Let us work to Restore the Vedas - Session 2-16 June 2006

We had yesterday a preliminary statement. We shall move a little farther today and ask ourselves, why is the Veda regarded as a book of knowledge, what is the knowledge that the Veda contains? The special feature of Sri Aurobindo, his interpretation of the Veda is that he regards the Veda as a book of psychology; his theory is the psychological theory of the Veda, as distinguished from what he calls the ritualistic interpretation of the Veda. Sri Aurobindo does not deny that the Veda is written in a language which is centred round the rituals of the sacrifice, but through that language a deeper knowledge is conveyed. And it is that deeper knowledge which is sought to be uncovered by his interpretation. Agni may be regarded as a fire that is in vedi, in the yagna in the havan ‒a physical fire, and it may be that by offering to the fire and by the power of the mantras and the words which are uttered, which have themselves a tremendous efficacy, certain results are brought about that is one way of looking at the entire corpus of the Veda.

According to Sri Aurobindo these rituals are effective. Although today we do not know the rituals in their pure form, even that we have to discover and many efforts are being made to discover the ritualistic meaning and also the ritualistic significances of the entire corpus of the Veda. But Sri Aurobindo maintains that the time when the Vedas were composed, there are many theories of composition also. According to one theory Vedas were never composed, it is eternal, and it is always there but we don’t need to go into that theory just now. We simply learn from the fact that the mantras are addressed to Gods, that the mantras have a metre, that the mantras are attributed to some Rishis. These are the undeniable facts of the text of the Veda. There are different Rishis to whom the mantras are attributed. The seers or the poets are regarded as the drashtas, who have seen, that is to say they are not intellectual formulations by thinking, by drishti, that is to say it is seen. Now the word seen may be interpreted in many ways but the psychological meaning of seeing is – a vision, and inspiration. In vision it is a sight, there is a revelation, in the hearing there is inspiration and you are inspired and you can even hear the words. In fact even ordinary poets have this experience, in the state of inspiration the word begins to flow. The formulations are not made by composing word by word, the words begin to flow and the highest supreme poets are those who hear in their consciousness and they simply express out what they hear. Of course the knowledge of language is necessary, and language knowledge may be regarded as mental, as a thinking process. But the Vedic theory is, that word actually, speaking is not fabricated, words are also expressions of consciousness and that is why the whole theory of Vak in the Veda, is a very elaborate theory of Vak, according to which the words themselves are formulated by the consciousness. Even in our language the words which are fixed with specific meanings are actually derived from the original sources of the consciousness.

The time at which the Vedic compositions were made was a very peculiar time. Rishis were few in a society and a large number of people were as yet in the certain stage of appeasement of God. Now here we have to understand a very important point, – experience of Gods. We know all over the world in different civilisations there are experiences of Gods. In ancient Egypt, in Greece in the Orphic tradition, which is called the tradition of mysteries, in Persia, in Chaldea, there was also the Kabala system, all these systems speak of Gods. Now Sri Aurobindo has asked this question: ‘How is it that all over the world, where there was hardly any communication of the kind that we have now, there is this experience of the Gods?

Psychologically human consciousness is capable of receiving vibrations, all human beings are actually vibratory and the whole world is full of vibrations and therefore there is an internal communication going on between the vibration here and the vibrations there. Now one of the instruments by which the intensity of vibrations is lessened is the development of the mind. The mind is a process of thinking and in the process of the thinking the vibrations are not automatic, there is a labour.When there is labour then the automatic movements of vibrations are lessened and that is why those who are highly mentalised there sensitivities are not so intense as the sensitivities in the human beings who are not so mental and that is why at the lower strata of existence the vibrations are experienced very rapidly and very intensely. This is the psychological explanation as to why in ancient times there was experience of the Gods. In Greece for example, we have the idea of Zeus and Hera, the description of Apollo, Poseidon and Athena and a number of gods and goddesses, which crowd the pantheon of ancient Greece. Ancient Greece also is also not sufficiently realised by those people who begin the story of Athens and story of Greece only by Thales, and Anaximander and gradually to Parmenides and then to Pythagoras, Heraclitus and then Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and so on, because even prior to Thales there was a long process, when we have the period when Homer composed the great Iliad, and Iliad is a tremendous volume. In fact Sri Aurobindo regards Homer as the greatest poet of world history; the whole history of the world the greatest poets only comparable to him are Valmiki and Vyasa in India, as far as the literary poetry is concerned. But even greater than these poets were the Vedic poets.

The Vedic poets had the capacity of what he calls – the Mantric poetry and Sri Aurobindo has written a book called The Future Poetry in which he has described what is Mantric poetry, and his definition of Mantric poetry is a poetry which is a combination of three intensities, the intensity of vision, the intensity of the style and the intensity of the power of the words. When these three are combined together at the highest level, according to Sri Aurobindo you cannot have mantric poetry on an ordinary subject like a plant, dog or a cat, mantric poetry always requires the vision of the highest, greatest, supreme. Just as you cannot write an epic, epic poetry always requires heroic effort, a description of heroism, some kind of a big effort to be made, a big obstacle to be crossed over and to be won over. Similarly Mantric poetry also requires a subject in which there is the vision of the highest truth. Now this kind of poetry which was available to the Vedic Rishis gradually declined, because this power of vision which was available to the Vedic Rishis also declined. Now this takes us to a kind of an interpretation of the history of the world in the context of which the Veda and the subsequent history of the world can be understood.

