The Vedas - Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology


One of the profoundest statements about the ultimate reality that we find in the Rigveda is in a colloquy between Indra and Agastya (I.170.1). In that colloquy, Indra describes that reality as follows:

It is not now, nor is It tomorrow; who knoweth that which is Supreme and Wonderful? It has motion and action in the consciousness of another, but when It is approached by the thought, It vanishes.

This description recognises an Unknowable, a timeless Existence, the Supreme which is neither today nor tomorrow, moving in the movements of the Gods, but itself vanishing from the attempt of the mind to seize It. The Veda also speaks of that reality as That and it is often identified with the supreme triple Principle, the vast Bliss, to which the human being aspires. In the Vedanta, this reality came to be called the Brahman, the Unmoving, the oneness of the Gods.

This Reality which is spoken of impersonally in the neuter, is also conceived as the Deva, the supreme Godhead, the Father of things, who appears here as the Son in the human soul. He is the Blissful One to whom the movement of the Gods ascends, manifests as at once the Male and the Female, the vŗşabha, dhenu. Each of the Gods is a manifestation, an aspect, a personality of the one Deva. He can be realised through any of his names and aspects,

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

through Indra, through Agni, through Soma. Each one of them is, in his being, the Deva, and only in its frontal aspects, he appears to us different from the others, contains all the gods in himself.

The Vedic concept of God is not monotheistic in the sense in which it is understood in the modern mentality, but it continually recognises that the many godheads whom it invokes are really one Godhead, – one with many names, revealed in many aspects, approaching man through many personalities. It is the one Existence to whom the seers give different names, Indra, Matarishwan, Agni (RV. I.164.46).

Western scholars, who are bewildered by this attitude, have invented a theory of Vedic henotheism to explain it. According to them, the rishis were polytheists, but to each God at the time of worshipping him, they gave pre-eminence and even regarded him as in a way the sole deity. But to the Indian mind, which is neither henotheistic nor polytheistic, there is no difficulty to understand one Divine Existence who manifests Himself in many names and forms, each of which is for the worshipper of that name and form the one and the supreme Deity. That idea of the Divine was also fundamental to the philosophy of the Puranas.


According to the Veda, there are seven principles which explain the complex systems of the world, and which we find both within and without, subjectively cognised and objectively sensed. It is a rising tier of earths and heavens. These are often imaged in a series of trios. There are three earths

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

and three heavens. There is a triple world below consisting of heaven, earth, and intervening mid-region, -- dyau, prthvi and antariksha. There is a triple world between, the shining heavens of the sun; and there is a triple world above, -- the supreme and rapturous abodes of the godheads.

In other words, there are seven worlds in principle, five in practice, three in their general groupings:

1. The Supreme

The Triple Divine worlds

2. The Link-world Supeprmind The Truth, Right, Vast, manifested in Swar, with its three luminous heavens

3. The triple lower world Pure Mind

Heaven (Dyaus, three heavens)


The Mid-Region (Antarisksha)


Earth (Three Earths)

 We draw, according to the Vedic experience, from the life-world our vital being; we draw from the mind-world our mentality; we are ever in secret communication with them. We can consciously dwell in them. We can also rise into solar worlds of the Truth and enter into the portals of the

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Superconscient, cross the threshold of the Supreme. The divine doors can swing open to our ascending soul.

The human ascension provides significance to the life of man. Man can rise beyond mind and live in the home of the gods, Cosmic Powers who unyoke their horses in the world of the Supermind, the world of the Truth-consciousness. Man, who ascends to that Truth-Consciousness, strives no longer as a thinker but is victoriously the seer. He is no more manishi; he is a rishi. His will, life, thought, emotions, sense, act are all transformed into values of peace and truth and remain no longer an embarrassed or a helpless vehicle of mixed truth and falsehood. He follows a swift and conquering straightness. He feeds no longer on broken fragments but is suckled by the teats of Infinity. He has to break through and pass out beyond our normal firmaments of earth and heaven and conquering firm possession of the solar worlds, entering on to his highest Heights, he has to learn how to dwell in the triple principle of Immortality.


Gods, according to the Veda, are not mere poetic images but they are cosmic expressions of the One Supreme. The knowledge of the Gods and the functions which are ascribed to them in the Veda is a fruit of the great disciplined search of the ancient seers of the Vedic age. The Vedic Samhitas bear witness to epical struggle and victory of the Vedic rishis who continuously build the bridges between the past and the future. Continuity and change mingle with each other in the great adventure of India which thus always remains at once ancient and new. These rishis fathomed the deep

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

waters of three great oceans of consciousness, the ocean of the dark inconscient in which darkness is shrouded into greater darkness, the ocean of the human consciousness and the ocean of the superconscient, which is the goal of the “rivers of clarity” and of the “honeyed wave”.

