I think we have now entered into the main body of the Vedic knowledge with the two introductory addresses which I have delivered so far. I thought that we should have some direct experience of some of the suktas of the Veda, and how Sri Aurobindo deals with them, so that we may get some concrete experience of Sri Aurobindo’s comment on one or two suktas. First of all, I would like you to study with me the first sukta, which was just now recited before us and we shall confine ourselves to four verses ‒ fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. There are nine verses actually in the first sukta and Sri Aurobindo in this particular commentary has concentrated upon four of them. I shall read these with you, so that you may exactly see how Sri Aurobindo deals with some of the very important verses and suktas of the Veda. There are four verses in the hymn to Agni, the fifth to the eighth in which the psychological sense comes out with a great force and clearness, escaping from the veil of the symbol. As I had said last time Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation is to be distinguished from the ritualistic interpretation of the Veda and he calls his own interpretation, psychological interpretation. According to Sri Aurobindo, Veda is a book of psychology, apart from many other things. It contains not only ordinary psychology of man as he is but also the psychology of the higher faculties which are not yet developed in us but which can develop in us and we can go to higher realms of consciousness and how these psychological faculties can operate in conjunction with the lower faculties and then how the process of what is called Divine realisation, can be effected.
Now it is in this context that Sri Aurobindo selects in this chapter, the symbolism of Agni and several concepts which are connected with Agni. According to Sri Aurobindo ‒ Veda is full of epithets, adjectives which are applied to several gods and these epithets are not pell-mell. They are all systematic and they are all precise and there is no mixture. The epithets given to usha are never applied to Agni, epithets applied to Agni are not applied to Indra. If this psychological attitude is obtained and verified in the Veda, you’ll at once see that the poets who wrote these poems are not careless, imaginative, fiction builders but they are scientific in character. Usually science and poetry don’t go together but at the highest levels all branches of knowledge merge into one, there science and spirituality, science and poetry, the vision of the scientists and the vision of the poet, they all meet together and it is from that stage of consciousness that these words have been inspired and therefore there is a tremendous clarity and precision. But this clarity and precision become clear to us only if we take into account the secret words and the secret meaning which were kept deliberately hidden to some extent, or in some cases quite fully veiled, so that only the ritualistic or the external meaning is brought forth. But even there Sri Aurobindo’s contention is that if we have the psychological symbolism in our mind then even the external figures begin to take a deep meaning and they read therefore, with greater coherence. If this psychological interpretation is not adopted then when we read these verses they feel pell-mell images, unconnected very often, incoherent and therefore very often meaningless.
Now this is what Sri Aurobindo brings out by stating these four verses here, which we shall read. (The Secret of the Veda, pp61)
Agnir hotā kavikratuḥ, satyaś citraśravastamaḥ;
devo devebhir ā gamat.
Yad aṅga dāśuṣe tvam, agne bhadraṁ kariṣyasi;
tavet tat satyam aṅgiraḥ.
Upa tvāgne dive dive, doṣāvastar dhiyā vayam;
namo bharanta emasi.
Rājantam adhvarāṇāṁ, gopām ṛtasya dīdivim;
vardhamānaṁ sve dame.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
Now Sri Aurobindo explains the meaning of these four verses and while doing so, first of all he gives us the ritualistic interpretation given by Sayana and points out the inadequacy, or inaccuracy, or even misleading, what he thinks to be misleading meanings of these verses. In this passage Sri Aurobindo says:
In this passage we have a series of terms plainly bearing or obviously capable of a psychological sense and giving their colour to the whole context. Sayana, however, insists on a purely ritual interpretation and it is interesting to see how he arrives at it. In the first phrase we have the word kavi meaning a seer and, even if we take kratu to mean work of the sacrifice, we shall have as a result, “Agni, the priest whose work or rite is that of the seer”, a turn which at once gives a symbolic character to the sacrifice and is in itself sufficient to serve as the seed of a deeper understanding of the Veda. Sayana feels that he has to turn the difficulty at any cost and therefore he gets rid of the sense of seer for kavi and gives it another and unusual significance. He then explains that Agni is satya, true, because he brings about the true fruit of the sacrifice. Śravas Sayana renders “fame”, Agni has an exceedingly various renown. It would have been surely better to take the word in the sense of wealth so as to avoid the incoherency of this last rendering. We shall then have this result for the fifth verse, “Agni the priest, active in the ritual, who is true (in its fruit)—for his is the most varied wealth,—let him come, a god with the gods.”
To the sixth Rik the commentator gives a very awkward and abrupt construction and trivial turn of thought which breaks entirely the flow of the verse. “That good (in the shape of varied wealth) which thou shalt effect for the giver, thine is that. This is true, O Angiras,” that is to say, there can be no doubt about this fact, for if Agni does good to the giver by providing him with wealth, he in turn will perform fresh sacrifices to Agni, and thus the good of the sacrificer becomes the good of the god. Here again it would be better to render, “The good that thou wilt do for the giver, that is that truth of thee, O Angiras,” for we thus get at once a simpler sense and construction and an explanation of the epithet, satya, true, as applied to the god of the sacrificial fire. This is the truth of Agni that to the giver of the sacrifice he surely gives good in return.