According to Sri Aurobindo the civilisation that we see is a probably a decline from the previous age in which certain heights were reached and there was a decline and out of that decline, another cycle started and that is why a very peculiar condition obtained in the world and some of the revelations which we find, the Mysteries are actually a result of what was already attained in the previous cycle of civilisation. Now this theory can be easily discarded, particularly because there was for a long time a belief that the history of the world was not, at least mankind was not older than 4000 years. This idea has now been bombarded and it is now understood that millions of years have passed and human civilisation has a long past of history. In any case, it is a fact that nowhere in the world there is a composition available as the Vedic text, this is a fact. Nowhere, there was the Egyptian civilisation which had a belief in Gods and Goddesses and so on but there is no text available, except the pictures in the Pyramids from where much conjectures can be made. Even the Greeks, what were the Mysteries, we do not really know, there are only some kind of sayings which have been covered by Homeric poetry. But what exactly were the mysteries there is no text by which you can find out. It is only this text of the Veda which has remained and which is available to us and the surprising fact is that this is available in almost a finished metrical form. This itself is one of the surprises of the world that a very ancient text which was only transmitted by oral tradition, has been kept so intact. In other words, generations after generations had developed so much reverence for it, so much of respect for it that efforts were made to keep the text intact and methods were found to keep it intact. This is a kind of historical fact of which there is no parallel in world history. A text so much revered, the history of which is very difficult to trace but what were the thoughts actually are available to us. There may be different interpretations but there is no doubt about the fact that this is the text. You can describe Agni in one way or ten different ways, but that there was the word Agni cannot be questioned, that there was Varuna, Mitra, Bhaga and so many other gods which have been named, of that there is no question.

Historically therefore there has to be an admission that at a given time a very huge poetry was composed and this is earlier than Homeric poetry in Greece, earlier than many other, whatever little remnants are available in world history from Egypt, from Persia, or Chaldea whatever but there is no doubt about the fact that this text was composed in a very early time of history. How is it that such poetry, and Sri Aurobindo speaks of the very quality of the poetry of the Veda, apart from any other standards, he says that poetry of Veda runs like the wheels of the chariots of gods. It is as if a huge chariots of gods are moving and that too they have wings, this kind of flow of poetry, and those who can appreciate poetry, they can understand what it means to write even five lines of this kind would be impossible for most of the poets, even the best of poets of the world. Whereas here, I mean there must have been thousands of such compositions available at a given time and Vyasa is only supposed to have brought them together. Out of a huge literature this is only Samhita, it is an anthology, so there must have been a profusion of poetry at a given time. How it came about, why it came about, is a matter of speculation but that there is such a poetry available that nobody can doubt, it’s there before us.

So Sri Aurobindo’s view is that there was a time in the history of India, where there was a group of mystics, group of rishis, who had attained a state of consciousness much higher than the mental consciousness and they had found out ways and means by which you can develop these faculties which are super-normal and how to develop these faculties, and how to attain this Mantric consciousness? According to Sri Aurobindo that is described in the Veda and that is the importance of it. It is not only the poetry and the worship and the upasana which is there but the method by which one can cross over the mental barriers of consciousness, enter into higher levels of consciousness and reach the highest possible states of consciousness and then to see the world from that highest level of consciousness and to describe the world from that point of view.

Today when we see telescopically the world and we get the view of the world and we call it knowledge, telescopic view of Mars, Venus or whatever, is knowledge. Now similarly, if you can rise to a certain level of consciousness much beyond the mind and from there if you view the world and describe the world then that description is captured in the Veda and that is why it is the book of knowledge. It is not thinking, it is not an emotive response as many religious prayers are but it is a description, an accurate description and that is where knowledge comes into the picture, precision and accuracy and the comprehensiveness and the consistency, these are the marks of knowledge and finally efficacy of what is known.

In all respects Sri Aurobindo says: what is contained in the Veda can be judged to be knowledge and that is why Veda is a book of knowledge. Historically therefore, there was a time when there were rishis whose names are to be found in the Vedic texts themselves, such mystics existed in India. Whatever may be the historical theory but that there were such mystics is undoubted. Now they had composed and they had discovered knowledge which had to be communicated to the people around. Now if the people around had already developed certain rituals, certain experiences of the gods, ordinary people, and here you have mystics who also want to communicate their higher knowledge. They had a very important question, how to communicate knowledge to the people around?

According to Sri Aurobindo the Vedic Rishis maintain that the higher knowledge should not be shared by all the people, this is a view which is diametrically opposite to our view democratic view of life because sharing of knowledge, transmission of knowledge is regarded to be a very important instrument of enlightening the people and bringing them to a state of equality. Contrary to this, this theory that you should not share knowledge with everybody had a secret intention behind it. It was not as if the intention to keep the people in darkness but there is a kind of a graduation, if there is a big difference between our understanding and somebody who has a higher understanding, how to bring that lower consciousness upward gradually so that it can be admitted to the higher levels of consciousness, it’s a question of education.

We are all told for example today that Einstein spoke of the fourth dimension, and I don’t think that any one of us has an experience of the fourth dimension. We all have experience of three dimensions, height and depth and breadth, these are only the three dimensions which we know. Einstein had a perception by which he declared that time is also a dimension, it’s a fourth dimension. Now this knowledge is to be transmitted to all of us. If I am told there are four dimensions and I live in the three dimension and if I begin to act as if there are four dimensions, fortunately we do not attempt it, but supposing we are told that there are four dimensions and I begin to act as if there are four dimensions, it would be a kind of a fiasco in the present world, as it is. I am only giving an analogy to show that there are ways by which higher knowledge can be communicated to the lower level of consciousness but these methods have to be very carefully devised. There are for example attempts today to write books in which four dimensions are pictured. I myself have seen one or two books in which a room is described with four dimensions. It's very difficult. it’s an attempt to show that this room has four dimensions, it’s very difficult. Now similarly to the Vedic Rishis, when you rise higher, you have not only four dimensions but several dimensions, seven dimensions, ten dimensions. In fact the Veda speaks of seven rays, of eight rays, of nine rays, of ten rays, there are navaguvas, there are dashagvas, those who can see as if they were with many dimensions. We can’t imagine what kind of dimensions they are? There are many truths for example which are valid for a certain stage of consciousness but not valid for other levels of consciousness.

This morning I had a discussion with Akhilesh about desire and will; it’s a very apt example for here, so I will repeat it. His question was: Sri Krishna says in the Gita, kill desire– it’s a very important teaching of the Gita. Be free from desire, transcend desire. Now this is a teaching, which if it is given to an idle man and say have no desire, mostly he wants to lie down and wants to do nothing, and you say don’t desire anything. It will only increase his idleness. It is a teaching which is not relevant to an idle man and therefore, if you give the teaching of the Gita to an idle man, it will create trouble for him because he will not rise and do anything. The question whether you should give up desire or not is relevant to a certain level of development and you should not give this teaching which is higher to a man who is instinctive basically or even less than instinctive. There are human beings who instinctively feel hungry but they don’t even get up to take food, they are so idle. To different levels of consciousness there are different ways of communication and different things to be given.