Vāmadeva describes these three oceans of consciousness in RV. IV.58.11, where he speaks of the whole of existence being triply established, first in the seat of Agni, – which we come to know from other riks to be Truth-Consciousness, Agni’s own home, svam damam, ŗtam bŗhat, – secondly in the heart, the sea, which is evidently the same as the heart ocean, and thirdly, in the life of man.

dhāmam te viśvam bhuvanam adhiśritam,
antah samudre hŗdyantar āyuşi
. (IV.58.11.)

This idea of the three oceans is also brought out in the Hymn of Creation (X.129.3-5) where the subconscient is thus described:

Darkness hidden by darkness in the beginning was this all, an ocean without mental consciousness … out of it the One was born by the greatness of Its energy. It first moved in it as desire which was the first seed of mind. The Masters of Wisdom found out in the non-existence that which builds up the existence; in the heart they found it by purposeful impulsion by the thought mind. Their ray was extended horizontally; there was something above, there was something below.

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

According to this Hymn, the darkness, conceived as the original darkness presupposes the One Existent who is deployed or involved in the subconscient or inconscient ocean; it is that involved One who arises in the heart of that inconscient ocean first as desire; he moves there in the heart ocean as an unexpressed desire of the delight of existence and this desire is the first seed of what afterwards appears as the sense-mind. To build up the existence, the conscious being out of the subconscient darkness is the issue of the riddle of the world. Means have to be found out to effect a process of evolution starting from the inconscient, and this is possible because the One, Superconscient, is already involved in it. The instrument of building up of the conscient being out of the subconscient darkness is the growth of thought and purposeful impulsion, pratīşā, by which it is meant mental desire as distinguished from the first vague desire that arises out of the subconscient in the merely vital movement of nature. The conscious existence which is brought out is stretched out as it were horizontally between two other extensions; below is the dark sleep of the subconscient, above is the luminous secrecy of the superconscient. These are the upper and lower oceans.

In the Veda, as in the Puranas, the ocean is the image of the Infinite and eternal existence, and the Vedic theory of the oceans and rivers is the theory of psychological movement starting from the inconscient, passing through the conscient and rising towards the superconscient. The Vedic cosmology is the detailed exposition of the manifestation of the one supreme Reality by the power inherent in that Reality, hymned often as Aditi, the mother of creation and the mother of the Gods as also the mother of the human souls who have been brought out form her intensities of being and cast into

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

inconscient in whom the superconscient one is already involved. The discovery of the Vedic rishis of the three oceans of consciousness indicates to us their greatness. Sri Aurobindo speaks of these Rishis as follows:

They may not have yoked the lightning to their chariots, nor weighed sun and star, nor materialised all the destructive forces in Nature to aid them in massacre and domination, but they had measured and fathomed all the heavens and earths within us, they had cast their plummet into the inconscient and the subconscient and the superconscient; they had read the riddle of death and found the secret of immortality; they had sought for and discovered the One and known and worshipped Him in the glories of His light and purity and wisdom and power.[1]


In an intriguing description of the totality of Reality and its manifestation, the Veda speaks of it as one having four horns and three feet (catvāri sringā trayo asya pādah). Evidently, the four horns symbolise the upper domain of Reality; and three feet symbolise the lower domain of Reality. It is also clear that the three feet would mean the three lower principles of manifestation with which we, living in the lower world, are quite familiar, namely, Matter, Life and Mind. We can also see that of the four horns, three horns are those of Sat, Chit and Ananda. But what is the fourth horn, which is in the upper domain?

[1]  Sri Aurobindo: The Secret of the Veda, Centenary Edition, Volume 10, p.439

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

We seem to be getting a reply to this question in the following hymn of the Rigveda, composed by Rishi Aghamarshana. The first line of the first verse of this hymn runs thus:

From the Tapas (Force of concentrated consciousness) arose the Truth and the Right.

As we saw earlier, the Veda often describes the Supreme Reality as Sat, but also sometimes as Tapas. This Sat or Tapas is the threefold substance, Sat-Chit-Ananda, the three horns of the upper domain of the Reality. We are now told that out of this Tapas arose the Truth and the Right, which are also described elsewhere as the Great or Mahas. This is the fourth horn of the upper domain of the Reality.