The seventh verse offers no difficulty to the ritualistic interpretation except the curious phrase, “we come bearing the prostration.” Sayana explains that bearing here means simply doing and he renders, “To thee day by day we, by night and by day, come with the thought performing the prostration.” In the eighth verse he takes ṛtasya in the sense of truth and explains it as the true fruit of the ritual. “To thee shining, the protector of the sacrifices, manifesting always their truth (that is, their inevitable fruit), increasing in thy own house.” Again, it would be simpler and better to take ṛtam in the sense of sacrifice and to render, “To thee shining out in the sacrifices, protector of the rite, ever luminous, increasing in thy own house.” The “own house” of Agni, says the commentator, is the place of sacrifice and this is indeed called frequently enough in Sanskrit, “the house of Agni”.
We see, therefore, that with a little managing we can work out a purely ritual sense quite empty of thought even for a passage which at first sight offers a considerable wealth of psychological significance. Nevertheless, however ingeniously it is effected, flaws and cracks remain which betray the artificiality of the work. We have had to throw overboard the plain sense of kavi which adheres to it throughout the Veda and foist in an unreal rendering. We have either to divorce the two words satya and ṛta which are closely associated in the Veda or to give a forced sense to ṛta. And throughout we have avoided the natural suggestions pressed on us by the language of the Rishi.
Let us now follow instead the opposite principle and give their full psychological value to the words of the inspired text. Kratu means in Sanskrit work or action and especially work in the sense of the sacrifice; but it means also power or strength (the Greek kratos) effective of action. Psychologically this power effective of action is the will. The word may also mean mind or intellect and Sayana admits thought or knowledge as a possible sense for kratu. Śravas means literally hearing and from this primary significance is derived its secondary sense, “fame”. But, psychologically, the idea of hearing leads up in Sanskrit to another sense which we find in śravaṇa, śruti, śruta,—revealed knowledge, the knowledge which comes by inspiration. Dṛṣṭi and śruti, sight and hearing, revelation and inspiration are the two chief powers of that supra-mental faculty which belongs to the old Vedic idea of the Truth, the Ritam. The word śravas is not recognised by the lexicographers in this sense, but it is accepted in the sense of a hymn,—the inspired word of the Veda. This indicates clearly that at one time it conveyed the idea of inspiration or of something inspired, whether word or knowledge. This significance, then, we are entitled to give it, provisionally at least, in the present passage; for the other sense of fame is entirely incoherent and meaningless in the context. Again the word namas is also capable of a psychological sense; for it means literally “bending down” and is applied to the act of adoring submission to the deity rendered physically by the prostration of the body. When therefore the Rishi speaks of “bearing obeisance to Agni by the thought” we can hardly doubt that he gives to namas the psychological sense of the inward prostration, the act of submission or surrender to the deity.
We get then this rendering of the four verses:—
“May Agni, priest of the offering whose will towards action is that of the seer, who is true, most rich in varied inspiration, come, a god with the gods.
“The good that thou wilt create for the giver, that is that truth of thee, O Angiras.
“To thee day by day, O Agni, in the night and in the light we by the thought come bearing our submission,—
“To thee who shinest out from the sacrifices (or, who governest the sacrifices), guardian of the Truth and its illumination, increasing in thy own home.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
Now Sri Aurobindo gives a detailed commentary on these four verses to bring out more clearly the psychological sense involved in these four in which Sri Aurobindo’s main point is the relationship between Agni and the Truth. According to Sri Aurobindo the word Truth or satyam, or the Right or ritam and the word brihad the vast, these three terms are extremely important in the Veda in the psychological interpretation. The Truth, the Right and the Vast according to Sri Aurobindo are the three terms of the Supramental consciousness, of the Supermind which is much higher than the mind because Sri Aurobindo in his own psychology distinguished between various grades between mind and supermind. According to him Mind is overtopped by Higher Mind, Higher Mind is overtopped by Illumined Mind, it is overtopped by Intuitive Mind, then the Overmind and then Supermind. Now these are the several levels to which we can rise by psychological, yogic processes of consciousness.
Now according to Sri Aurobindo the Vedic Rishis had already transcended the mental level and had reached right up to the Supramental consciousness. This is the great achievement of the Vedic Rishis and to describe that Supramental consciousness these three words have been used in the Veda very often ‒ satyam, ritam, brihad. Now according to Sri Aurobindo the word Agni is here to be connected with the concept of Truth with the Supermind, and in these four verses we shall see there is a constant reference to the Truth and to the Right, it is a repetition of these words and these words are significant and this is what Sri Aurobindo will point out in his commentary. Sri Aurobindo admits himself that:
The defect of the translation is that we have had to employ one and the same word for satyam and ṛtam whereas, as we see in the formula satyam ṛtaṁ bṛhat, there was a distinction in the Vedic mind between the precise significances of the two words.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
In fact in the Vedic terminology satyam is the expression of the Truth; Sat is the Being that which expresses Being is satyam, anvritam that which is not right, is that which distorts the expression of the Being. Now ritam is not only the right expression of the Truth but the right will which follows the Truth. And in the Supramental consciousness the Truth, the Right and the Vast all the three are interconnected. The Truth is never truth in a narrow consciousness. When I see this particular image here and see it only from my narrow angle, unless I see it in the vastest compass,, I never get the real view of it. I can only say from my narrow angle this is what it is, what it is from the highest point of view, the largest point of view, you can never know, therefore the Vedic Rishis always speak of satyam and brihad together. It is only in the vast that you really can see the Being, in the vast you can see the Truth, in the vast you can therefore follow the Truth and have the right Will. The right Will follows the right Knowledge. Now Sri Aurobindo says:
Who, then, is this god Agni to whom language of so mystic a fervour is addressed, to whom functions so vast and profound are ascribed? Who is this guardian of the Truth, who is in his act its illumination, whose will in the act is the will of a seer possessed of a divine wisdom governing his richly varied inspiration? What is the Truth that he guards? And what is this good that he creates for the giver who comes always to him in thought day and night bearing as his sacrifice submission and self-surrender? Is it gold and horses and cattle that he brings or is it some diviner riches?