In fact Indian culture was highly psychological and educative in this process. When it is said for example that there are three basic motives for life to be superseded by the fourth motive, what are the three motives? Dharma, Artha and Kama, Kama is prescribed, the desire for Artha is prescribed. The only point is that it should be guided by Dharma, which means you should restrain yourself. So the basic condition of life, advice you can give to the ordinary people is that you do pursue desire, you do pursue the pursuit of wealth but also learn lessons by which you can restrain yourself. Therefore the teaching of the Gita, which is appropriate to Arjuna, where he has reached a very high level of development and says now you give up desire, is a very high level of teaching and if you give this to the people in general, it will create lot of difficulties, people will not rise to that level and to be desireless, without a real development will be impossible. Such is the condition that we find with regard to the Vedic knowledge. There was a fear that higher knowledge can be misunderstood, misapplied and it will be dangerous to themselves and to the people at large and that is why there was a need to communicate but communicate in such a way that those who are capable of understanding, they will understand, those who are not capable of understanding, they will also understand in their own way, which is also useful for them, it’s not a falsehood, it’s also useful at that level.

I was giving the example of the very first verse of the Rig Veda:

अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवमृत्विजं ।
होतारं रत्नधातमं ॥

agnimīḷe purohitam yajñasya devamṛtvijam ǀ
hotāram ratnadhātamam ǁ

Now the word ratnadhatamam, ratna would mean to ordinary people mere wealth of some kind, jewels, diamonds and so on. So it is said that Agni is the bearer, or vehicle of all ratnas. Therefore if you worship Agni you will get ratnas. It is not wrong, actually speaking in the occult plane of the world there is a close connection between Agni, physical Agni even and ratna. The whole earth is nothing but heat. There is a lot of Agni there and all ratnas are nothing but manufactures of heat of one kind or the other, it’s not false. Therefore that meaning is also conveyed. Therefore what is called ritualistic meaning also has its own proper place. But according to Sri Aurobindo ratnadha, one who bears the ratna is a question of delight, the psychological delight, the Bliss. Agni has a tremendous connection with Bliss. Now this connection and the secret meaning of purohita, of ritvik, and of Hota, apart from the ordinary meaning of the priests of various kinds, have deeper meanings. Purohita is one who is placed in front, Purah hita one who is placed in front, that is to say in front of Yagya. Before you can sacrifice there has to be a leader of sacrifice, who is it that inspires you to sacrifice? It is the psychological power of Agni.

Agni according to the psychological meaning is the illumined will of God. It is the illumined will of God working in the world, in you, who reveals to you the necessity of yagya. Who reveals to you, who tells you there is a need of yagya. And what is yagya, and what is the whole science of yagya? This knowledge Agni himself reveals to you. This is only a small example I am giving just now, we shall develop it further as to what exactly is the knowledge which is contained in the Veda, which it was found not very safe to communicate to large number of people and if you had to communicate, it has to be communicated after preparing the mankind at a certain level of development. Therefore there was a tremendous system of education which was developed by the Vedic Rishis themselves. It is not a question of keeping people in darkness or in ignorance; it is a question of gradual development so that there is no catastrophe in the presence of development. You give to the right stage of development the right kind of education that is needed. At a higher level, you need other development and other ways of communication and so on.

According to Sri Aurobindo, mankind today has reached the level where the knowledge that was kept secret at that time, now can be given to mankind according to Sri Aurobindo’s theory of historical development. This is the stage where mankind has now reached, where the knowledge which was secret in the Veda, which was reserved only for a few initiates, now can be given to people at large. In fact the reason Sri Aurobindo wrote his great book The Life Divine and gave to mankind, is precisely for that reason. Actually the entire The Life Divine is based upon Vedic knowledge. What is contained in the Veda is all as it were, taken from the Veda or it was the knowledge which he, Sri Aurobindo obtained which got confirmed in the Veda, which knowledge he has described in The Life Divine with the new knowledge which he also got. The Life Divine is merely not a repetition of the Veda. Whatever knowledge was gained in the Veda that knowledge was further developed by Sri Aurobindo and all that put together in a very integrated manner is the knowledge that we find now in The Life Divine and he gave in a language which is most accessible to the world at large. As you said Sri Aurobindo did not write in Sanskrit, maybe because he did not have that mastery over Sanskrit which he had over English. But it is a fact today, if Sri Aurobindo’s teaching is to be given to the largest number of people in the world, there is no other language competing with English today. English is the most well known language today in the world, most wide-spread. Therefore, if the largest number of people are to be benefitted by the spread of that knowledge, it is through English that it can be given, he wrote in English. But it is an English which is quite different from the ordinary kind of English, if you read that English, it has the same chastity, same perfection as Sanskrit. It is not ordinary English. You require that much power of Sanskritic training in order to appreciate the English that Sri Aurobindo has written. It is also because Sri Aurobindo maintains the highest knowledge should be given in the highest possible manner. You see there is a vulgar theory that you should make yourself accessible to the lower people, so make your language very simple and communicate in the language which people will understand normally. Now this theory has a truth behind it and this effort also has to be made. But when you are in a state of inspiration, you should express exactly as you get at the highest level of inspiration. It’s an expression of the Truth in a truthful manner and therefore Sri Aurobindo has written in the highest possible manner. Actually Sri Aurobindo said like Ruskin, when Ruskin was told why don’t you write in a way which people will understand, he said because I want people to rise to the level where I can be understood. If I write in the way in which they understand they will never make an effort to go up. This is also another truth. If you always speak in a language people will never make an effort to reach that level where the highest knowledge is manifested in its own manner.