The totality of the Reality is thus sevenfold. The four upper domains are:

Sat Existence
Chit Consciousness-Force
Ananda Bliss
Mahas The Truth and the Right (Satyam, Ritam)

And the three feet, that is, the three lower principles are:

Dyaus Mind
Antariksha Life
Prithvi Matter
Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

These are the seven principles that we find present everywhere. That is why the Veda also describes the Reality elsewhere as saptahastaso asya, seven-handed. But the Veda tells us something more about the order in which the Reality has manifested the universe; and this is quite important for the Vedic system of knowledge. Let us turn to this account, which is given in the second and subsequent lines of the hymn of the seer Aghamarshana. The second line runs as follows:

ततो रात्र्यजायत ततः समुद्रो अर्णवः। (RV.X.190.1)

Then arose the night, and from it arose the watery ocean.

We may halt a little at this point to ask a question with some bewilderment. The question arises because of the following position:

We may recall that in the first line, we were told that from the Reality, which is Tapas, the Truth and the Right arose. Here the emergence of Truth from Tapas or Sat seems quite natural and logical. But in the second line we are told that from the Truth, satyam, what arose was the darkness of the night. And this seems quite surprising or even shocking and illogical. How can darkness arise from the Truth?

We find a hint or even an explicit indication of the answer to this question in the last chapter of the Yajurveda. (This chapter is also well known as the Isha Upanishad).

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

The relevant mantra is the fifteenth verse of the Isha Upanishad. The verse reads as follows:

हिरण्मयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहितं मुखम्।
तत्त्वं पूषन्नपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये।।

The face of the Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove, O Fosterer, for the law of the Truth, for sight.

This means that the Truth as the first emergent of Tapas can get covered by a brilliant golden lid. This lid is so effective that if the face of the Truth is sought to be seen, that lid needs to be lifted.

But what is that lid? By what means does it get formed? Surely, the means can be Tapas itself, since there is nothing else than That, Sat, which is in the process of Tapas. Tapas, by its very nature, is concentration of the Consciousness-Force; and this concentration can be of various kinds; it can be integral; it can be exclusive. In its action of exclusive concentration, it can create the lid by its intensity and persistence.

This is what we can see in our own ordinary psychological functioning, where by means of concentration on one point, we can relegate our awareness of all the rest in the background. But once this operation becomes effective, that concentration can serve as a barrier, as a lid. In the beginning that lid may be transparent, even brilliant. But there arises also a further

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

possibility of turning that lid thicker, even opaque. And once this opaqueness is achieved, the radiation of light becomes more and more difficult. The last stage of the operation of the exclusive concentration of consciousness would be that of abysmal sleep. It is this which is described by the Veda as the night of darkness.

In other words, the Veda states that after the emergence of the Truth and the Right from the Tapas, there emerged the night; and this is further described as watery ocean, samudro arnavah, which is a symbol of darkness.

The next steps of emergence are rapidly described. In the hush of the night, there begins the process of ascent from below and descent from above in accordance with a specific preconceived purpose. As a result, there come about alterations of light and darkness; ascent from darkness towards light of the Truth, and the descent of light of the Truth towards the darkness to transform it. Days of light are followed by the nights of darkness, which are again followed by days of light, and so on, ahoratrani. As a result of this movement, a stair is built up between the luminous Truth, the Sun of knowledge, and the dense unconscious Matter. The Sun is always associated with delight, symbolised by Soma or Moon, Chandramas. Below the realm of Knowledge and Delight is formed the realm of the Heaven of the Mind, divam; and below it lies the realm of Matter, prithvi, -- with the realm of Life, antariksha, as a link between Mind and Matter. And, finally, there is the luminous World of svar, a passage for ascent from Matter, Life and Mind and for descent from the world of Truth and Delight.