It is not the sacrificial Fire that is capable of these functions, nor can it be any material flame or principle of physical heat and light. Yet throughout the symbol of the sacrificial Fire is maintained. It is evident that we are in the presence of a mystic symbolism to which the fire, the sacrifice, the priest are only outward figures of a deeper teaching and yet figures which it was thought necessary to maintain and to hold constantly in front.
In the early Vedantic teaching of the Upanishads we come across a conception of the Truth which is often expressed by formulas taken from the hymns of the Veda, such as the expression already quoted, satyam ṛtaṁ bṛhat,—the truth, the right, the vast. This Truth is spoken of in the Veda as a path leading to felicity, leading to immortality. In the Upanishads also it is by the path of the Truth that the sage or seer, Rishi or Kavi, passes beyond. He passes out of the falsehood, out of the mortal state into an immortal existence. We have the right therefore to assume that the same conception is in question in both Veda and Vedanta.
This psychological conception is that of a truth which is truth of divine essence, not truth of mortal sensation and appearance. It is satyam, truth of being; it is in its action ṛtam, right,—truth of divine being regulating right activity both of mind and body; it is bṛhat, the universal truth proceeding direct and undeformed out of the Infinite. The consciousness that corresponds to it is also infinite, bṛhat, large as opposed to the consciousness of the sense-mind which is founded upon limitation. The one is described as bhūmā, the large, the other as alpa, the little. Another name for this supramental or truth consciousness is Mahas which also means the great, the vast. And as for the facts of sensation and appearance which are full of falsehoods (anṛtam, not-truth or wrong application of the satyam in mental and bodily activity), we have for instruments the senses, the sense-mind (manas) and the intellect working upon their evidence, so for the truth-consciousness there are corresponding faculties,—dṛṣṭi, śruti, viveka, the direct vision of the truth, the direct hearing of its word, the direct discrimination of the right. Whoever is in possession of this truth-consciousness or open to the action of these faculties, is the Rishi or Kavi, sage or seer. It is these conceptions of the truth, satyam and ṛtam, that we have to apply in this opening hymn of the Veda.
Agni in the Veda is always presented in the double aspect of force and light. He is the divine power that builds up the worlds, a power which acts always with a perfect knowledge, for it is jātavedas, knower of all births, viśvāni vayunāni vidvān,—it knows all manifestations or phenomena or it possesses all forms and activities of the divine wisdom. Moreover it is repeatedly said that the gods have established Agni as the immortal in mortals, the divine power in man, the energy of fulfilment through which they do their work in him. It is this work which is symbolised by the sacrifice.
Psychologically, then, we may take Agni to be the divine will perfectly inspired by divine Wisdom, and indeed one with it, which is the active or effective power of the Truth-consciousness. This is the obvious sense of the word kavikratuḥ, he whose active will or power of effectivity is that of the seer,—works, that is to say, with the knowledge which comes by the truth-consciousness and in which there is no misapplication or error. The epithets that follow confirm this interpretation. Agni is satya, true in his being; perfect possession of his own truth and the essential truth of things gives him the power to apply it perfectly in all act and movement of force. He has both the satyam and the ṛtam. Moreover, he is citraśravastamaḥ; from the Ritam there proceeds a fullness of richly luminous and varied inspirations which give the capacity for doing the perfect work. For all these are epithets of Agni as the hotṛ, the priest of the sacrifice, he who performs the offering. Therefore it is the power of Agni to apply the Truth in the work (karma or apas) symbolised by the sacrifice, that makes him the object of human invocation.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
This sentence is a very important sentence, although it seems very short but it defines the word sacrifice. That’s why I will read again “it is the power of Agni to apply the Truth in the work (karma or apas) symbolised by the sacrifice,” that is to say no work is sacrifice unless there is application of Truth in work. When we say: I want to sacrifice you cannot do sacrifice, unless you invoke the Truth and allow the Truth to pass through your act of whatever is to be offered. The offering is to be filled, is to be bharanta, it has to become filled, it should be able to bear it, the work should bear in it the power, the vastness, the rightness of the Truth itself. Only then, work becomes a sacrifice. Otherwise in a sense all works can be regarded as sacrifices. Sacrifice actually means work. In fact this is the sense in which Gita, Sri Krishna says: all works can be sacrifices. But they become sacrifices only when you fill the work with the Truth. That way cooking can be a yajya, can be sacrifice, provided that while cooking the consciousness with which you do, is filled with the Truth.
