Sri Aurobindo and The Veda (Auroville) - Audio with Transcript

Thank you very much for being here today so that I can share with you some of the statements of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo's light on these statements and reflections. You have a copy of my text with you and I wanted to ask you whether I should read it or I should speak to you and you can choose between the two... Alright, I will speak. The text, you can read, so I will have the chance also of departing from the text.

There is one very important statement that Sri Aurobindo has made in the Foundation of Indian Culture where he speaks of the immediate work of India. And I would like to underline this, because this meeting is being held in Bharat Nivas, which is dedicated to the promotion of Indian culture. And I think this statement of Sri Aurobindo should be somewhere highlighted in Bharat Nivas. Sri Aurobindo has said: There are three tasks that India has to accomplish. The first task is to recover the ancient spiritual knowledge in its fullness, in amplitude – this is the first task. And this means of course, basically, the recovery of the Veda, Upanishads, the Gita, and the Puranas and Tantras. This is, you might say, the basic stuff of what can be called the ancient spiritual knowledge of India. I underline the word knowledge because, usually, although this knowledge is contained in what are called scriptures – and scriptures are sometimes regarded as the revelations which are made once for all and have to be accepted unquestioningly, and therefore philosophers do not accept them as bodies of knowledge – whereas here, although these are scriptures, Vedas are scriptures, Upanishads, the Gita, Tantra, Puranas, they are still to be considered as books of knowledge, because India does not regard them as revelations made for all time, which cannot be repeated, which cannot be verified. According to the Vedic tradition, the faculty of revelation can be so developed that one can have a constant stream of revelations. And therefore it is not something which comes once for all, but one can have repeated revelations, and revelations can be verified by revelations, and they can be experimented upon, they can be enlarged as in scientific knowledge,— you can enlarge upon the knowledge, you can even overpass, you can have a new revelation, a new knowledge. So Sri Aurobindo has deliberately used the word, ‘Ancient Indian spiritual knowledge.’ This has to be recovered. It has to be recovered because it has greatly been lost. Mother once wrote down for me one message in which She said: “India has or rather had the knowledge of the Spirit.” So She wanted to underline that India should not take the pride of having today a living knowledge of the Spirit. India has deviated a long way from the possession of that knowledge and therefore it has to be recovered. This is the first task.

The second task, Sri Aurobindo has said: India has to pour that knowledge into new modes of philosophical, scientific and critical knowledge. This is a very difficult task. In fact it has been made easy because Sri Aurobindo himself wrote a huge philosophical work called The Life Divine, in which he has demonstrated how the ancient knowledge can be poured into the philosophical modes of thinking, and how in modern times it can be presented in the modern fashion and even shown how we can advance from the past towards the new.

The third task, Sri Aurobindo has said, is to deal with the contemporary problems in a new manner, and to realise a spiritualised society. These are the three tasks, of which the last one, He said, is the most difficult task. And the proportion in which India can accomplish these three tasks – to that extent India will have fulfilled her mission. In fact the third task also Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have initiated and where we are sitting now, this great seat called Auroville, is India's effort inviting the whole world to meet together and attempt to create a spiritualised society. So, in fact, the extent to which we can succeed here, in Auroville, to that extent India will have fulfilled her mission.

But these last two tasks will depend very largely upon the recovery, — the first task — the recovery of the ancient spiritual knowledge. And therefore I have thought, it would be very useful if in Auroville, we can meet together from time to time and enter into the ancient treasure of spiritual knowledge. It is a very difficult terrain, it is so complex, and it is buried under so much of a plethora of interpretations that it is extremely difficult to penetrate, like into a jungle. To someone like me who has been brought up in India right from childhood in the real Indian tradition, where the Veda was my constant childhood friend, — I had a home in which Veda was recited every day — and in spite of this kind of upbringing, it is only when I came to Sri Aurobindo that I really entered into the real portals of the Vedic knowledge, and till that time, all that I knew of the Veda and the Upanishads and the Gita and the Puranas was a real dense forest, difficult to penetrate, difficult even to walk, even one mile, into that big terrain. We recited the mantras of the Veda, the hymns of the Veda, understood a little, because sometimes the words are not so difficult and you can make out some meaning out of it, but when you try to penetrate into, what we can call knowledge, there was a constant failure. In fact, many of us who read the western scholars interpreting the Veda, found in their interpretations an echo of our own lack of understanding. You know, the western scholars came across this great body of Vedic knowledge in the early nineteenth century.

