the coming of supramental light, which would transform all our existence; so comes the possession of truth, and by the truth admirable surge of the bliss and in the bliss infinite consciousness and absolute being.
Thus in the psychological theory, the Veda emerges as a great record of wisdom, already equipped with a profound psychological discipline. In Sri Aurobindo’s words:
“(Veda is) a Scripture not confused in thought or primitive in its substance, not a medley of heterogeneous or barbarous elements, but one, complete
and self-conscious in its purpose and in its purport, veiled indeed by the cover, sometimes thick, sometimes transparent, of another and material sense but never losing sight even for a single moment of its high spiritual aim and tendency.”5
The psychological theory was put forward by Sri Aurobindo as a hypothesis and the evidence that he adduced in his great book, The Secret of the Veda establishes very clearly a prima facie case for the idea that the Vedic hymns are the symbolic gospel of the ancient Indian mystics and that their sense is spiritual and psychological. The soundness of the hypothesis comes out of the fact that the spiritual and psychological sense of the Veda clearly emerges from the language of the Veda itself. Sri Aurobindo showed that there are clear indications in the explicit language of the hymns which guide us to that sense. This was further supported by the interpretation of each important symbol and image and the right psychological functions of the gods. This was based on the internal evidence of the Vedic Suktas themselves. The sense discovered for each of the fixed terms of the Vedas is a firm and not a fluctuating sense founded on good philological
foundation and fitting naturally into the context wherever it occurs. The reason for this firmness lies in the fact that the language of the hymns is fixed and invariable. The Vedic language is like an algebraic language, and it has been scrupulously preserved. The Vedic diction consistently expresses either a formal creed and ritual or a traditional doctrine and constant experience. Indeed, if the hypothesis had to be thoroughly established, it would have been necessary to translate all the hymns of the Vedas and to show that the interpretation of Sri Aurobindo fits in naturally and easily in every context.
Sri Aurobindo had a plan to undertake this huge task but it could not be undertaken for want of time. In The Secret of the Veda, the object that Sri Aurobindo had put forward was only to indicate the clue that he himself had received the path and its principal turnings, the results that he had arrived at and the main indications by which the Veda itself helps us to arrive at them. But after completing The Secret of the Veda, he undertook translation of all the Agni Suktas of the Rigveda and these translations establish his hypothesis on a very secure foundation.
More than foundational work has been accomplished and any researcher, who wants to
undertake any further task, will find ample aid in Sri Aurobindo’s The Secret of the Veda and Hymns to the Mystic Fire.
It may be further mentioned that Sri Aurobindo wrote long commentaries on Ishopanishad and Kenopanishad. He translated also several other important Upanishads. These commentaries and translations show us the continuity between the Veda as Sri Aurobindo interpreted it and the Upanishads and suggests that the body of ideas and doctrines, which are found in the Upanishads, bore a more antique form of subsequent Indian thought and spiritual experience. This suggestion is further strengthened by what Sri Aurobindo has written in his Foundation of Indian Culture, on Indian religion and spirituality as also on the Veda, Upanishads and on the subsequent Indian literature.
Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita helps us also in coming closer to the original sense of the Veda and, in that light, to a profounder sense of the Gita itself.
Sri Aurobindo looks upon the Veda as a record of Yogic experiences of our leading forefathers. He considers these experiences to serve as the seeds of the later developments of the Indian Yoga, including his own Integral Yoga. And when we study profundities
of Integral Yoga and its relevance to our contemporary times, we cannot fail to appreciate the decisive presence and influence in it of the lofty and rich experiences of the Vedic Rishis. And we feel deeply grateful that by uncovering the inner sense of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo has made the Vedic fund of knowledge available to our present day humanity and has also shown how that fund of knowledge must be made alive if we are to solve the critical problems of our times.