The importance of the sacrificial fire in the outward ritual corresponds to the importance of this inward force of unified Light and Power in the inward rite by which there is communication and interchange between the mortal and the Immortal. Agni is elsewhere frequently described as the envoy, dūta, the medium of that communication and interchange.
We see, then, in what capacity Agni is called to the sacrifice. “Let him come, a god with the gods.” The emphasis given to the idea of divinity by this repetition, devo devebhir, becomes intelligible when we recall the standing description of Agni as the god in human beings, the immortal in mortals, the divine guest. We may give the full psychological sense by translating, “Let him come, a divine power with the divine powers.” For in the external sense of the Veda the Gods are universal powers of physical Nature personified; in any inner sense they must be universal powers of Nature in her subjective activities, Will, Mind, etc. But in the Veda there is always a distinction between the ordinary human or mental action of these puissances, manuṣvat, and the divine. It is supposed that man by the right use of their mental action in the inner sacrifice to the gods can convert them into their true or divine nature, the mortal can become immortal. Thus the Ribhus, who were at first human beings or represented human faculties, became divine and immortal powers by perfection in the work, sukṛtyayā, svapasyayā. It is a continual self-offering of the human to the divine and a continual descent of the divine into the human which seems to be symbolised in the sacrifice.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
This is the large sense of the word sacrifice, the human enters in to the Divine, the Divine enters into the human and ultimately Divine who is immortal imparts immortality also to the mortal and this is actually the aim of the real work in which truth is injected into the act.
The state of immortality thus attained is conceived as a state of felicity or bliss founded on a perfect Truth and Right, satyam ṛtam. We must, I think, understand in this sense the verse that follows. “The good (happiness) which thou wilt create for the giver, that is that truth of thee, O Agni.” In other words, the essence of this truth, which is the nature of Agni, is the freedom from evil, the state of perfect good and happiness which the Ritam carries in itself and which is sure to be created in the mortal when he offers the sacrifice by the action of Agni as the divine priest. Bhadram means anything good, auspicious, happy and by itself need not carry any deep significance. But we find it in the Veda used, like ṛtam, in a special sense. It is described in one of the hymns (V.82) as the opposite of the evil dream (duḥṣvapnyam), the false consciousness of that which is not the Ritam, and of duritam, false going, which means all evil and suffering. Bhadram is therefore equivalent to suvitam, right going, which means all good and felicity belonging to the state of the Truth, the Ritam. It is Mayas, the felicity, and the gods who represent the Truth-consciousness are described as mayobhuvaḥ, those who bring or carry in their being the felicity.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
This is one step forward that we go beyond Truth, that is to say according to the Veda bhur bhuha svaha then mahas and then is janaha, mahah is the plane of Truth, the Right and the Vast of the Supermind. But beyond the Supermind is mayas is a felicity. Now Agni, whose real home is in the Supermind and that is what we come to in the last paragraph sve dame, what is the real home of Agni, from where Agni has come, where does it reside actually, it resides in Supermind. But Supermind is always open to the Ananda to the felicity because according to the Veda the Supermind or the Truth or Vast or Brihad, it is the support of a higher triple world, which later on was defined as Sat, Chit and Ananda. Therefore as you rise from Supermind upward the first level you get is felicity, and felicity itself is the combination of Sat and Chit. That is to say Ananda even in the Taittiriya Upanishad is regarded as the highest. Although Sat, Chit and Ananda is the complete description of it, but that is because it said that Ananda is the combination of Sat and Chit. When the two are combined then the union of the two is the most felicitous condition of consciousness, therefore when you speak of Ananda, Sat and Chit are already united and that is why very often only Ananda is described, Sat and Chit are not described. Therefore it is said that when you go beyond the Supermind there is still a plane of Ananda and that is what in Taittiriya Upanishad is very clearly stated that beyond mahas, you go to Ananda. And in the Vedic terminology you go beyond mahas to janaha, janaha is the Ananda. In fact all creativity is from Ananda, is joy. And beyond that is tapas that is chit, and beyond that is satyam is the Truth, is Sat. So Bhadram karishayasi, this is the whole point Sri Aurobindo says, he says to Agni that what you are, your own truth of being will be manifested in what you do for your seeker, whatever you do for your seeker, for your sacrificer, for your worshipper, will be the manifestation of your truth and what is that truth? Agni bears always the Supramental consciousness and with the Supramental consciousness it is open to Bhadram, to the felicity, to the Ananda. Therefore it is not that whoever does sacrifice you do good to him so that he can sacrifice again to you, that is the ritualistic meaning which Sayana gives. Whereas the real meaning is that you will give what is truth of your being, tat eva tat satyam, sign is of that truth, what is that truth? Your truth is Supramental Consciousness; your truth is felicity, Ananda. It is this Truth Consciousness, it is this felicity which you will give to the one who sacrifices to you. So it is this psychological meaning that fits in this particular proposition.
It is mayas, the felicity as the gods who represent the Truth Consciousness are described as mayobhuvah., those who carry or bring in their being the felicity.
Thus every part of the Veda, if properly understood, throws light upon every other part. It is only when we are misled by its veils that we find in it an incoherence.