Perhaps many of you may not know the vast corpus of the Veda itself. Apart from the interpretations of the Veda, which are also huge, the mere text of the Veda itself is very vast. What is called Veda consists of four huge books: the first one is called Rig Veda, the second is called Yajur Veda, the third is called Sama Veda, and the fourth is called Atharva Veda. These are four huge volumes. Rig Veda is the biggest. It has ten chapters and totally it has ten thousand verses, ten thousand verses. In a recent publication, mere Sanskrit text and English translation has come to twelve volumes of Rig Veda alone. Atharva Veda is half of the Rig Veda, Sama Veda is the shortest, and Yajur Veda is more than one fourth of the Rig Veda. Basically, Rig Veda is regarded as the Veda, and Sri Aurobindo made a study of this Rig Veda in depth. But when this study was made by the western scholars in the nineteenth century, after studying them they found that the Veda seemed to be compositions of barbarians, naive in their imagination, superstitious, materialist, seeking for wealth, and progeny and cows and horses. Not understanding the real depth and not understanding the connections of ideas, they really felt that the entire Vedic corpus is simply a bundle of worthless material, which may be studied for historical reasons to show to people what barbaric people of ancient times thought and conceived and imagined, but for no other purpose. In fact Max Mueller, after interpreting the whole of the Veda, wrote a letter to his wife: “I have now”, I don't quote exactly the words but he said: “I have now accomplished the task of translating the whole of the Rig Veda and when people, even in India, when they will read my translation and understand what Veda contains, they will find that there is nothing in it, and then they will easily turn to Christianity and embrace it.” This was the confidence with which he translated, and many others who came to translate and many of them who interpreted the Veda coincided in their interpretations and many of the Indian scholars who read these western scholars, also dared not depart from this interpretation of the western scholars. Even a philosopher like Radhakrishnan, while writing on the Veda in his book called Indian Philosophy, says, in one of the paragraphs of his writings, “Sri Aurobindo sees a great light and psychological truth in the Veda,” but he remarks: “But when we see that western scholars do not agree with him, we also cannot agree with Sri Aurobindo.” This is the remark of a man like Radhakrishnan, who is supposed to be one of the foremost philosophers of India. You can see, therefore, how difficult it is for scholars to understand the Veda. Now there is a history of the interpretation of the Veda, and this history has to be understood before we can appreciate how Sri Aurobindo penetrated through this great forest of the Vedic interpretations and brought a great light out of these Vedic verses.

This interpretation starts with the Upanishads. Upanishads claimed that what they have written in their compositions are nothing but reaffirmations of the Veda. Now, this is a very important point because Upanishads are regarded by all scholars all over the world to be of tremendous importance and full of light. On this there is no dispute either in the East or in the West. And the Upanishads themselves declare that they are nothing but affirmations of the Veda. Therefore, at least for the Upanishadic seers, Vedas are books of knowledge. When we come to the Bhagavad Gita, which is regarded to be the quintessence of the Veda, it also mentions that Veda is a book of knowledge. Puranas also claimed that Veda is a book of knowledge. Tantra also regards Veda as a book of knowledge. Indian schools of philosophy regard Veda as an authority, and it is a tradition in Indian philosophy that if your conclusions of philosophical thought do not coincide with what is in the Veda, then your conclusions are wrong, but what is in the Veda is true. Such is the tradition in Indian philosophy. In spite of this great tradition of the authoritativeness of the Veda, there came a school of interpretation, and a long line of interpretation, starting with Yaska, one of the great interpreters of the Veda. And this line ended with a great scholar of the fourteenth century A.D. called Sayana. He was himself a Prime Minister of a state in South India and also a great Vedic scholar, and he had the possibility of employing a whole huge mass of scholars to assist him. And Sayana interpreted all the four Vedas – a huge task he accomplished, and it is itself so big that it requires a long life time to study and therefore to differ from him would require a further time, and therefore Sayana's interpretation ultimately became the standard interpretation of the Veda in India, after a long period. And if you read Sayana's interpretation, then it would seem that Vedic Rishis and the greatness of Vedic Rishis and the claim that Vedic texts contain knowledge is a colossal fiction. If you read Sayana, you would be obliged to conclude that his claim that Veda contains knowledge — that proposition cannot be sustained. Sayana himself is a ritualist, who believes that Vedas were written for ritualistic purposes. He reveres the Veda, not like the Vedic interpreters of the modern scholars of western Scholarship. He reveres, he has a respect for the Veda but he believes that Veda is simply a book of rituals. And if you recite Mantras, they have magical effects and it will give you certain rewards if these mantras are recited properly. In other words they are magical superstitions, — not superstitious according to Sayana, but magical mantras which can be recited, which can produce results in your life. Results as of materialistic gains, of progeny and wealth and so on, such will be the meaning of the Veda according to Sayana. It was on Sayana's basis that Vedic scholars of the West made their interpretations and they went one step further. Whatever reverence there was in Sayana for the Veda was blotted out, and it was proved that Vedas are important only from the point of view of the primitive history, but of no further use for mankind in the future. It has no message. Now Sri Aurobindo himself, when he came to study the Veda in his early stages of his life, without studying Veda properly, had felt that these modern interpretations may be quite meaningful, may be quite valid. This was the climate of the modern Indians and even now it is largely so. One of the last interpretations of the Veda was by a great scholar of the nineteenth century in India called Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati. He interpreted the Veda. He criticised Sayana very severely and affirmed that Veda is a book of knowledge. Sri Aurobindo himself has written a very illuminating article and essay on Dayananda. When you have time you may like to read it, and you can see what a great tribute Sri Aurobindo has paid to Dayananda.

