So most of the people who are in the West, who are critiques of religion, if they allow religion to flourish it is only on the grounds of healthy mindedness, it is something in which people should believe because it gives you health. Children always require mothers, they turn to their mothers. Humanity is infantile, we are all small children, afraid of so many things, we therefore return to our mother or some figure of Godhead, father, mother or Supreme Reality, you may believe in and that is the whole explanation of religion.
Now that theory fitted very well with the experiences of the Veda. Now it is very important that when you read the Veda, much of it is incomprehensible, real text of the Veda. Of course there are many, many verses which are very clear, but a large number of hymns, large number of terms, words, they are extremely difficult to interpret. There is also a theory in India that Vedas are only words. Words have effectivity. There are no meanings of these words and don’t try to find the meaning at all. The Westerners do not think that the words have no meaning, they have tried to penetrate, and I must say that we must give a great credit to many scholars of the West, who have tried to study the Vedas. Rightly or wrongly they have interpreted the Vedas. Even the great Max Mueller for example, he translated but after doing that he wrote a letter to his wife saying that I have now finished my work, when people will read what the Veda contains they will see the futility of it, the primitiveness of it, and they will see the greatnesses of Christianity – this is Max Mueller writing to his wife. It is a secret communication between him and his wife, but now of course available, but this is what he ultimately arrived at that Veda is a very primitive document having hardly any meaning in it at all, something very incoherent and full of allusions to things which are incomprehensible. You take the whole lot of the Western scholars who have translated the Vedas and interpreted them, they also use what is called philological method, to find a great connection between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek and having found a lot of connection between these languages, they have declared that the Sanskrit language and the so called Rishis of the Veda, they had migrated from the West, descended from the West and came and entered into India and invaded India and the Veda is simply a story of the invasion of the Aryan race which came from outside and which drove away the Tamilians from the North and threw them out into the South. This whole division of India into North and South was created by this theory of Aryan invasion.
Now Sri Aurobindo says that when he came to Pondicherry and began to study the Veda he found, because now he had experiences, so he could not say this is all primitive but he also found that this division of the northern and the southern races, itself is a fiction. He came across so many Tamil friends and he said the physiology, physiognomy of the friends in Tamilnadu was not different from the physiognomy of his Bengali friends, or Rajputs, or from Gujaratis or Marathis. So he said I don’t understand how this false theory has come into prominence in India. Dasuyas are supposed to be nose less but he said Tamils nose can give a very good account of itself. Where is this nose less Dasuyus, and where is the beautiful nose of Viyayantimala, or of the present beautiful women of the South, handsome men of the South? What is the distinction between the two? The whole theory collapsed before him.
It is at this stage that Sri Aurobindo began to study the idea of the sacrifice, which is the most important element in the Veda. The entire Vedic literature is rooted in the concept of sacrifice – Yajya. And he found that this word sacrifice is a symbolic word and the three offerings which are normally made, one is the offering of ghee, ghritam, ghritamtivram, the second is Soma wine is also an offering and third is a cake made of cereals. These are three offerings of Yajya and he made a study of these three particularly as to what is ghrita in the Veda, what is Soma in the Veda and what is this cake? And he found that these three words are symbolic words. They are not to be identified necessarily with the ordinary things that we think to be ghee and Soma etc. They have symbolic meaning. Then he found the words like hota, adhvaryu, ritvik, many priests, these words are used not only for human beings but are also used for the Gods. It’s not that a human being is a purohit, even the very first sukta Agnimile purohitam yajnasya devamritvijam hotaram ratnadhatamam all epithets of Agni. Agni is a God. Why is it that these epithets are applied to Gods? There must be some symbolic meaning in it, so he made a study of this aspect also. And then he began to study and found that if these keywords are understood etymologically, philologically and by equivalence which is in Sanskrit in profusion and the use of shelasha, which is also profuse in the Veda and literature and particularly in later classical Sanskrit also shelasha is one of the very important figures of speech. And this led Sri Aurobindo to make a study of origins of Aryan speech. And there his own mastery of Greek and Latin was