In the next verse there seems to be stated the condition of the effective sacrifice. It is the continual resort day by day, in the night and in the light, of the thought in the human being with submission, adoration, self-surrender, to the divine Will and Wisdom represented by Agni. Night and Day, Naktoṣāsā, are also symbolical, like all the other gods in the Veda, and the sense seems to be that in all states of consciousness, whether illumined or obscure, there must be a constant submission and reference of all activities to the divine control.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
This of course is the description of a yogin, it is not one who simply goes to temple or havan does some kind of offering for a given time because here it says day and night and this is applicable only to the yogin who has given himself completely to the search of the Divine light and for him therefore there is no question of rest from this submission. Day and night in every moment in the Gita we call it sarvabhavena, in all manners of being you offer yourself to the Divine,so whether you are depressed or angry, whatever you may be, you go on surrendering yourself to the Divine, in the state of darkness, in the state of light, illumination, in all states of being. This is the condition of offering yourself to the Agni.
For whether by day or night Agni shines out in the sacrifices; he is the guardian of the Truth, of the Ritam in man and defends it from the powers of darkness; he is its constant illumination burning up even in obscure and besieged states of the mind. The ideas thus briefly indicated in the eighth verse are constantly found throughout the hymns to Agni in the Rig Veda.
Agni is finally described as increasing in his own home. We can no longer be satisfied with the explanation of the own home of Agni as the “fire-room” of the Vedic householder. We must seek in the Veda itself for another interpretation and we find it in the 75th hymn of the first Mandala.
_Yajā no mitrāvaruṇā, yajā devān ṛtaṁ bṛhat;
agne yakṣi svaṁ damam._
“Sacrifice for us to Mitra and Varuna, sacrifice to the gods, to the Truth, the Vast; O Agni, sacrifice to thy own home.”
Here ṛtaṁ bṛhat and svaṁ damam seem to express the goal of the sacrifice and this is perfectly in consonance with the imagery of the Veda which frequently describes the sacrifice as travelling towards the gods and man himself as a traveller moving towards the truth, the light or the felicity. It is evident, therefore, that the Truth, the Vast and Agni’s own home are identical. Agni and other gods are frequently spoken of as being born in the truth, dwelling in the wide or vast. The sense, then, will be in our passage that Agni the divine will and power in man increases in the truth-consciousness, its proper sphere, where false limitations are broken down, urāv anibādhe, in the wide and the limitless.
Thus in these four verses of the opening hymn of the Veda we get the first indications of the principal ideas of the Vedic Rishis,—the conception of a Truth-consciousness supramental and divine, the invocation of the gods as powers of the Truth to raise man out of the falsehoods of the mortal mind, the attainment in and by this Truth of an immortal state of perfect good and felicity and the inner sacrifice and offering of what one has and is by the mortal to the Immortal as the means of the divine consummation. All the rest of Vedic thought in its spiritual aspects is grouped around these central conceptions.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Agni and the Truth
I have taken this particular point because this gives you the kernel you might say of the real message of the Veda. There is a very important question which is very often asked particularly by the modern young people, we must address that question. We have spoken of our present humanity, relevance of the Veda to the present humanity, and why we should restore the Veda at this particular juncture of our time and it is connected with this question.
The question which was asked by Vivekananda, a modern man, when he went to Sri Ramkrishna and said: ‘Have you seen God?’ and the answer was ‘Yes. I see him more vividly than I can see you.’ That was the answer of Sri Ramkrishna and it is that which changed Narendranath into Vivekananda later on. This is the question which is prominent again in the latest brand of humanity, latest generation of humanity. When we see the advancement of the world and the way in which we see today, particularly the scientific development, technological development and development of gadgets, the switch board and the tuning of sound and vision and all kinds of facilities by which you can fly all over the world, in one single day, these are amazing feats of humanity. It is with this dazzling light of these scientific and technological achievements that when we speak of God, Divine, the modern young man really asks this question: ‘What is Divine, what is God?’ and can a rational being accept God, rational being. I use the word rational because it is understood that science and technology are being developed by the mind, by the reason and if reason can do all these feats surely there can be nothing higher than the reason. Or if there is something higher, then the question is whether this reason can see that higher and only when reason can see that higher that I can accept it. This is a very important question therefore, to be answered. In the history of thought this question has been raised again and again.
In fact most of the philosophical systems have raised this question. Philosophy as we know is fundamentally rooted in the instrumentality of the reason. Whatever else philosophy may be, but philosophy is not philosophy, unless rational argumentation is presented. Even spiritual philosophies are philosophies distinguished from spiritual scriptures because in spiritual philosophies the spiritual truths are to be stated rationally, in terms of reason, or to the extent which reason can establish it. So in all systems of philosophy, particularly those which are spiritual in character, they have tried to answer this question rationally, to establish the truth of God or Divine, if it is a spiritual philosophy. There has been an attempt in Nyaya for example, to produce the arguments for the existence of God. How do you prove rationally that God exists? Even in Shankara, there is an attempt to answer the question: what is rationality? whether the Reality is Advaita, is one without the second? In a way you might say that all philosophical systems like Sankhya even, although it does not believe in God, it believes in Purusha and it tries to give proof of the existence of Purusha by rational thought. In the West also the same thing continues, the earliest statement is in Parmenides, which was further developed in Plato, and further developed in Aristotle, and then when we come to theologians like Thomas Aquinas.