The Veda for example were written in such a way that even if you read Sanskrit the meaning of it will not be so easy to understand that is because there is an educative process also in expression of your language. You express for what reason, to communicate but to communicate to whom and how and at what level? All this has to be kept in mind by the teacher. It is in that respect that Sri Aurobindo has described all the knowledge that he obtained, apart from the Vedic knowledge, he has vast other knowledge which he all combined together and this is the result is The Life Divine. In fact Sri Aurobindo’s book The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga contains a great deal of knowledge that is contained in the Veda. Therefore, to the modern man, even if he cannot read the Veda originally, in Sanskrit or an interpretation and so on, To come back again to the point as to why Veda was written in the way in which it was written, Sri Aurobindo’s answer is that there was a time when the ordinary people were at a certain low level, in that certain people could rise to that very great height and they had a problem of communication to the people who did not understand the subtlest and the most complex ideas and the truths. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo says the language of the Veda is double-edged, it has one strand of meaning but there is also behind it another deeper strand of meaning, and it is that deeper strand of meaning which Sri Aurobindo has brought out in his interpretation and that deeper sense is psychological. .I shall not dwell longer on this but I shall just tell very briefly, what is the content of the knowledge that the Veda really possesses in a very brief manner and in a very ordinary manner. Because to tell exactly what Vedic knowledge contains is actually to take individuals into states of consciousness, which only Yoga can take you. So to say in a very fruitful manner would be really to take ourselves everyday long hours of meditation, long hours of small statements to be meditated upon and gradually it should be manifested, that is the right method but our present methods are all lecture systems, in which you can’t help it, you cannot say now we shall have three hours of meditation and we shall enter into it. In fact if you read the Taittiriya Upanishad, the Vedic method has been taught, the disciple goes to the teacher and says: ‘Teach me’. And he says this whole world is Matter, meditate on it and he meditates on it and says: ‘Yes, I have now realised the whole world is Matter, then teach me more.’ And the teacher says: ‘The whole world is Prana, is breath’ and he meditates and then comes back to the teacher and says: ‘Yes, I have now realised that the whole world is breath’. Then he says now teach me more and he says: ‘Alright, now I teach you more.’ What is more? The whole world is Mind. And then he says teach me more and he says: ‘yes, there is still higher than the Mind is the Supermind and Vigyana (the idea of Vigyana) the whole world is Vigyana, then meditate on it and then he says: ‘yes, now you go forward and the whole world is Ananda’. Therefore the last part of Taittiriya Upanishad is Ananda the whole description is Ananda. What is Ananda? So this is the Vedic way of teaching that you first of all give one formula, meditate on it, you realise it, then you go to the second one, then you go to the third one then the fourth one and gradually you rise up. This is exactly, actually described in the Upanishad itself, it’s not our story, actually it is given, you can read the text that this is how the disciple is taught by the teacher. And ultimately he is taken to the level of Ananda, supreme levels of consciousness. That means the right method of teaching the Veda or to learn what is the teaching in the Veda? But to say briefly, it is the following.

It first of all says that there is, that is to say if you rise to the highest levels of consciousness and telescopically now if you describe the world and the whole Reality, it says Reality is one. Now this is the theory, in terms of theory, it can be contradicted because there are many pluralist today, pluralists of various kinds, but the Vedic knowledge is that the Reality is one ‒ ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti, or there is a famous statement of Indra to Agastya ‒ nanoonam asti no shavaha kas tad Veda yad adbhutam, anayas chittam abhi sanchareniyam, udtadhitam vinashyati. These two lines are to my mind at least the supreme manifestation of the supreme revelation of the knowledge of the Truth. Nanoonam asti no shavaha, it is not here that Reality is not here, nanoonam asti no shavaha, it will not be tomorrow, if Reality is eternal, you can’t say it is not here, it will be tomorrow, even tomorrow it will not be, it’s eternal. Then he says kas tad Veda yad adhbhutam who knows it, kas tad Veda, who knows it? Yat singular you have to, it’s not many realities its yat that reality yad adbhutam, it is wonderful. Now this word wonderful is explained in the next sentence. Why is it wonderful? anayas chittam abhi sanchareniyam ‒ it is a reality but it has motion abhi sanchareniyam, it has a motion, it is movable, abhi sanchareniyam, it is movable, anayas chittam, in the consciousness of another. This is the surprising statement, there is only one, it's neither here nor tomorrow, it is adbhutam, it has a motion in the consciousness of another. Now from where another has come, it is that, another, sanchareniyam, what is moving, is eternal, motionless, it is moving, it is a Reality which is eternal yet it has a motion but motion in consciousness of another that other is not other than itself because there is one Reality. It is such a Reality that it is capable of another. Now how is it that Reality because ordinarily in our consciousness one is one and not two? Our definition of one is one that is not two. Therefore our ordinary intelligence will not understand, therefore it says udtadhitam vinashyati, if you try to think of it, it will disappear. It’s unthinkable. This is the Truth which is also described in the Upanishads in many ways, it cannot be described, it cannot be thought over, the intellect comes back, the words come back from it udtadhitam vinashyati.

Now this is one of the most profound statements in the Veda which describes the Ultimate Reality and this concept of one that is two, has continuously been repeated in our Indian thought. The one that is two is also the concept of Shiva-Shakti. Shakti is not different from Shiva. Shiva himself is Shakti and yet you cannot say Shiva is Shakti or Shakti is Shiva. The Shiva has a motion through Shakti, it has a motion in another. Shiva himself is absolutely in meditation, static but it has a motion Shiva himself has a motion, motion because of the Shakti which is himself and yet other than himself. This is another concept which has ruled our Indian thought throughout but derived from the Veda. We speak of Ardhanareshwara is also the same? Same Reality is however half, other half is other than himself, it is also anayas chittam abhi sanchareniyami, we have also the concept of Radha and Krishna, Krishna and Radha are one and yet they are two.

Sri Aurobindo has written a big poem as you know an epic called Savitri. In that epic there is one special canto, which is only given its title is ‘Secret Knowledge’, and what is the content of Secret Knowledge, it is a knowledge of He and She. That is to say there is a Supreme Reality and the secret knowledge is that there is in Him, in Him another, who is Himself. Now this peculiar condition of existence which is not thinkable but such is the Reality. If intellect asks the question ‘how is it so, how can it be, it cannot be.’ The answer is if Reality is like that, what can you do about it? You may think it cannot be. If I think that Akhilesh cannot be in New York at this very moment and yet I say: I see him in New York, you can say how can it be? But supposing I see him at the same time I see him there, what can I say, I say he is there also and here also and Yogis have seen many things of this kind. They see some object here but also there, in many other planes of consciousness. Such is the Reality. Reality is of such a nature and this is the secret knowledge of the Veda that Reality is something very surprising, it is adbhutam. It is not an ordinary existence of this paper or this book or this flower, it is of such a nature that being himself is other than himself and being other than himself it is still himself. There are many deeper truths underlying this idea of himself being other than himself. In fact many metaphysicians have rejected this idea.