a great help because he found by his study of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and he found Tamil to be inevitable link in this understanding of the development of languages. So his conclusion was that Tamil is not a language, very distant from Sanskrit. According to him there was one pre Sanskritic language of which both Sanskrit and Tamil are descendents. And some of the links that you get in development of Greek and Latin can be found only if you go via Tamil. It is a very vast subject and it is not the main subject of our study here but this is a very important study which Sri Aurobindo actually wanted to write a full book, he has only written one chapter of that book, he didn’t find time to write more. It is a very instructive chapter ‘Origins of the Aryan Speech’ that is the title of his book. He found that Tamil is not a language of a race different from the Aryans. The whole of India consists of one homogeneous group of people, and the distinction that is made between the Dravidian languages and the Aryan languages is also fictional. Of course now we know that Tamil itself has 50% of Sanskrit words, Telugu has 80% of Sanskrit words and so Malayalam also a large number of percentage of words of Sanskrit. To give one example, Sri Aurobindo says: the word amma in Tamil surely is not derived from matri, janani, if there was a great connection between the two, these are the immediate words on which you can test a language because these are the primitive words of any language, mother, father, brother, sister, automatically one turns to these words. And if there is a great connection you can immediately find a connection, so if you see amma in Tamil and janani, and mata there is no connection, but surely there is a connection between amba and amma and amba is a Sanskrit word. Similarly for example – child, in Sanskrit aapatya and in Tamil not the child but the father is called appa. So usually there is a kind of transference between child and the father; very often you describe the child as father. In affection very often you call your child your father.
Sri Aurobindo has made a detailed study, because he learnt all the languages very well, so he was an authority in this subject and he established that Dravidian languages and so called Northern languages are derived from one original language. Now what I am saying is only a preliminary of a vast study that Sri Aurobindo conducted thereafter and his entire book ‘The Secret of the Veda’ is based upon this vast study and as I said not an intellectual study but a study based upon his experiences.
In order to arrive at a better understanding of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo also refers to two great studies which have been made, one by Sayana, another by Dayanand Saraswati, in recent times. Of course here we have a great tradition of Madhusudan Ojha, of which Bhargav Ji is an authority but in Sri Aurobindo’s writings there is no reference to the writings of Madhusudan Ojha. But while interpreting the Veda, Sri Aurobindo finds that Sayana’s interpretation of the Veda is very faulty, very defective, and he calls it ritualistic interpretation of the Veda. It is true that this tremendous work done by Sayana, he says it has got to remain an anti–chamber for anybody who wants to enter into the real room of the Vedic knowledge. You cannot avoid study of Sayana because even though faulty, defective, it gives many clues. And for the ritualistic interpretation of the Veda is very helpful.
Secondly, according to Sri Aurobindo the Veda has also traditionally several alternative meanings, even tradition maintains that the Veda has several adibhautic, adidaivic, adhyatmic, different kind of interpretation are possible. Even Yaska had given so many alternative meanings and actually Yaska had said: when you enter into adhayatmic meaning then all other interpretations fall because that is the real meaning of the Veda but that you cannot attain merely by studying the text as it is, it comes only through meditation, this is the view of Yaska himself. And fortunately Sri Aurobindo approached the Veda through that method – adhayatmic method. But throughout his commentaries on the Vedic hymns Sri Aurobindo refers to Sayana, compares in many ways Sayana’s interpretation with the interpretation that he gives and shows the deficiencies of Sayana’s interpretation. Now in India of course large number of Vedic scholars are wedded to Sayana’s interpretation and therefore if anyone says that Sayana’s interpretation is defective, it would hurt the sentiments of many, many interpreters of the Vedic knowledge. But you know the progress of knowledge very often comes through some sharp shocks of this kind, where Sri Aurobindo who has such a mastery of the language and such a mastery over Sayana’s own interpretation, interpretation of the Vedic scholars of other kinds like Dayanand’s interpretation, and the Western scholars and one who can compare all these interpretations and establish a new meaning of the Veda, this is the spirit in which we approach Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation. It is not to reject necessarily because something collides with our own view. It is a research, it is a study, it’s a process of knowledge.