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Let us go back to the text of the hymn and hear directly from the seer Aghamarshana:

समुद्रादर्णवादधि संवत्सरो अजायत।
टहोरात्राणि विदधद् विश्वस्य मिषतो वशी।। X.190.2

सूर्याचन्द्रमसौ धाता यथा पूर्वमकल्पयत्।
दिवं च पृथिवीं चान्तरिक्षमथो स्वः।। X.190.3

From the Watery Ocean there emerged the movement of ascent and descent (samvatsara); consequently, the alteration of light and darkness (ahorārtrārņi) ordained by the ruler of Time (or moment-to-moment movement).” X.190.2

As pre-planned by the Creator, there arose the sun and the moon; the heaven and the earth with the intermediate world, and then the world of svar, the heaven of descending light.” X.190.3


According to the Hymn of Creation there were no Gods at the time when the darkness was enveloped in darkness; Gods, according to the Vedic theory, were brought forth as the sons of the Infinite, sons of Aditi, aditeh putrāh, in order to combat the darkness and to manifest the light of consciousness. The entire system of the world and the worlds which are behind our world is an

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

intricate process of the work of the gods, each having its own function. It is as a part of their work that they brought about the birth of the mystic fire from the depth of Aditi, the supreme Divine Mother and got it planted in the ocean of the inconscient, so that the mystic fire can draw out from inconscient in a gradual manner the physical and material existence and manifestations of Life and mind, which have been described in the Hymn of Creation. In the forty-fifth Sukta of the tenth Mandala of the Rig Veda, we have the statement of the three births of the mystic fire, Agni. The first four riks of this hymn are instructive in this connection:

Above heaven was the first birth of the Fire, over us was his second birth as the knower of all things born, his third birth was in the water, a god-mind; him continuously one kindles and with one’s thought perfectly fixed on him adores.

O Fire, we know the triple three of thee, we know thy seats borne widely in many planes, we know thy supreme Name which is in the secrecy, we know that fount of things whence thou camest.

He of the god-mind kindled thee in the Ocean, within the Waters, he of the divine vision kindled thee, O Fire, in the teat of heaven; the mighty ones made thee to grow where thou stoodest in the third kingdom, in the lap of the waters.

Fire cried aloud like heaven thundering, he licked the earth revealing its growths: when kindled and born, at once he saw all

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

this that is; he shines out with his light between earth and heaven.



In the seventh rik of the ninth sukta of the sixth mandala, addressing the mystic Fire, the Rishi declares:

All the gods were in awe of thee when thou stoodest in the darkness and bowed down before thee, O Fire. May the Universal Godhead keep us that we may be safe, may the Immortal keep us that we may be safe.


The knowledge of the Vedic cosmology is an important part of the knowledge of the ascension of the human soul in his rising from plane to plane and to arrive at the conquest of immortality. Vedic cosmology becomes clearer when we study this aspect of the Vedic ascension, which is actually effected by the process of sacrifice, which is in its inner heart a process of self-giving.

Agni, according to the Vedic knowledge, is also the force of evolution, which pushes always forward, and breaks the tenebrous layers of Inconscience (tamas) and Matter (annam) and delivers the pulsating Life-Force. It is that which causes growth, and which increases the power, and which forges and welds relations among vegetations, plants and herbs, and

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

which pushes forward the greater forces of Intelligence, which forms and builds complex organisations in which Mind can be lodged and made to vibrate effectively so as to make the material form not only conscious but even self-conscious. Agni is in itself a conscious will that acts as intermediary between the physical world (bhoor) and the intermediate worlds (bhuvar) and the higher world (swar). Agni is described also as the messenger, who has a free access to all, and can communicate the intended message to any destination.

Agni symbolises also the inner and true soul or our psychic being. We find in the Veda several references to this symbolism. The Rig Veda speaks of `the boy suppressed in secret cavern’ (V.2.1). There is also in the Rig Veda this cryptic description, `The son of heaven by the body of the earth’ (III.25.1). There are some other descriptions also: `He is there in middle of his house’ (I.70.2). `He is as if life and the breath of our existence, he is as if our eternal child’ (I.66.1). He is `the shining king who was hidden from us’ (I.23.14). In the following verse, the Rig Veda brings out more clearly its secret knowledge of the nature and function of the psychic being symbolised by Agni:

Oh Agni, when Thou Art well borne by us Thou becomest the supreme growth and expansion of our being, all glory and beauty are in Thy desirable hue and Thy perfect vision. Oh Vastness, Thou art a multitude of riches spread out on every side. (Rig Veda, II.1.12)

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

It is to be noted that the Vedic seers seem to have known that it is Agni that welds the supreme light and matter, and it is, therefore, Agni which can lead by its penetration into the cells of the body (`by entering heaven and the earth as if they are one’) to the transformation of body.

Agni is recognised by the Vedic seers as of fundamental importance in man’s journey. Agni is the aspiration, and as such it is the priest (Purohita) that kindles the fire of aspiration and initiates man’s journey. Agni is the soul, that which guides from within and illumines the path of the journey. Agni is the all-pervading energy and heat in the earth and in the heaven and heat of the matter. It is thus the secret power of physical transmutation.