In the philosophy of Shankara for example, this idea that Reality being himself is other than himself, he says that this which is other than himself may be true but it is Maya, it is illusion, is not true. But the Veda doesn’t say the other one is untrue. There is no statement in the whole of the Veda, you read the whole of the Veda, you have never found that which is other than himself is Maya according to the Veda. Metaphysically you may do anything and you may develop it any way you like. Anyway, this is the starting point of the Vedic description of Ultimate Reality. Ultimate Reality is a very surprising existence which you cannot imagine ordinarily by mere understanding of the world as it is. Fine, now this Reality is according to the Veda, is the abode, it is the highest abode, it is also described as an ocean that Reality is a ocean, Supreme, this is Superconscient which is different from two other oceans also which you find in the world. There is an ocean which is connected with the heart, and there is an ocean of the present level of what you call conscious existence.

So there are three oceans according to the Veda. It is the telescopic view of the universe as the Vedic Rishis could see that there is one Reality but this Reality at present is seen at three levels, –the Superconscient level, the conscious level and the inconscient level. There are three oceans the word used is samudra or arnava this is the word which is commonly available in the Vedic literature, ‒ arnava, samudra. Sometimes the word sindhu is also used for the same purpose. This analogy of the word ocean, samudra, arnava, sindhu is a very important word as Sri Aurobindo gives great importance to this word. It is one of the symbolic words of the Vedic language. Now these three oceans as Sri Aurobindo says: the Vedic Rishis had plummeted into all the three oceans. This is the tribute that Sri Aurobindo pays to the Vedic Rishis, what was their knowledge; they had understood what is the inconscient, what is the whole world of the conscious and what is the superconscient? And the Veda contains the knowledge of all the three planes, the Inconscient, Conscient and the Superconscient. This is the body of the knowledge that you find in the Veda.

If you see the Nasidiya Sukta in which you are told that in the beginning there was only the darkness, which was also shrouded by darkness, tamas was avrita by tamas that is the inconscient. In the Western psychology the discovery of the subconscious is a recent discovery, there was no belief that there is something like unconscious or subconscious, it is only recently from Freud’s time onwards that some idea of unconscious was found. Sri Aurobindo calls it the abc of the subconscious. What Freud has understood is only abc. Subconscient is very, very deep, tamas shrouded by tamas that is Vedic knowledge, whether you like it or not, know it, accept it or not but this is the description given in the Veda itself, as a text just to be able to expound Vedic knowledge truly, you have to say that there is according to the Veda a state of darkness which is shrouded in darkness, you may like it, you may not like it, you may agree with it, you may not agree with it, doesn’t matter but this is what Veda says that there is. If you look at it from the highest point of view and look down, you find an ocean of unconsciousness.

Now you find in this unconsciousness somebody at work and this is the whole secret of Agni. What is Agni? You find that the Vedic Rishis found that in this darkness there is one God, all the gods are not there; this is also a very important idea in the Veda. In this particular inconscient the one God which is active is Agni. This is the discovery of the Vedic Rishis. How it happened, how it came about, is another story that knowledge is given there. But to start with this is the first revelation as it were, that Agni is first of all to be found in the darkness that is shrouded in darkness. Therefore Agni is supposed to be the God of the earth in the physical consciousness. This is a famous statement in the Veda, you find out from many, many statements of the Veda that Agni is the worker of the earth but this is not all. Agni has also swamdamam, this is also a very important expression in the Veda. It has its own house rajantam in the very first hymn, svedame, which becomes absolutely effulgent, its own home. So although Agni is to be found working as a labourer in the unconscious, in the earth consciousness, its own home is very high, in the Supreme levels of consciousness. Is it not a fact that the gods discovered that Agni in the waters?

Now this is another enigmatic statement of the Veda. This is where you need to interpret that the gods saw it in the waters. What is the word water, what does it mean? It is that which is working in the unconscious, in the earth. It is that which is found in the waters by the gods. There must be some story about it, when did these gods come to see it in the waters, and what are the waters? Sri Aurobindo therefore describes, he has gone into the depth of this matter, what is the analogical meaning of the word ‒ waters? Because this word comes very often, in the Veda there is a reference to at least the seven rivers. And the Western thinkers reading the Vedas they say that these seven rivers must be the seven rivers of Punjab because the Vedic Rishis were living in Punjab and some other adjoining areas and they described Jhelum and Chenab and Sindhu and Saraswati and all that, these were the rivers and they are described in the Vedas, seven rivers. Sri Aurobindo contradicts this idea. Seven rivers which are described in the Veda, if you read what is the exact description of them, you will find that these seven rivers are connected with many other analogies, ‒ seven forces, seven mares ‒ Ashwa, saptashwa and seven Agnis, seven fires, word seven is not referred only to rivers. The word seven is a very symbolic term in the Veda and Sri Aurobindo has gone into it, what is this seven? It’s a symbolic word, if you want to describe the whole of Reality; it can be described as seven. Reality which is one, which is two, is also seven. This is another enigmatic statement of the Veda. The Reality which is one, which is two, is also seven and therefore the energies of Reality which is manifest at seven levels is seven rivers. River is a very constant image in the Veda, which refers to movement of energy. Therefore in the psychological interpretation of the Veda wherever the word seven comes, it has reference to the seven planes of existence.