And yet Sri Aurobindo does not coincide his own interpretation with the interpretation of Dayananda. It was when Sri Aurobindo had already had three great realisations of his yoga, and when he came to Pondicherry that he turned to Veda seriously for the first time. By this time he had the realisation of the Brahmic nirvana, of which we have read so greatly, under the guidance of the Maharashtrian yogi called Lele. He had a further realisation of the universal Vasudeva Krishna in the Alipore jail and he had already in the Alipore jail also heard the voice of Vivekananda, for fifteen days uninterruptedly, where Sri Aurobindo was given the knowledge of the planes between the mind and the Supermind. It was after this background that Sri Aurobindo had numerous experiences to which he had no clue, either in western psychology or modern psychology or ancient psychology or anywhere, but these experiences were rising in his consciousness; as he says himself. Particularly, he had the experiences of what in the Veda are called Ila, Saraswati, Sarama, Daksha. These are four female energies described in the Veda and, without knowing this; Sri Aurobindo already had experience of these energies. And he had no clue as to what these energies are? What are these powers which were rising in his own consciousness on their own? And then when he happened to read the Veda, with this background, he directly contacted and understood and found a confirmation of his own experiences in the Veda. This was the way in which the key of the Veda was found by his own personal experiences which preceded his understanding of the Veda. It is not as if these experiences came to him after reading the Veda and then finding them in the Veda he confirmed his own experiences, it is the other way round. He already had the experiences of these highest powers of consciousness and found a clue to them in the Rig Veda. It is said in the Veda that only the seer can understand the words of the seer. This is the Vedic expression itself ninya vachamsi, that is, secret words, kavaye nivachanani, they are revealed only to the kavi, to the poet, to the seer, and it is confirmed in the case of Sri Aurobindo: the secret meaning of the Veda was revealed only to the seer, to Sri Aurobindo. After studying this Veda, Sri Aurobindo has... — I am now going rapidly because this is a vast subject and I am only trying to give you the summary, the essence of the matter, — after studying the Veda in depth — now this, when I say in depth, to cover within two or three years, such a huge mass of Vedic knowledge, is really something like an Herculean labour which he accomplished within a short time as if he dived into the Veda and collected all the treasures within a short time and brought the jewels and diamonds out of the Veda. Then he began to express and put them before mankind. It was in 1914, that is to say, 1910, he came to Pondicherry, and by 1914, within four years, he had attained to such a mastery of the secret meaning of the Veda that he began to write a series of articles under the title The Secret of the Veda, and if you read The Secret of the Veda, you can see a masterly interpretation; it is a masterly interpretation because he finds the proof of his own interpretation in the Veda itself. It is by internal evidence that he shows that the interpretation he has given follows clearly and obviously, luminously, from the Vedic verses themselves. It is in the light of this that he says that Upanishads also can be understood properly. In fact, although Upanishads are famous for their knowledge, even today if you go to the scholars to ask the interpretation of the Upanishads, three fourths of the Upanishads, is a closed door, even today. Even those who praise Upanishads to the sky, whether in the East or in the West, even when they read the Upanishads and you ask them questions you really find that they are absolutely out of their depth. They cannot explain, and it is quite obvious because unless you understand the Veda, and the secret of the Veda, Upanishads cannot truly be understood. Fortunately Sri Aurobindo has written for us also, at least two great commentaries, on two important Upanishads: Isha Upanishad and the Kena Upanishad, and he has translated eight Upanishads in totality. That is a tremendous help that we can get to understand the Upanishads properly. Similarly if you do not understand the Veda properly, you cannot properly understand the Bhagavad Gita, although Bhagavad Gita is not a secret book like the Veda, nor like the Upanishads, so pregnant with meaning. And yet the Bhagavad Gita too cannot be understood properly, if you do not understand the Veda. In other words, the recovery of the ancient knowledge — Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, — cannot be achieved except in the light of what Sri Aurobindo has written on the Veda. That is how I consider Sri Aurobindo’s Secret of the Veda to be of the highest importance.

I spoke till now as if the Veda is important for India, and for the recovery of India, but, actually speaking, the Veda may be looked upon as the only document of the ancient time available to the whole humanity, that is to say, if you trace the world history, and if you try to find out what was the earliest composition of the earliest stage of humanity, nothing is available to us today, ─ except the Veda. This is the only... we can call a document, the only composition which is available to humanity. There were of course many other traditions in the ancient times, and there was certainly a great tradition of knowledge, there were traditions which you find in ancient Chaldea, in ancient Persia, in Egypt, in Greece, but all these traditions have been lost. There is hardly anything available, in the form of any text. There are ideas, there are mythologies, but as far as the texts are concerned, even the Greek mythology which is available is a later statement of the earlier Eleusinian tradition, and the secret knowledge which is lost.