In fact what is called the ontological argument of the existence of God is a most famous articulation of a rational establishment of the idea and existence of God. And this ontological argument was supported not only by Thomas Aquinas, who was a theologian but also by Descartes, a pure rationalist, by Spinoza another rationalist, by Leibniz another rationalist; and although Kant later on criticises it, towards the end of his life I am told recently, that in one of his recent works he once again came back to ontological argument. Hegel his whole philosophy is based upon ontological argument and Bradley also based on ontological argument. So in that sense, we might say there is a long history by means of which rationally you can say God exists. Of course this proposition is opposed by what are called by many atheists and by pragmatists, by logical positivists, by empiricists and many others but there has been a very important attempt throughout the history of the world to show rationally, ‘God exists’.
Now what is this ontological argument, which according to rationalists is irrefutable, you can’t refute it at all. In a formulation it seems so simple and seems so trite even, so one would wonder why is it called an argument. Let me state it very briefly. Among all the ideas, you take any idea, if I have an idea of a flower, it does not mean the flower must exist, corresponding to the idea. I may think of a unicorn, unicorn is a thought but the thought does not mean that the moment you have this thought that object must exist. In other words to have an idea of a thing does not necessarily imply that the thing of which it is an idea that thing really exists. This is you might say the deficiency of ideas, deficiency of ideas lies in the fact that you can have ideas but corresponding to the ideas there may be nothing. The first starting point but it is argued that the idea of God however is quite different.
The idea of God, the moment you say, I have an idea of God, it means God must exist. To have an idea of God, the idea of God itself is of such a nature that to think of God and to think of God, not existing is impossible. This is in substance the ontological argument. The idea of God is of such a nature, it’s a peculiar idea, no other idea is like the idea of God. Now, in due course of time if we have time we will discuss it in detail. I am only presenting to you just for the sake of answering a question which is very often prominently placed by many, many young people today. Do you have a rational demonstration of the existence of God? I can only bring to them this idea that in the history of thought a number of philosophers have accepted this proposition that the idea of God is of such a nature that the moment you think of God, you have also to think such a God exists. Even if you establish, I go now one step farther this of course to those people who have not thought over this question very deeply, this argument may not appeal to them, or it may seem to them a surprise, therefore it is such a trite idea actually, but it is very packed and when you reflect on it, you will find it is a very, very powerful in a sense irrefutable argument, you cannot refute against it, but it requires lot of deliberation.
You know one of the important things in philosophy is that philosophical ideas mature by hibernation. That is to say, just as a bird puts out an egg and then incubates it by the warmth and when it is fully incubated that the bird flies out of it. Similarly, philosophical ideas, which are the true philosophical ideas, in fact there are not many philosophical ideas, there is such a long history of philosophy but philosophical ideas are basically two or three, ‒ idea of eternity, idea of infinity, idea of immortality, idea of God, idea of soul. These are few ideas which are really philosophical ideas and these ideas philosophically need to be incubated. You go on reflecting, you go on and on reflecting, how do you reflect? In fact this is where the question of meditation arises. In fact we believe that only Yogis meditate but Yogis meditate in a special manner, whereas philosophers meditate in another manner. You know very often the question is asked: what is meditation? It’s also a question in modern times with many people. What is meditation? So one of the ways of explaining what is meditation is, that you first of all meditate on philosophical ideas. In fact one of the great books of of the great philosopher called Descartes, his whole book is called ‒ Méditation, it is in French, Meditation it is the title and his whole book is full of meditations, so if you read the whole book, you are meditating with him. Meditation is actually to take an idea, to start with an idea, and you connect that idea with an idea that flows from that idea. Then allow that idea to be connected together and you take the third idea which flows from these two ideas and from there a fourth idea may arise and then many other ideas arise and again they may be circling back to the first idea and again and again, you go on reflecting on one idea leading to the other, leading to the second, second to the third, and at every stage you try to be sure does this idea really imply this idea, does this idea really imply this idea, does this idea really imply this idea. This implication, the process of seeing the implication is a very important part of meditation. An idea is itself important but the implication of the idea in the other idea, this perception of implication is the philosophical insight. Just now for example I said: ‘Idea of God implies existence of God, idea of God implies existence of God.’ This is basically the ontological argument. Now when you meditate on it, when you reflect on it, what do you do? You ask questions. Idea of God, fine, first of all reflect the idea of God then you say, idea of God, what is the idea of God? Now try to think, what is the idea of God and that is where your reflection will become more mature, what is the idea of God? Descartes meditated on this idea and he said: ‘Idea of God is an idea of a God who is perfect’; simple idea, I mean this is part of meditation. Idea of God is an idea of God who is perfect, alright, then now you go to the third idea, what is perfect?
Now this is also a very difficult problem, what is perfect? Now his simple answer is, I am talking in a very unscholarly manner, so because I don’t want to speak pedantically but just to be able to be accessible to the ordinary way of thinking then his answer is ‘perfection means that which lacks nothing’. Fine, that which lacks nothing ‒ perfect, one definition, perfect is that which lacks nothing, fine therefore repeat again meditation, idea of God implies existence of God. Idea of God, what is the idea of God, the idea of God is that God is perfect. What is the idea of perfect, perfect is that which lacks nothing. Now comes the final answer. If it lacks nothing, can it lack existence? If it lacks nothing, can it lack existence? No. Therefore, idea of God means that idea which lacks nothing, idea of God is that God does not lack existence, therefore God must exist. Even when I say this, it will not carry you to that condition, you again reflect, this is called hibernation. Philosophical thinking, in fact teaching of philosophy should be like what Varuna and Brighu did in Taittiriya Upanishad. Instead of giving a lecture you should say to students now you meditate. Meditate on the idea of God, God perfection, perfection that lacks nothing. Existence is something; therefore existence must be part of perfection. Therefore to think of God and to think of God as not existing is impossible. Fine, this is how the ontological argument, basically I have told you now ontological argument in a more full form, and if you think more and more deeply the answer will be that if you want only rational basis then you can say that reason can think only of one thing, what is it? Reason can only think that God exists.