The original home of Agni is not in the inconscience, it is not the earth, its original home. Original home of the Agni is in the Svedame, in the highest one, where he brightens up and rises up to the highest level. It is something which has been brought down and this is a story in the Veda, there is one hymn in which the Agni is complaining and says to Gods: ‘I was brought down here; I did not know what was the task given to me, I was brought down here, very difficult task.’ Now what is the task that has been given to Agni, which is so difficult? This is a great knowledge given in the Veda; it’s a body of knowledge. All the epithets which are given to Agni are to be read and Sri Aurobindo has done a great service that all the hymns to Agni, he has translated them into English. All the hymns which have been addressed to Agni at least, he has made a full collection of all the hymns addressed to Agni in the Rig Veda and he has translated them into English in the psychological sense, not in the ritualistic sense but in the psychological sense, so that we have now a body of knowledge, which gives us the psychological understanding of Agni. Now some of the epithets given to Agni are the following, Agni of course is known to be purohita, he is Hota, he is Ritwik, he is supposed to be the worker who brings out aushadhis from the earth. He is the one, who brings out from the aushadhis all the living creatures which are in the world that is why he is called Jataveda ‒ it’s another epithet of Agni, Agni is Jataveda. All that is here in this manifested universe, not only on the earth, the word earth in Veda does not refer only to planet earth, it refers to all physical manifestation ‒ prithvi, prithvi is from the point of view of the physical principle. All that is physical, all the stars, whatever is physical is prithvi in the idea of the Veda and Agni is a worker in prithvi, and brings out of the prithvi as it were, extracts from the earth something that is hidden in the earth that is to say inconscient is a womb and from the womb he gives everything and all that has come out is called Jataveda, therefore it’s Jataveda? He knows everything that is Jata. Everything’s birth that is born here is known to him.

In fact as we know in the Kenopanishad there is a story f the three gods – Agni, Vayu and Indra and these three gods have become victorious and then the Supreme Reality comes and manifests and puts a straw of the grass and says: ‘Now tell me what it is?’ And Agni moves forward first and says that there is nothing in the world, which I do not know because I have brought out everything, I am the bringer out of everything, so I must know what it is, and he goes and finds that he doesn’t know it. The one thing that he does not know, the Supreme Reality at the level of the earth he does not know because he has not brought out the Supreme Reality out of the earth, Vayu is also not able, Indra also doesn’t know. But among the three gods, Indra does not stop by saying I do not know, he moves forward and finds out what? He moves forward and finds out Uma, Uma Hemavati. Now what is Uma, what is Hemavati, is also symbolic. Uma is the other one, who is the same as the one, he is Parvati, he is Shiva-Shakti, he is a Shakti. So he approaches the Supreme Shakti, who is one with the Supreme and therefore Shakti tells him that that Yaksham is that Reality – is the Supreme Lord. That is why the Kenopanishad says because of that reason Indra knows the Supreme Reality the best because he found out, he went up to Uma and from her, he got this knowledge. Now this idea Hemawati is absolutely that which is white, supreme knowledge, there is no spot in her, spotless, spotless Reality and the power, is Uma and she knows Supreme the best and Indra approaches her for he has come to know him the best. That is why in the Veda Indra is regarded as the Lord of knowledge. He is called Gomat, go means not only the cow, go also means the light. This is also another word in the Veda, which is also a secret word, to the ordinary man, go means the cow but to the initiate Go means the light and Indra is described so often as Gomat. He is also called the milker, who milks the cows. He is the one who lives in knowledge; he can derive knowledge from all the things, he extracts knowledge from everywhere, he is the master of knowledge, as Sri Aurobindo says: he is the illumined mind; he is the Lord of the Illumined Mind. The inner psychology, if you go above your mind then at a certain level, you reach a level which is called Illumined Mind, which is also known in the Veda as the world of Swah. As you know we have even in Gayatri Mantra you speak of Bhur, Bhuva, Swah these are the starting Vyavharithis as they are called Bhur is the earth principle, Bhuva is the ethereal principle, the principle of Antariksha and higher than that is Swah. Actually speaking there are two words dyau and Swah that is pure mind as it is understood in our ordinary language, is the mind but Illumined Mind is Swah and above Swah, according to the Veda is Maha. In fact we have got the seven worlds Bhur, Bhuva, Swah, Maha then Janah and then Tapah and then Satyam. These are the seven, when you speak of seven rivers, it is each one representing these seven levels. Reality is sevenfold, like the light is sevenfold, when you pass it through prism, it manifests as sevenfold. Similarly, this Reality whenever it manifests it manifests sevenfold, therefore seven rivers, not rivers of Punjab; its rivers which are manifestations of the Supreme Reality.

Now this Reality is the original home of Agni as is the original home of all the gods. All the gods are described as adityeh putrah. This is also an expression in the Veda. All the gods are described as adityeh putrah, Aditi is Uma, Aditi is that other one, who is one with the Supreme that is Aditi. In fact the idea that Reality is feminine and not merely masculine is very much enshrined in the Vedic knowledge. The Supreme male and the Supreme female is the description of the Reality in the Veda. He is He, He is She. As I said in Savitri, Sri Aurobindo’s Secret Knowledge is a description of He and She and the whole manifestation is the relationship between He and She. The whole world is nothing but this. In fact as Sri Aurobindo says, in one of his poems ‘World is a kiss of Radha and Krishna’ that is the poetic figure that he gives the whole world is nothing but the kiss of Radha and Krishna and that is the real relationship. It is the Vedic knowledge that Ultimate Reality is He and She, and even putraha, adityeputrah are the children of the Divine Mother and these Divine Mother’s children represent Him. They are the Devah, Devah are the manifestations of the Deva.

So if you look at the world from the supreme plane of consciousness, you will find that there is not only that Supreme Reality, which is eternal, is also manifesting power and in that manifestation there are many children of the gods. But apart from this perception, you have the perception of conscious existence and the perception of the inconscient and now you find that in that inconscient god Agni has been put here. Now in the Veda, in fact there is a secret about it because it is not absolutely confirmed in the peculiar specific verses of the Veda, I hesitated to say this. But let me say my theory about it, it is based upon a statement which Mother has made. You know Mother had a very sound knowledge of the Vedic truths. In fact in one of her talks she has said that when I read the Veda, I lived with the Gods, that is to say they were constant companions of the Mother and She has therefore no doubt about the fact that these Gods do exist, they are not imaginations, they are not fictions of consciousness, they are not objects which have been deified somehow or the other, Gods do exist and this is also a Vedic knowledge.