At its highest, Agni is not merely the heat or the energy, not merely the soul, not merely a God, it is an aspect of the Supreme Godhead itself. Verily, it is one of the sacred Names of the Supreme Divine Himself.

It is this Agni that is invoked by the Vedic seers at the beginning of the journey, and throughout the journey. This is one of the secrets of the Vedic knowledge. `Aspire first’, the Veda reveals to us in effect, `burn within, kindle the fire daily and for ever. It is this aspiration that will bring the Response from the Supreme and will lead to the fulfilment and perfection.’ This is the initial but all-comprehensive message of the Veda.

But what about the journey itself?

Agni is not only the fire of the sacrifice, the fire of the journey of life, the élan of evolution, but also it is its leader and priest (purohita). Agni leads

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

man in his search of the truth (satyam). It is he who connects man with the cosmic forces and with all the gods of the three worlds (triloka), of earth (bhur), mid-world (bhuvar) and heaven (swar). At the head of swar is Indra, the god of Illumined Intelligence. It is Indra who shows man the path to the higher realms and to the Supreme Reality. He cannot be overpassed, says Indra himself, in a colloquy between him and Agastya, a Rishi, who is impatient to shoot beyond to the Supreme, but finds Indra obstructing his path. `I am your friend’, says Indra to Agastya, `I am not obstructing your path, but I am here on the path to take you to the Supreme. Why do you not invite me to your sacrifice?’ Indra complains. Agastya understands, he invites Indra, and accepts to be led by him. In this short colloquy[1], we have a very meaningful description of one of the secret experiences recorded in the Vedas.

But before one can reach the Supreme or the Supreme Light, (Savitri), one has to cross the four Guardians, the four Kings guarding the light of the Truth. These are the four gods, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga. They are to be embraced and to be fulfilled before they lead the seeker to his goal.

Varuna represents vastness, infinite wideness, limitlessness. The Truth that the Veda worships is infinite, it is spaceless and timeless and yet is all Space and Time. This truth cannot be possessed without the widest wideness in our consciousness and in our being. In narrowness and in divisions, truth cannot be caught, and it escapes form all limitations, from all angularities. The seeker of the Vedic knowledge is therefore asked to break all narrowness, all divisions, all oppositions, all conflicts. He has to learn to comprehend and to

[1] Rig Veda, I-70

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

contain all, all without limits. He has to grow in the wideness of Varuna, worship him and be as wide as he is. Varuna answers the seeker, helps him and liberates him into the wide spaces of infinite being and prepares him to perceive all the infinities of the Supreme Light. The consciousness of man is broken by the mighty invasion of Varuna, and Varuna is fulfilled in man, who ceases to be mere mental and consents to be supramental.

But this not enough. Mitra, the lord of Harmony is also to be fulfilled. The seeker must learn the secret of relations, know the threads that bind each to all and all to each. He must learn to be friend of all creatures, of all men, of all gods. With the wideness of Varuna, he must combine the harmony of Mitra; wideness and relationships are both to be mastered. The Supramental Light is wideness but not empty of contents or relations. Hence the necessity of the union of Varuna and Mitra. And the seeker must serve these two gods, fulfil them, embody them and grow into their image.

But even this is not enough. In all human endeavour, there is the stress and strain of effort. There is a struggle, and it is through struggle, through intense effort, that the narrowness is overpassed, conflicts are resolved, wideness is achieved, harmony is established. One must have therefore the capacity for the highest effort, the intensest tapasya, a perfect mastery over all that needs to be done. Aryaman is the god of this mastery. Through him the highest effort is accomplished. He is total endurance. Without this endurance, we are like the unbaked jar, which will be broken at the touch of the Supreme Light. It will not be able to hold the nectar of immortality. The jar, our instrument, our body, our entire being, has to be baked, baked fully by the heat and austerity of Aryaman. He has to be worshipped, he has to be

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

possessed, he has to be fulfilled. He prepares us, along with Varuna and Mitra, for the possession of Supreme Light.

But there is still Bhaga to be fulfilled. The Supreme Light is joy and we must learn not only the intensest effort but also the highest degrees of enjoyment. We know ordinarily the enjoyment of pleasure of the vital and of the physical. Even at the lower level the intense pleasure becomes an excitement and our balance is lost. We are not able to bear the pressure of enjoyment. Not many know the enjoyment of thought and of perception and of intuition, of beauty, of love, of ecstasy. All these enjoyments are to be known, experienced, possessed and fulfilled. But there are higher and still higher enjoyments. The Supreme Reality itself is a supreme enjoyment. Bhaga represents this supreme enjoyment. He is the god who presides over enjoyments, who is the eternal aspect of the joy of the Divine. He is to be approached, and in unity with Varuna, Mitra and Aryaman, he has to be embodied.