If you apply the true reason, people think that we are rational but actually we must ask what is rationality, what is reason? Even this we do not normally know: what is rationality. We think we are rational and science is rational and all that but if you ask the question, what is rational, what is reason? Then the answer is, reason consists in the idea, in the idea God exists, an idea which you cannot question, unquestionably the only thing that is to say reason has only one idea, that is to say what is reason, what is rationality? Rationality is the power of conception. Just as what is sight, eyes have sight. What is sight that can be seen, what is hearing that which can be heard. Similarly, what is the corresponding thing that you do in reason, what you do corresponding to reason is conception, neither sight nor hearing nor touch, nor smell. The only power that reason has is of conception. What is conception, conception is an idea and when you think very truly of an idea you will come to the conclusion, ‒ the content of that idea is that God exists, that is the centrality of the conception. There can be no conception, there are many concepts you have got for every object that you see and I report afterwards when objects are not present, they are all conceptions. I speak of parliament for example, when I talk to you about parliament, parliament is not before you, sight is not there but conception is there before you. If you put all the concepts together, all possible concepts together, you will find that these concepts are all interconnected. Every conception is connected with another conception. This is also a very interesting thing, every conception gets connected with another conception and these conceptions all of them get as if they were merged into more and more universal concepts. In fact every concept has this element of universality, which is a peculiar thing of the nature of concept. This was the discovery of Plato.
It was discovered by Indian thinkers also much longer ago, in fact Nyaya believes that in perception you not only perceive the particular, you also perceive the universal. It is a very special theory of Nyaya, which is not shared by many others. When I see this is a flower, I not only see the flower, this particular flower, I also see the universal flower because I see all the flowers or universal flower, therefore I say it is a flower. I have a concept of a flower. Concept of a flower is a universal concept, so that it is such a concept which will apply to all the kinds of flowers. Whether it is Rose, or Jasmine, or it is a Lotus, or a Lily, or a Sunflower, whatever it is, I have a concept of a flower which is so universal that it will apply to all the particular flowers in the world. This is the power of a concept. It is different from my eyesight; my eyesight can only catch a particular. My hearing can catch a particular sound but reason has a higher faculty, why is it higher? Because it can grasp something that is universal, nobody has seen a universal flower but I have a concept of a flower. Therefore as you develop your concepts more and more widely, you will come to universalities of various kinds and these universalities will all combine together.
Plato for example made a big exercise of this and he came to the conclusion that there are three highest universal concepts, ‒ Truth, Beauty, Goodness, highest concepts and he said that everyone when he thinks truly, rationally, does not deviate from rationality, he must be absolutely rational then he will arrive at the three concepts ‒ Truth, Beauty and Goodness. All the three universal and they will coalesce into one supreme concept, which he called the Good, which we call God, in some respects. Now this is one way, his ontological argument was of this kind, this kind of meditation. In other words, according to him the idea, the concept, conceptual rationality that rationality consists only of one idea ‒ God exists, universal, all that is marvellous, transcendental, God exists, that is the only rational idea that you can have.
Now this entire process can be presented to the young people, it takes little time, it requires as I said incubation, you can go on incubating on it, revise it again and again, make sure that at no stage you are deceiving yourself or you are just hiding something or veiling something. As Sri Aurobindo says: ‘You look through the reason, he defines reason as the colourless, sharp and luminous penetration. This is rationality, it is colourless, there is no prejudice, no preference at all colourless, pure rationality is this. And he says if you are truly rational that reality is above all particular forms is the only concept that you can have. So anyway, this is one argument, this requires meditation of a certain kind. Even then it is true that the concept does not give you experience. This is where the problem lies. Even if you can convince intellectually God exists by this rational argument and this is the one deficiency of reason. Reason is not experience, we experience something different. I may rationally not question the existence of God. It is impossible for truly rational human beings to question the existence of God. But you will say rationally you may be whatever may have but I want to experience God. This is the relevance of a deeper question of the modern young people. At one time rationality was satisfying the people, today rationality is not satisfying the people, in fact rationality itself has come to be questioned. Although all the people are not aware as to what is the meaning of rationality? They do not even know whom they worship and they say they worship reason but when they speak of science and rationality there is always this question of science based ultimately upon that which is experienced. This is the strength of science.
In philosophy you can be satisfied with concepts, but science is never satisfied with mere concepts. In other words when scientific man speaks of rationality he does not mean by rationality what philosophers mean by rationality. They mean by rationality that which is conceptually correct but also experientially seen, held, experienced, possessed, which can be applied, can produce. You may have an idea of water but unless your thirst is quenched how do you believe in water, water is that which quenches your thirst. And the existence of water can be proved only when this happens, when your thirst is quenched this is called rational, when you speak of rational proof, you don’t merely mean what rationally believed to be the proof, what Vivekananda said: Have you seen God and that is what today’s young people want. Are there people who have seen God and can you have the method by which you can see God?