In its scientific tradition, Yoga is an everprogressive open book where ancient Rishis had handed over their riches of experience to the new Rishis for further enlargement and exploration. In the light of this, although Veda is regarded as authoritative, since spiritual experiences carry their own authority of veracity, the Veda is not the last word. The Vedic Rishis had themselves declared in the first Mandala itself: “The priest of the Word climbs Thee like a ladder, O hundred powered; as one ascends from peak to peak, there is made clear the much that has still to be done.”6
In the Indian tradition, therefore, the experiences of past seers and sages have not only been verified and repeated but even intensified, enlarged, modified, even surpassed by the new seers and sages. It is
ecognised that the Divine is infinite and the unrolling of the Truth allows room for new discoveries, new statements and even new achievements. Sri Chaitanya and others, for example, developed an intensity of bhakti, which was absent in the Veda, and examples of this kind can be multiplied. Sri Aurobindo’s own Integral Yoga marks a new development. Although in its integrality and synthesis, it absorbs all essential elements to be found in the Vedas and Upanishads and in the rest of Yogic traditions, which can contribute to the attainment of the new aim that has been envisaged, the central idea in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga is to lead spiritual evolution to the next stage of the mutation of human species by bringing down the Supermind as the means of complete transformation of Nature. The idea of the Supermind, the Truthconsciousness, is there in the Rigveda, according to Sri Aurobindo’s psychological theory of the Veda. For the Veda speaks of the discovery of the world of truth, right and the vast, satyam, ritam and brihat, which defines the nature of the Supermind. The idea of the Supermind is also present in the Upanishads when we see it in the conception of Being of Knowledge, _ vijnanamaya Purusha, exceeding the mental, vital and physical being. But going beyond all this, Sri Aurobindo envisages the working of the
supramental power not only as an influence on the physical being, giving it abnormal faculties, but as an entrance and permeation, changing it wholly into a supramentalised physical.
Sri Aurobindo did not learn the idea of the Supermind from the Veda and the Upanishads. What he received about the Supermind was a direct, not a derived knowledge. It was only afterwards that he found certain confirmatory revelations in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Nonetheless, to learn that the Supramental was discovered by the Vedic Rishis and that they had developed profound psychological discipline of the ascent of human consciousness and of the descent of the divine consciousness so as to facilitate the discovery of the Supermind must be considered to be of inestimable value.
In the development of knowledge, past gains give surer basis for the future development. The Vedic knowledge of the Supermind must, therefore, be regarded by the progressive humanity of today as a great boon and heritage which we must recover as a living aid in our forward march of evolution. This is, in any case, what we learn from what Sri Aurobindo has done in regard to the Veda, its psychological discipline, its discovery of the Supermind and many other important details of the Vedic Yoga.
Let me conclude by quoting from Sri Aurobindo what he wrote in his earliest manuscripts on the Veda:
“I seek not science, not religion, not Theosophy, but Veda, the truth about Brahman, not only about His essentiality, but about His manifestation, not a lamp on the way to the forest, but a light and a guide to joy and action in the world…I believe that the future of India and the world to depend on its discovery and on its application, not to the renunciation of life, but to life and the world and among men… The Veda was the beginning of our spiritual knowledge; the Veda will remain its end. These compositions of an unknown antiquity are as the many breasts of eternal Mother of knowledge from which our succeeding ages have all been fed. The recovery of the perfect truth of the Veda is therefore not merely a desideratum for our modern intellectual curiosity, but a practical necessity for the future of the human race. For I believe firmly that the secret concealed in the Veda, when entirely discovered, will be found to formulate perfectly that knowledge and practice of a divine life to which the march of humanity, after long wanderings in the satisfaction of the intellect and senses, must inevitably return.”7
1 Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Centenary Edition, pp.34-7.
2 Sri Aurobindo, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, Centenary Edition, p.4
3 Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Centenary Edition, p.30
4 See the first Sukta of the ninth Mandala of the Rigveda, which speaks of the widespread sieve of purification. It states further: “He tastes not that delight who is unripe and whose body has not suffered in the heat of the fire; they alone are able to bear that and enjoy it who have been prepared by the flame.”
5 Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Centenary Edition, p.44
6 Rigveda, I. 10.1,2
7 Sri Aurobindo, India’s Rebirth, pp.90, 94-5.