So if you want to know what was the earliest thought of mankind, and if you want the proof of that earliest document of mankind, we have to turn only to the Veda because it is the only document available for the whole of humanity. If you want to reconstruct human history, and the thought of human history, all the nations have to turn to the Veda to seek the description of the earliest thoughts of mankind for which you have proof. And what a proof! Because we must remember that this Vedic text was right from the beginning so much revered in India, obviously because it was considered to be a book of knowledge at that time, whatever you might say in modern times about it. It was known to the Vedic seer that they contain supreme secret knowledge, and therefore a tradition had developed in India that this knowledge should never be allowed to be lost. And a system was evolved in India so that one section of people of India had the obligation to memorise either all the four Vedas or at least one Veda, at least one Veda. This has been the tradition. And memorising not in a haphazard manner, but a very special system was evolved of memorising, of singing, of chanting the mantras of the hymns where every syllable was measured, and its place was fixed absolutely. Fortunately, even today, in spite of great losses of many kinds, there are at least two thousand chanters, singers, who can recite the Veda exactly as it was recited five thousand years ago. I have myself, in one of the capacities of my governmental work, made a survey in India, and, in Andhra Pradesh particularly, we have a large number of singers of the Veda, also in different parts of India, and I have tried to record on tape–recording some of the chanting of these Vedic recitations, so that we can one day hear them even here before us. The specialty of this method of singing is that it is sung in seven different ways, and all the seven ways should coincide so there is no mistake occurring anywhere. All the seven different methods, and the last method, which is called the ghanapatha, the method in which you first pronounce the first syllable, then you pronounce the second syllable, then you go back to the first syllable, and pronounce again the second, and then pronounce the third, then you go back again to the second, and then pronounce the first, and then again you go back to the second, and third, and fourth, and go back to the third, and second, and first, until you come to the end of a verse, which takes nearly from ten to fifteen minutes, even to recite one mantra like, ─ Agni mile purohitam yagnasya devamritvijam hotaram ratnadhatamam. This is a very simple first verse of the Rig Veda. This recitation in this ganapatha takes at least fifteen minutes, because of this method. And it is chanted, it is not only recited like prose, it is chanted. In fact even the chanting is so wonderful that when you hear the chanting, you know, these repetitions are so beautiful and so marvelous that you would like to go on hearing, hearing, hearing again and again, marvelous! And then the whole of Rig Veda, ten thousand verses, if you have to recite in this way you can imagine what a tremendous feat it would be, and how to memorise! And these memorisers remember both ways, and every word, as you move forward and backward and they have complete memory of it. It is a part of the training, right from the childhood at the age of four or five they start memorising. This is a part of their work. The tradition is so revered that even till today we have at least two thousand people in India who can recite exactly in the way in which they were reciting five thousand years ago. This is the reason why we have today an accurate text, of which there can be no question at all. If anybody doubts that this is not the text, you can just call a singer and ask him to recite in the ganapatha and every syllable is caught, even today, so that it is not left to the printer’s mistakes. The printing came much later. In fact throughout the history of India, it has been an oral tradition. That is why, as Sri Aurobindo says, today we have almost an accurate text of the Veda, and not only of the Veda, this is true also of the Brahmanas, andAranyakas and the Upanishads and many others scriptures, the same method. It is tremendous. What a prodigious memory these Brahmins developed! In any case, there is no dispute about the fact that these Vedic texts are accurate, whether we understand them or not, but on this question there is no doubt that these are the most ancient texts available to mankind. So if human history has to be written correctly, if the thoughts of the human mind have to be written historically, there is no recourse for mankind except to go back to the Veda. So the importance of the Veda is not only for India but for the whole world. It is the world’s earliest text available and therefore what the earliest man thought, what he conceived. If you want to find out, we have got to go back to the Veda. Even though they may not be the most ancient, because as Sri Aurobindo says, it is very clear that the Vedas were preceded by a very great civilisation, a very powerful stage of civilisation. And it was only when that age was declining that it was felt that the fragments of the knowledge of these Vedic seers were put together by a Rishi called Vyasa. In any case this is the tradition, that there was a great Rishi called Vyasa, who knew the Vedas in their fullness and he made an anthology, so these four Vedas are not the full text of all that was in that civilisation available as the Veda. But this is only an anthology, only selections; it is a miscellany you may say. What we call Veda is therefore an imperfect statement of what was at that time developed in that ancient time. So what must have been the civilisation at that time can only be imagined when we first understand the light that Sri Aurobindo had shed upon these texts, and secondly when we understand the poetic brilliance – you know, one of the marks whether the poetry is barbaric or naive or primitive or very developed can be seen by the metrical perfection, ─ metrical perfection, and, as Sri Aurobindo remarks, if you read the Veda simply, the rhythms of the Veda, as Sri Aurobindo says, the rhythms of the Veda are like the chariots of the Gods and they have a perfect symmetrical form, perfect, and this is Sri Aurobindo’s remark, one who is one of the greatest poets. It is his tribute to the Vedic rhythms, perfect symmetrical forms that we find in the Veda. So even if you do not understand the meaning of the Veda, even if they are barbaric, at least the poetical form is not barbaric, that is certain. Barbarians could not have produced that kind of symmetrical perfection of the rhythms throughout the Veda. It is lyrical in its sublimity; both the elements of lyricism, and epic character, both are present. In all the verses of the Veda, as you recite the Vedic verses, – actually one should enjoy reciting the Vedic verses, and then you can see if you know the Sanskrit language, and even if you do not know, but if you simply listen to it, the rhythms, the symmetrical forms, the sounds, the ringings of these Vedic verses are so perfect. As Sri Aurobindo says: That you fly on the wings, as you sing these Vedic verses you feel as if you are flying with your wings. This is the kind of power that the Vedic verses possess.

Sri Aurobindo has said that Vedic poetry is mantric poetry. And this is a very important point to be underlined. Vedic poetry is mantric poetry. What does it mean? In fact Sri Aurobindo has explained the meaning of mantric poetry in his great book called ‘The Future Poetry’, and to understand the value of Vedic poetry, we must read this great book ‘The Future Poetry’. And to say very briefly, Sri Aurobindo has said: To arrive at mantra – mantra cannot be translated into English, but, let us say, what Sri Aurobindo calls the highest expression, which is poetical in character is, let us say, it is mantra. And in India, mantra is that rhythmic expression which, when recited, produces a physical effect, ─ this is called mantra. If you say Tathastu, in a mantric form, let it be so, it will be so, physically. This is the Indian tradition, that if you have attained to mantric power in your poetry then any mantric expression will produce physical effects. Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Savitri’ is entirely mantric in character. This is how Sri Aurobindo has shown what he has written in The Future of Poetry, that Future Poetry will be mantric, he has said, and to give an example of it the whole of ‘Savitri’ is now available to us which is mantric in character and that is why Savitriis not merely poetry, it is effective force in action. And that is true of the Vedic mantras and, in very brief, Sri Aurobindo said: The mantric poetry must satisfy three criteria: first, it must have the highest intensity of rhythm. In fact Sri Aurobindo has said that the one mark of poetry is rhythmic words. There is no poetry if there are no rhythmic words; prose and poetry differ in this: in prose you may not have rhythmic words, but poetry is marked by rhythmic words. But the highest intensity of rhythmic words, that is a mark of mantra, not merely rhythmic words. There are so many poems which are in rhythm, but that is not the highest poetry, not mantric. Mantric poetry must have the highest intensity of rhythmic expression. That is the first mark.