This is where Veda is relevant. The very first verse speaks of Truth Consciousness. It says there is a Kavi. Kavi is that one who has seen who has experienced. This very concept is in the Veda in the very first verse it is there Kavi. Kavi means the seer. Seer is one who has seen the Truth Consciousness. Now these concepts of Truth Consciousness as Kavi are not at all applicable to whatever we do here in our world in our ordinary way and yet the Veda conceives and speaks not as conceptions, Veda is not merely description of concepts, Veda is a description of experiences and that is why the vidhi of the Veda. Here is a book which describes experiences, afterwards you may say: Well! How do I believe in those experiences? They may be all fictions, some imaginations. Now in science also we have come to that level as I said last time in the fourth dimension. Scientists today may speak of the fourth dimension. I don’t see the fourth dimension anywhere, but the scientific mind accepts it. Now what is the basis of that acceptance? And this is a very important question and that is the real relevance to the Veda. How is it that a scientist accepts the fourth dimension even though he does not see it, does not experience it. The way in which scientist is able to demonstrate fourth dimension is, he says that you follow a certain method, method of perception, method of observation, method of experimentation, method of conceptions of various kinds, certain mathematical training, you take all this and then if you proceed farther you are bound to arrive at the fourth dimension. In other words, the method by which he can prove that the fourth dimension exists, the reference is to the method, if you follow this method you are bound to arrive at this. Now the Veda says Truth Consciousness exists, it can be experienced. And if you say I don’t see it at all the answer is the Veda says there are methods by which if you follow those methods then you will be able to arrive at that concept and that experience, that is the reason why Veda is a science in that sense. Just as in science you demonstrate whatever you establish by reference to a method, similarly the Veda does not merely state that these are matters of experiences, that statement does not lead you there. There are some Yogis who tell you to develop your experiences, it’s a matter of experience. These are irresponsible answers. It is true that by experience you can see but as a Yogin your propositions, if you want to communicate to the others. For yourself it’s alright, you are satisfied. If you want to share with others, you have to communicate to others, you should provide methods, you should say that if you follow this method, if you follow this method, if you follow this method, then go on and then you will arrive at the experience. Now Veda is not only a statement of experiences it is also a statement of the methods by which those experiences can be obtained. And that is why among many other books on spirituality Veda occupies a very important place.
In other words Veda is a book of Yoga. And Yoga has this speciality, Yoga is a systematised knowledge. In fact the definition of Yoga is not a body of experiences, it is first of all a body of the knowledge and the principles on the basis of which a methodised effort can be attempted, can be developed and can be culminated. And the experiences of which can be verified among all those who follow the same methods. This is what is stated in the Veda, not only the statement that it is the Truth Consciousness but it says how the Truth Consciousness can be obtained. Now when it is said Agni and Truth Consciousness, there is a relationship between the two and it says if you can touch Agni, this is a method now, the whole thing that has been described is actually methodology of arriving at Truth Consciousness. You come into contact with Agni. How do you come into contact with Agni, anmo bharante emasi, day and night you be filled with that sense of surrender and you think, you think not experience now, you think of the epithets which are valid of Agni, think of as Agnir hot¯a kavikratuh., satya´s citra´sravastamah.; these are the ideas which you think of, this is the methods. Think of Agni who is capable of the production of Truth and of the Right. Develop these concepts: what is Truth, what is Right, what is Vast, think about these ideas. Fill your consciousness with them. Then you think of Agni and felicity, bhadram there is a relationship between Agni and bhadram, of that which is auspicious, that which is full of Ananda. Develop this concept. In your action whatever you do, you just think of Agni and say: Let my action be truthful and you protect my truthfulness, practise it. With all these conditions if you fulfil the Veda says you will arrive not only at Truth Consciousness but will arrive at immortality. What is immortality we shall see later on but this is the promise that it gives that all that is the Supreme, the highest, if you want a true fulfilment of your life, in fact every human being seeks nothing but fulfilment, he wants the highest that is possible, when he says I want happiness, it is a word which is used actually the highest that is possible for him. He does not want anything less than highest for him and what is highest for him is immortality, this is what the Veda describes. We may not know and therefore speak of immortality but if somebody reveals to you and if you go to a deeper and deeper and deeper level of consciousness, like Alexander the Great, you may conquer lands after lands and you think now you have achieved so much and yet he says: ‘I am not happy.’ What is happiness because it is something else; it is then when you go deeper and deeper that you really discover what your real happiness is. What is bhadram for you, what is really bhadram, which Agni can do, Agni is capable of doing that bhadram to you which will lead you to that felicity and that highest happiness you might say but that happiness is not what you think is your happiness, you think this is happiness because at present you think it will be happiness. To a child to get one chocolate is happiness, it is only later on he thinks this is not enough, he needs something more and something more, and something more. So his highest fulfilment, everybody seeks his highest fulfilment and that highest fulfilment is what is given by Agni. This is the importance of Agni in the Veda and that is why Agni is given such a prominent place in the Veda. We will stop here today.