Today in our present world when even God’s existence is doubted; existence of the gods is further doubted. In what is called polytheism, ignorant polytheism of the barbarics, a time has come when it is to be understood that this polytheism of the Veda is not that barbaric primitive belief, it is a knowledge based upon a deeper knowledge, according to which these gods are children of one Supreme manifester, the Supreme Shakti Supreme Aditi, who is one with the Supreme Reality. That there is one Supreme Reality but in manifestation it has many, many, many aspects and what is the world, but the manifestation that which is moving and what is the knowledge of the world, the character of the world, what is this world, what does this consist of? Merely to know that Himalaya is the highest peak is only a knowledge of the physical geography of the earth but there are so many other planets and so many galaxies, and so many spheres of existence and in all the spheres of existence that there are many powers and energies working. It is that knowledge which the Veda describes and gives us that if you go into higher levels of consciousness, you really encounter the gods, they exist, each one has a specific work, it’s a world just as human beings have got specific constitution ‒ the controllers and the servants, whole fabric of social existence, even so, even gods have got their own kingdom and there is a secret knowledge about this kingdom. The Veda is a book of knowledge, which tells you what is the function of each god and how each god can be approached and how you can make him work in this world in your own life, how you can utilise that knowledge, so that your own life is enriched. Our life as we said in the beginning is full of obstacles, now these obstacles are the fundamental problem of human existence. Everywhere there are obstacles, and ritualistic interpretation of the Veda says that these obstacles can be crossed, if you do yagya and if recite some mantras and these mantras are addressed to the gods and somehow they begin to operate and they remove your difficulties, whatever you desire is given to you. Nothing wrong about it at all, it is a fact. But why does it happen, what is this invocation; this is also secret, what is this invocation? Why is it that gods are invoked and they answer? This is also knowledge. It is just like knowing that if I dial 256, it will go to the room of Akhilesh in his house and I can talk to him, it’s a secret knowledge, only known to him and to me but not to the others.

Similarly, if you really probe into the world, if you reach those higher levels of consciousness you will discover that there are gods, who exist, who move about, who are active and each one has been given a function, the work given to them, the work as a kind of bhagaha, they all have portions and that is why in the Yoga in the vidhis it is very important, how much bhaga you will give to Indra, how much bhaga you will give to Varuna, how much to Mitra and how much to Surya and how much to Agni? Unless that knowledge is perfectly well done you can make a mistake. Even in ucharna there is an invocation as we know the story of Brahmana that you speak of Indra in one way or the other and the result may be quite opposite to your wish because you have spoken a wrong word. This kind of meticulous care, which is insisted upon, is based upon a true knowledge. That Vedic Rishis had this knowledge, such fantastic knowledge is to be found in the Veda, what can we do, text is there. That Indra is the keeper of Illumined mind and when you are confused and if you invoke Indra, your confusion will be finished, this is the secret given in the Veda. Now what can you do about it, it is a fact, it is a text and you practise it, you will find it. If your mind is confused you just take the mantras of Indra, addressed to Indra, you make an experiment, I have made an experiment myself, you make experiments, you invoke Indra, keep very quiet and there is a movement of Illumined Mind and there will be clarity. You went to Hanuman for example, he is also power, it exists.

There are powers which have been according to the Vedic knowledge, there are powers which are original powers, which are gods but when these powers work in the world then there is a double movement, the evolving man, and the power working from above, when they come together certain powers become fixed. They also become immortal powers like Hanuman. So there are different kinds of gods and this knowledge is also in the Vedas, gods where do they live, where is their origin, how they function in the world and how they create in the world certain new standards, new ways of life so the obstacles once crossed by one can be crossed by many? Once a path is opened up, it’s like sports. Once you have crossed a certain hurdle, one sportsman does it ten more can do it. This is the law which is operative in the world.

Now Agni therefore as I was saying to start with, Agni has many epithets in the Veda. It is Jataveda, it knows all the things that have come on the earth from the physical and then he is the god, who is the bringer of all the gods, devo devebhi agamat, he is the one god, if you call him all other gods come.

Now there is a story about it, as I told you there is my theory about it, because of some statements in the Veda and based upon what Mother has told, as I said Mother had read the Veda and she had experiences of all the gods and according to her when the world started, the original point, God could have remained without manifestation because he is full, ‒ purnamadah, but when he manifests also he is purna idam, even then he is perfect, purnasya purna madayai, if you take away the perfect from the perfect even then purna remains that is the nature, mathematics of the infinite, that is true. So when he wanted to manifest, what is that manifested, the first manifestation is the manifestation of four beings, cosmic beings, first was, you may call Truth, second was Light, third is Life and fourth is Delight. Now you must remember that according to the Veda that the highest is the triple world, sometimes it’s also called tridhaatu. The highest Reality is tridhaatu, it is threefold. Later on it came to be identified as Satchidananda, Sat, Chit, Ananda. Now Chit is always known as double, Chit-Shakti.so there are four principles the Sat, Chit, Shakti and Ananda. Therefore, the first manifestation was these four beings. First four beings came into operation to start with, now these four beings were as free as the Supreme Divine. This concept of freedom has to be understood in the Veda. We shall discuss later on, if we have time but at present let us say they were also free. Now in their freedom they wanted to make an experiment, what happens if we separate ourselves from the Supreme origin, in consciousness? You cannot be physically torn out of the Reality because Reality is everywhere. But if in consciousness you can hide yourself, if you can get hidden what happens? This was an experiment. This experiment resulted in the manifestation of complete darkness, when the Light was concealed, Truth was concealed, Delight was concealed, Life was concealed, then you enter into complete inconscience. Now this is the story that Mother has spoken of because of her other knowledge, not from the Veda but there is a kind of a support to it in the Rig Veda in what is called aghamarshana mantra. There is a mantra in the Rig Veda called aghamarshana mantra, ‒ ritam cha satyam cha bhidat tapsodya jayata, tato ratryajayata, tato samudro arnavah, it’s a very simple statement but according to me very meaningful and really gives you the story of the world as known to the Veda. It says in the beginning there was only tapas, tapas is the force of creation, sankalpa. So there was a first sankalpa or the force of manifestation, decision to manifest. And what was the first manifestation, ritam cha satyam. The first to manifest was Truth and the Right, and then ritam cha satyam cha bhidat tapsodya jayata and then comes tato ratri jayat, then came the darkness, then came the night and then came tatah samudro arnavah and then came the samudra, samudra is the ocean of inconscient, tatah samudro arnavah. In the night, it’s not complete darkness because in night there are stars, so night is still a field of partial knowledge and partial ignorance. That was the first step, as they began to decide to conceal themselves came the night, but it went farther into a further deepening of inconscience and then came tatah samudro arnavah. Now when that darkness came then this is as Mother said: ‘I am telling a story as if it’s a child’s story’, so she says: The Supreme Divine Mother went to the Supreme Lord and said: ‘Look, this is that has happened’. So the Supreme Lord said: ‘Now you work out by which this darkness is removed, and therefore you now create other beings, these four are all right, they went this way, now you create other beings and ask them to repair this darkness. That is why in Nasadiya Sukta it is said ‒ what was that darkness, how it came about even the gods do not know, because the gods were not there at that time, this is in Nasadiya Sukta. Gods were not there, they did not know, so gods are a second creation, this is the Vedic knowledge that the gods were not there when the inconscient came about, ‒ tato ratri jayat,tatah samudro arnavaha, at that time gods did not come into being. Now these gods were then manifested, all the gods aditeh putraha, which are described in the Veda are second creations. Now these gods were asked, summoned to work on this, these gods however when they saw the darkness and the depth of darkness, they went back to the Divine Mother and said: ‘we cannot really deal with this darkness, this is too much for us. This darkness is so intense’. Then what is to be done? Then they said: ‘But in your waters we see a god’. In your waters means in your consciousness, we see a god that can do this work. If that god is manifested, if that god is brought out and put forth into the inconscient then it can do it. Now this Agni is the one which was seen by the gods in the waters and this Agni is actually the intensest force of love for the Divine, the supreme Ananda, Agni is the ratna dhatamam, supreme love, the supreme joy, supreme Ananda. He bears the supreme Ananda, supreme love, supreme joy that is Agni, that is the real meaning of ratna dhatamam, the highest Ananda. As is said in the Taittiriya Upanishad the highest reality to which the disciple goes is Ananda, that highest Reality, the supreme Love of the Divine, that love was put forth into the inconscient. Therefore Agni is supposed to be the latest among the gods; it is the last to come of all the gods. It was put forth last.