Second, the highest intensity of style. What is style? It is the perfect correspondence with the mode of expression and the meaning of expression. What you want to say is conveyed exactly by the mode in which that meaning is suitable to it. The higher intensity of style is a second mark of mantric poetry.

And the third mark is the highest vision of the highest truth. The intensity of that vision, because all poetry or all art is basically a perception. Where there is no perception, it is not poetry, not art, not sculpture. Perception and the deep perception, such a perception that you go on, deeply perceiving, until that perception gives out an image. That is called the depth of perception. All art is nothing but this: a perception, perceived so deeply, so deeply, that what you are perceiving begins to take a form, an image. And when you can express that image, you are an artist. In poetry, the highest vision of the truth, not anything, not like the experience of a stone, or of sleep, or a beautiful moon or a sun, not that, but the highest vision of the highest truth, the widest truth, the most comprehensive truth, and the deepest experience of it. When that is captured in your poetry, that is the mantra. And Sri Aurobindo has said: The entire corpus of the Veda is mantric poetry. So you can imagine, apart from the meaning of the Veda, if the very poetic form has got this much power, how could it be termed as primitive or barbaric at all. This is the first point that we have to make with regard to what Sri Aurobindo has said about the Veda.

I am sorry, I am taking too long a time in expounding, but the subject itself is too long, and please bear with me, because I want to say what I want to say. So, I only made the first point, that Vedic poetry is mantric poetry.

The second point I want to make is that Sri Aurobindo discovered that Vedas have been written in a secret way. That is to say, outwardly it has one meaning, inwardly it has another meaning. Although there is a parallelism. And there was a reason behind it. The reason was that a secret knowledge had to be communicated, and if that communication falls into the hands of an uninitiated, he can misuse it both for himself and the others. Fortunately, in the modern time, some of the secrets of knowledge are very difficult, even if you start learning; it takes twenty, thirty years to find out the secret of that knowledge. But we know that once it is known, like atomic energy, or any other, even making telephone, and Internet and so on, you know how misuses can be made of all these instruments and what terrible effects it has already produced in our civilisation. Now this was known to the Vedic seers that knowledge if it is given to an uninitiated can be very harmful to the people – and yet it had to be communicated. So they developed a secret code, and Sri Aurobindo calls it algebraic code; that is, Veda is written in a form of algebra. If you do not know algebra and you read the book of algebra, what meaning can you make out of it? Unless the meaning of the figures and symbols is known to you, you cannot make out anything out of an algebraic book. The Veda is therefore algebraic in character. Now this is a second point I want to make, that Veda is difficult to understand, the meaning of it is secret because of this fact. It is written in algebraic form. You use the word cow, in an ordinary sense we all know what cow is, but in the algebraic form, cow means light. And if you read the Veda throughout, wherever the word cow comes, you put the word light, it will fit in very well. But if you don't put cow for light, it will look very bizarre. The cow stands before a horse, and what is the light, what is the luminous meaning in it? Nothing! A cow stands before the horse. But the same thing, you turn it, and say, the horse is the symbol for Power, Energy, Shakti, cow is Light, so Chit–Shakti. Cow and horse together is a symbol for Chit–Shakti, which makes a tremendous meaning. Now, you put it anywhere in the whole of the Veda, wherever it comes, you put these two words, do not use cow and horse, you simply use the word light and power. It will make a very simple, luminous, and obvious meaning. But if you don't know this, then everything look bizarre, and it may look very primitive, and barbaric. This is the reason why many people, not knowing the algebra of Veda, have come to the conclusion that the Veda is barbaric and primitive. Now, it is Sri Aurobindo's tremendous insight, because of his own experiences, that he discovered this algebra of the Veda. And The Secret of the Veda, this all–great book, I do not know if you have seen the book, The Secret of the Veda. It is volume number 10 in the Centenary Edition. This Secret of the Veda gives you the algebraic meanings of various words and terms which have been used in the Veda.

The third point I want to make is that this Veda contains a very deep knowledge of reality, of the world, and of the self. Triple knowledge: god–knowledge, world–knowledge, and soul–knowledge (self–knowledge). Now, what is that knowledge, what is the content of that knowledge? And please allow me at least fifteen minutes to tell you this particular aspect, because it is perhaps the most important aspect that we should like to know.

What is God? What is ultimate reality? It is not the kind of god sitting in the seventh heaven with a long beard. In one of the first statements in the first chapter of the Rig Veda, I will only recite one couplet of this particular mantra which is very very curious: Na nunamasti no shvah kastad veda yad adbhutam anyasya chittamabhi samcharenyam utadhitam vinashyati. This is the Sanskrit couplet, which says: The ultimate reality is neither today nor tomorrow. Who knows that reality, which is wonderful? Why is it wonderful? It has motion, it is alone, there is no other, but it has motion in another. Therefore it is adbhutam, wonderful. It has motion in another, and when you try to approach it through your intellectual thought, where you always distinguish between one and another, and divide the two, and don't understand the mystery of one itself being another, if you apply that intellect on it, it vanishes. In other words, if you try to understand it intellectually, you will never grasp it, because it is wonderful. It does not follow the logic of the finite; it follows the logic of the infinite. The one that is many. As Sri Aurobindo says in The Synthesis of Yoga, ultimate reality is simple–complex. It is simple–complex, at the same time. It is one that is many; it is static that is dynamic. It is the same thing which is said in the Upanishad. In the Isha Upanishad the same idea is expressed. Etad ejati, etad na ejati, tadejati tannaijati, ─ It moves, it moves not. It is far, it is near. It is wonderful. Now this is the first starting point of the Vedic knowledge of reality, of God. And there are so many other verses to which I do not make reference here for the sake of brevity. Then comes the world–knowledge. What is the world–knowledge of the Veda? They say the physical world that we see is only the outer fringe of the whole world. But even this world consists of three earths. There are three earths, not one earth. Even the earth that we see is not one earth. Then there is an intermediate between earth and heaven. Heaven is a word used in the algebraic language of the Veda as mind. Wherever the word heaven comes in the Veda you have to say, it is mind. Wherever the word prithvi, earth, comes, you have to understand it to be physical. Wherever the word antariksha comes, it is an algebraic term for the intermediate world. So there are three worlds, first of all: the world of the physical, the world of the vital and the world of the mental. These are the first three, to which we have normal access. But then it says: The Vedic seers took a long time in their search to find outturiyam svid, this is another word which is very important in Sanskrit, turiyam svid, that fourth one. Turiyam svid is again an algebraic term, That fourth one. There is a short story in the Rig Veda given of a Rishi called Ayasya. Ayasya is the name of a Rishi. The story is that there were nine Angirasa Rishis. Angirasa is the name of the clan. Nine Rishis were in search of the highest that is possible. They were searching, and searching, and searching in their quest. At last they came across a great man called Ayasya and they got his help in this search, and, with his help, these nine Angirasa seers, when they became ten with Ayasya, then they found turiyam svid, they found the fourth one, ─ the fourth reality. The three are: earth, the intermediate, and heaven: body, life and mind. But the fourth one, they discovered; with what, ─ Saptadhi. There is another word in the Veda, again another algebraic term, saptadhi, seven–headed thought. A thought which has seven heads. With seven heads of thought, that mind has to be so wide as to become seven–headed. With the help of the seven–headed thought, Ayasya broke open the fourth world and with the opening of the fourth world he became universal, ─ Vishvam ajanayat. He manifested the whole universality. This fourth is regarded as the most important discovery of the Vedic seers. And Sri Aurobindo afterwards tells us that this fourth is the Supermind. Turiyam svid is the Supermind. So the Vedic seers had discovered the Supermind. And beyond the Supermind, they discovered the triple reality which, in later times, came to be recognised as Sat–Chit–Ananda: the Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. These are also the names of three gardens of Matrimandir that Mother has given, ─ Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. So, if you now see that the world, as we saw in the Vedic times, consisted of these planes, three highest, ─ Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. Then comes the Supermind, and then comes mind, life and matter. This is their world–knowledge. I must tell you that I am doing a great injustice to the Veda by summarising so primitively and so very briefly, so naively, but this is the basic formula, you might say, of the world–knowledge of the Rig Veda, of the Veda.

What is the soul–knowledge? According to the Rig Veda, this is one of the most secret knowledge. Now let us give a little time to this most secret knowledge of the Veda. This has very much to do with our own yoga. Therefore I am taking a little more time on this. This soul is given an algebraic term in the Veda, called Agni. Agni is the mystic fire. Fire is that which you see outside very easily but, inside, it is our inner self, inner soul, what we call in Sri Aurobindo's psychology, "psychic being". This psychic being is our real innermost soul. And this was discovered after a long, long search. If you read the Vedic verses you will find what a tremendous search they were making and there is so much knowledge of Agni given, and so important that Sri Aurobindo himself has written one full book. I don’t know if you are aware of that book. This is volume number 11 of the Centenary Edition. All the hymns addressed to Fire, Mystic Fire, in the Rig–Veda, Sri Aurobindo has collected and translated each one of them. And this is the most precious knowledge that we have now, because Agni is the most profound secret of the Vedic knowledge, according to the Veda. In fact, the very first verse of the Veda starts with Agni. Without Agni, you cannot have, without fire, without the knowledge of mystic fire, you cannot enter into the portals of Vedic knowledge. You must know yourself very deeply, profoundly, to understand the world, and it is by rising from plane to plane that you rise to the Supreme and discover that wonderful reality that has motion in another. Now this mystic fire has been described variously in the Veda. As I told you, such a huge book, ─ It is only of the Rig–Veda, then there are many Agni mantras in many other Vedas also, but this knowledge which is available about Fire, mystic Fire, it is to that that Sri Aurobindo makes a reference when he describes in The Life Divine about the psychic being. And he says: It is the flame that burns in the heart, which is inextinguishable; it is the conscience deeper than the conscience of the moralist. It is the Daemon of Socrates, it is that which always turns towards the truth and beauty and goodness, which detects the truth from falsehood, unmistakably. That is our true soul which is within ourselves and the Veda makes out that without illumining this Fire, you cannot enter into the deeper knowledge that is in the Veda. That is why the importance of Mystic Fire. What you are internally is this Fire. And this Fire itself has an origin. And Sri Aurobindo speaks of the origin of the psychic being also. But in the Veda there is a very tremendous story which Mother has sometimes told, she said: I talk about it very childishly, and says that a time came in the history of the world when the four emanations which had originated from the ultimate reality separated from the origin and there came about a complete darkness. And when that darkness came, then the supreme Divine Mother went back to the Supreme Lord and said: An accident has occurred and there has come about a complete darkness. And what is to be done? And then the Lord said: You create some other beings who will not separate themselves from the origin. And that was the origin of Gods. Gods were created, but even the gods when they saw darkness and were asked to go down into the darkness so that then the light could come out of it, they refused, they said: It is so dark, we shall not enter into it. It was then that the Gods saw in the Divine Mother, in the Aditi, ─ Aditi is the Sanskrit name for Divine Mother, ─ they saw in Aditi a special Light, something special, and they said: That, if it can be brought down, then it can bring back light into this darkness. That Light is Mystic Fire. That who is called Agni that is the origin of Agni, is in the Supreme Divine Mother. And it was put forth – in one of the talks Mother has said that the Supreme Divine Mother, when she saw the darkness, a tremendous Love oozed out of Her and that Love crystallized and fell upon the darkness, this is the psychic element which entered into the darkness. And all the psychic beings are nothing but evolutionary developments of this original psychic element which is nothing but Love of the Divine Mother. And that is why the psychic being automatically turns to the Divine Mother in an experience of Love. That is why in our own yoga, that is the importance given to it. But this is the Vedic truth told in a very algebraic term.