Now let us see again the aghamarshana mantra. This is my own study, so I cannot say Sri Aurobindo says this because he has not written on this subject. My own study, there is a very important word which comes in continuation of what I was saying samudra dranvadit samvatsaro ajayate this is in the Veda, samudra dranvadit samvatsaro ajayate that is from that darkness, from that intense inconscience that which was born was samvatsara. Now I made an inquiry. What is the meaning of samvatsara? Normally it is a year, time, but none of them really fits into it because if creation has already started, time has already started. So it can’t be that time came into existence after this, it can’t be year at that time as if, because year is only a calculation of time. In lexicography, somewhere I found samvatsara also means fire or Agni. So I settled this question because I found that samvatsara also means in Vedic language the fire, or Agni and also we have got kala Agni also. Kala is Agni. So even if you say samvatsara which means year or time, it is also connected with Agni. So it would mean that when inconscience was brought, in that inconscience the manifestation of the first thing put there was Agni. It is actually the Supreme Ananda, Supreme Love of the Divine which manifested. This is also connected with the Purusha sukta. Purusha sukta is basically the sacrifice of the Purusha. The Purusha himself that is to say, when the Divine Mother comes down with all her love, which is Agni, Agni is nothing but the Supreme love of the Divine on the earth, put forth here. Along with him because Purusha and Prakriti or Shiva and Shakti are one, so along with the Shakti came down also the Supreme Lord and that is the sacrifice of the Purusha. In other words gods told the Supreme Mother this is not something we can do, unless you both come down on the earth, unless you bring down your highest love to manifest here, this inconscient cannot be broken. It’s so thick and therefore in answer to the prayer of the gods, this great sacrifice took place. The Divine Mother and the Divine Purusha both of them came down. In fact this is the truth behind our ordinary idea of Vishnu lying in sleep. You know we have sometimes got a huge image of Vishnu lying in the sleep, eyes closed, it is the descent of the Supreme Purusha into the inconscience, therefore subdued in inconscience but working in that consciousness. Now this is an image which is found in our Indian literature, Puranic literature particularly. But I would like to add here an experience of the Mother herself.

Mother says in one of her meditations, she went down into the inconscient and as she descended down, she found the Supreme Lord lying there and as she approached the eyes opened. And she said that was the moment that earth evolved. At that moment when she went there, a new evolutionary force began to manifest. It is a very beautiful description given by the Mother in her own experiences, yogic experiences, which confirms our Indian idea that at the bottom of the inconscient is the Supreme Lord, who is waiting, who is working silently and pushing forth the whole movement towards greater and greater awakening. Therefore, if this world is a movement upwards, it’s a movement which starts from unconscious to conscious and from conscious to higher consciousness and to the summits of highest consciousness. It is because the Supreme Lord himself has taken his seat there by sacrifice of Purusha and from there all the higher manifestations take place. Of course Purusha sukta is much vaster and much more profound, we shall come to later on but at least that part is very clear that Veda speaks of the Purusha sacrifice, Veda speaks of the sacrifice of Purusha. He is the holocaust of Purusha, Supreme Lord who is living in the summit, he throws his light into the inconscient and that power which is burning all the time that is the flame there is Agni, that is why Sri Aurobindo calls the mystic fire, Agni is the mystic fire. It is that fire. Now if you study this, why it is called ratnadhatamam, it is because of this reason. It is itself a manifestation of the supreme ananda, supreme love, supreme joy, which is now working here as a labourer and who is trying to bring it out. Tomorrow I shall bring to you a few verses with where Sri Aurobindo has given his interpretation of a few verses addressed to Agni that is the very first hymn of which I had made a reference earlier and a few verses written by Vishwamitra where the work of Agni and the symbolism of seven is described. And if you do not have the psychological interpretation it may all look bizarre. If you read, you find as if the poets are describing certain things which are incoherent and when western people say that Vedas are barbaric, primitive writings, it is because this key is not available. If you get the key, you will find it reached so simply and so straightforwardly. Tomorrow I shall come up with these two statements and we shall see how Sri Aurobindo interprets these two. We are still only at the level of Agni, the very first god because it's so important in the Veda because devo deva viragamat if he comes all the gods come. Therefore we have to concentrate upon Agni to start with and emphasize quite sufficiently. Vedic knowledge is a tremendous knowledge of Agni, what is Agni and why so much of importance is given to yajna and to the symbolic rituals of hawan, why. I think we can stop here today.