There is one very important word in the Rig–Veda which says that, if you recite this mantra, you will be free from all sins. And this is the promise given in the Veda. It is called 'Agha marshana mantra'. Agha means "sin", marshana means "wiping out". A mantra which can wipe out all the sins. And that mantra is very simple: Ritam cha satyam chabhiddhat tapaso dhyajayata tato ratryajayata tatah samudro arnavah. It simply says, – why is it called the mantra that can wipe out the sins? Because if you know the origin of all this, what is all this darkness and how darkness can be removed by the power of the Divine Love and by Mystic Fire, if you know this, all sins can be wiped out. So that is why it is called the mantra of wiping out the sins, which simply says: In the beginning there was Tapas. Tapas is nothing else than Power of concentration, power of concentration of the Supreme. There is first the Supreme which I have described already earlier, that which is neither here nor there, that Supreme has a power of concentration. That is Tapas. From the Tapas comes out first ritam ca satyam, that which is Truth and the Right. This is the first. In other words, out of the Sat–Chit–Ananda, by the power of Tapas comes out Supermind. Satyam, Ritam, Brihat is the formula of the Supermind. This is what Sri Aurobindo has revealed in The Life Divine. And also in His 'Secret of the Veda'. So ritam cha satyam, from the Tapas, power of Tapas, comes out this great Supermind. Then, having brought out the Supermind, suddenly something happens:tato ratryajayata, from there arose the Night, a sudden jump. Supermind is the supreme Light and suddenly there happens a night. Night still has got some light because of stars and moon, then it says: After the night, tato samudro arnavah, then came a complete ocean of darkness. Not only night, complete darkness. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls the Inconscience. From the Supermind there was a descent by the separation from the origin, the night came out and then came out the complete darkness. And then it says, after this, samudradarnavadadhim samvatsaro ajayata, out of this great darkness came samvatsara; samvatsara is the algebraic term for the Mystic Fire. The Agni was put there. And once Agni was put, all the evolution came out. Then the description of Surya, Chandra, there is sun, moon, everything that came out. It gives a description of the whole world thereafter. Now, this is the fundamental psychic knowledge, the knowledge of the soul which is given. Again I am doing a great injustice to the Veda because I'm speaking as if it is so simple and so brief as that, but it is not so. There are so many hundreds and thousands of verses on this knowledge in the Veda. It is this psychic being which is presided over by hamsa; hamsa is another algebraic term. 'Hamsa' means swan. Over this Mystic Fire is a swan which is tied up, according to the Veda, in hundred nets, and cannot flutter its wings. It is in bondage. But, in this bondage, there is a tremendous battle going on. Now, what is the battle? In fact the world–knowledge and soul–knowledge, when put together in the Veda, is the great story of the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness. The forces of light are called the Gods and forces of Darkness are called Dasyus, Panis, Pishachas, Rakshasas, Asuras. These are the words which are used in the Vedas to describe the forces of darkness, and there is a great battle between the two. If you want to fight the battle – I am now coming to the end of my exposition, you just give me ten minutes more, because I have taken a lot of your time, this battle can be fought, and can be fought systematically, and this is the yoga of the Veda. The mystical discipline, by which the psychic being and the soul, which are caught in this great battle, can be liberated. So the first step is the discovery of the Mystic Fire within you. This is the first step in the mystic discipline of the Veda. Veda, Sri Aurobindo discovered, is a great book of Yoga. It is not any superstition or magic or any kind of barbaric mantras, to get some gains here and there. It is a knowledge of the battle of Life. It is a revelation of the real nature of Life. Suddenly, in harmony, disharmony comes about.

Suddenly, when Rama is to be crowned, Kaikeyi happens to demand certain things overnight, and Rama is thrown out and the great tragedy occurs thereafter, until a battle takes place and only after the battle the victory comes. So, in human life, there are forces of darkness and forces of light which are described in detail in the Veda – what are the Gods; and the whole knowledge of the Gods, and how they can help. And the Vedic seers found out the existence of the Gods, not as imaginations, or formations, or premonitions, but real, objective, existence of the Gods, and they found out the names of these Gods, – names, meaning, the secret of each God, and the function of each God. It is like you are going to a Ministry, and finding out who is the minister and who is the secretary and who is the clerk and who is the cashier, what is the function of each one and then, unless you know this, you can never succeed in the Ministry. Similarly in the Ministry of the world, you cannot succeed unless you know who the Gods are, and what their functions are. So to say very briefly, once again, and very primitively, I'll give only a few clues, just to bear in mind, that the first, as you rise up and kindle your Mystic Fire, the first one that comes in answer is Indra. Indra is a name of a God who Sri Aurobindo describes algebraically as the God of illumined mind. So you first of all come into contact with the illumined mind. He descends, that is the nature, Agni always ascends, fire always rises up in aspiration. In answer there is a descent of the illumined mind. Only of the illumined mind, first, this is the first God that comes to your help. But he is very powerful and he is able to fight with the demons tremendously. So there is a whole story as to how Indra comes to our help, (into which I do not go now) but then, that is not enough. You gain a lot, but that is not the end of the story, you still have to rise higher and higher than Indra is swaha: this is a very special word in the Veda. In fact all the people who know Sanskrit and Gayatri mantra, we start with

तत् सवितुर् वरेण्यम् भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि |
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ||

tat savitur vareṇyam bhargo devasya dhīmahi |
dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt ||

Rig Veda 3.62.10

So swah is constantly used in the Vedic lore. This swah is a light which has condensed itself by a constant rising of the mystic fire and the constant descent of Indra. And it is a very beautiful world of Light. You come across this world of Light, but even that is not the Supreme Light. It is only the medium Light. There is a very famous proposition made in the Veda to distinguish between the darkness, then the intermediate light and the Supreme Light. It is said in the Chandogya Upanishad that Krishna was given through one word the Supreme Knowledge by his teacher, Ghora. Ghora speaks one word to Krishna and gives him the Supreme Knowledge. And what is that mantra he gives?

उद् वयं तमसस् परि ज्योतिष् पश्यन्त उत्तरम् |
देवं देवत्रा सूर्यम् अगन्म ज्योतिर् उत्तमम् ||

ud vayaṃ tamasas pari jyotiṣ paśyanta uttaram |
devaṃ devatrā sūryam aganma jyotir uttamam ||

Rig Veda 1.50.10

This is the mantra. That we went beyond the darkness and saw the intermediate Light which is Svaha, but then we did not stop there, we went further, we went to the Gods, and we went to Surya, Suryam, we went to the Supreme Light, Jyotir uttamam, it is Jyoti, which is uttamam, the Supreme Light. The Supreme Light is not SwahSwah is an intermediate Light, – but uttamam is Surya, is the sun. The sun is the symbol of the Supermind in the Veda. Wherever the word sun comes, Sri Aurobindo says: It is the symbol of the Supermind. But before you enter into the Supermind, there are four Gods who stand as sentries. They will not allow you to enter into the sun, into the Supreme realm. You have to be qualified. Who are these four Gods? Varuna – Varuna is the God of Vastness. Unless you become very vast, you cannot enter into it. Narrow–minded can never enter into it. That is why Sri Aurobindo constantly says: Widen yourself. And there is a Vedic knowledge: Unless you widen yourself fully, you cannot enter into the Supreme Supermind.

The second is – Varuna is always accompanied by Mitra, Mitra is God of harmony. So as long as you quarrel, you can never enter into that Light. That is certain. There must be harmony, a tapasya of harmony. Vastness and harmony.

Then comes Aryaman. Aryaman is the Lord of austerity. Greattapasya, the fullness of tapasya you must do, greatest effort, you must master the effort itself.

And then Bhaga. Bhagais the God of enjoyment. Unless you know how to enjoy truly, you cannot enter into the Supermind. But enjoy truly, that is to say, – usually even a small joy makes us dance and flutter and throw away all the energies – when you are able to contain the highest joy in yourself without shaking. In the Veda it is said that when you are unbaked and if the great soma, the great nectar, falls into it, the unbaked jar breaks down. It is only when you are so purified, so purified, so purified thoroughly, that your jar becomes baked, in which, if the joy falls into it, you can hold it. This capacity to hold the joy allows you to enter into Supermind. This is also called the attainment of Immortality. Amritam, the great achievement of the Vedic Rishis, was that the soul which is tied into hundred nets, the swan which wants to fly, cannot fly and has to battle, when it attains to this state, going beyond Indra into Swah, and going beyond SwahtoVaruna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga and entering into Surya, then comes Soma. The highest is Soma, the great delight. When that delight can be held in the body, – that is Immortality. This was the greatest achievement of the Vedic Rishis. Sri Aurobindo has written in one chapter called, "The Victory of the Fathers": the Vedic Rishis, what was their victory? Their victory was this.

And one last word. To hold the Supermind in the body was the highest achievement of the Vedic Rishis. Sri Aurobindo found that that was not enough. If there is a distinction between the Veda and his achievement on the one hand and Sri Aurobindo's discovery, the one step farther, – not one step farther. Mother told me that Sri Aurobindo is not a logical continuity of the past, it is not as if you continue what they were doing and then you get Sri Aurobindo's path. No. It is something newly discovered. That is why Mother said: Sri Aurobindo does not belong to the past or to history. He is constantly fabricating the future. It is because of this reason that it was not known that apart from holding the Supreme Light in the body, there is also a possibility of the permeation of Light in the body. Now, this was the new knowledge that Sri Aurobindo gives in his yoga. Permeation, it is penetration, only when there is a permeation of this light that the human species can be turned into the supramental species. But now you can see that if you want to understand Sri Aurobindo's yoga, how much you need to know the Vedic yoga and how much certainty and confirmation you get by reading the Vedic yoga. Because many clues you will get in the Veda, in large amplitude; and if Auroville is to be the cradle of this Superman, in which the light of the Supermind has to permeate and penetrate into the cells of the body, then Vedic knowledge is indispensable. Thank you.

Sri Aurobindo and the Veda writen text by Prof. Kireet Joshi - Download