In his upward journey, the seeker then proceeds to Savitri, the lord of the Supreme Light, the sun in which `all the gods unyoke their horses’, the supreme in which gods cease to be entities and become His aspects.

This marks the victory of the Aryan seeker. He is now in the very home of the gods (swe dame). This is the home of the Truth, the Right and the Vast (satyam, ritam brihat). This is the supramental Truth-Consciousness (rita-chit). It is that by which reality expresses itself, and in which expression, even the Idea-Expression, is the concrete body of the Truth itself. It may therefore be described as the Real-Idea.

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

The Vedic seers seem to speak of primary faculties of the `Truth-Conscious’ soul: They are Sight and Hearing, the direct operations of an inherent Knowledge describable as Truth-vision and Truth-audition. It is these operations which are reflected from far off in our human mentality by the faculties of revelation and inspiration. This truth-consciousness is comprehensive, knows all, because it is all. It knows all in its universality and also in every detail of particularity. Light is here one with Force, the vibrations of knowledge with the rhythm of the will and both are one, perfectly and without seeking, groping or effort, with the assured result.

It is in this consciousness that is contained the honey, the nectar of delight. It is this honey (madhu) which is packed in the chariot of the Ashwins. The Ashwins, the divine twins, are the physicians of the gods who heal by the pourings of this nectar. It is this honey, soma, that is drunk by the gods and it is this soma drunk by the human seekers that gives to them immortality (amritam).

This, in brief, is the basic human journey of the Aryan described in the Veda. But there is still a further secret of which the Veda speaks, the secret of a further journey which is described through cryptic and ambiguous phrases and through somewhat incomprehensible legends.

To this deeper secret we may now turn.

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology


There is in the Veda the legend of the Cow and of the Angirasa Rishis. This legend, if properly understood, brings out a deeper secret.

The legend is simple. The Cows have been lost and the Agnirasa Rishis are in search of these lost Cows. The sacrifice is to be performed, the Agnirasas have to chant the true word, the mantra. Indra of all the gods is invoked. Indra comes down to help with his thunderbolt in which enter the powers of all the gods. Indra is the hero and fighter, and the battle is waged against certain powers, the Dasyus and the Panis. Sarama, the heavenly hound runs forward and finds out the Cows in the cave of the Panis. Indra, strong with the Soma-wine and the Agnirasas, the Rishis, who are his companions, follow the track, enter the cave or violently break open the strong places of the hill, defeat the Panis and drive upward the liberated herds. The conquest is effected, and although Indra has done it once for all in the type by means of the Agnirasas, yet he repeats the type continually even in the present. He is constantly the seeker of the Cows, `gaveshana’, and the restorer of the stolen wealth.

There are several variations of this legend in the Veda. Sometimes there is no reference to Sarama or the Agnirasas or the Panis. Sometimes Agni is referred to as the God who breaks up the dark cave and restores the lost radiances. Sometimes both Agni and Indra have been described as having joined together in the battle over the Cows. `You two warred over the Cows, o Indra, O Agni.’ (VI.60.2) Sometimes it is Agni and Soma who are referred to as having joined together in the battle. `O Agni and Soma, that heroic

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

might of yours was made conscient when you robbed Panis of the cows.’ (I.93.4). Sometimes the Ashwins also are credited with the same achievement. `You two (Ashwins) open the doors of the strong pan full of the kine.’ (VI.62.II). Brihaspati is, however, more frequently the hero of this victory. `Brihaspati, coming first into birth from the great Light in the Supreme ether, seven-mouthed, multiply-born, seven-rayed, dispelled the darknesses; he with his best that possesses Stubha and the Rik broke Vala into pieces by his cry. Shouting Brihaspati drove upwards the bright herds with speed the offering and they lowed in reply.’ (IV.50.4-5). And again in VI.73.1-3, we have the following: `Brihaspati who is the hill-breaker, the first born, the Agnirasa. … Brihaspati conquered the treasure (vanuni), great pens, this god won full of the kine.’ Sometimes the Maruts also are assoiated in this action. Pushan also (the Increaser, a form of the Sun-god) is invoked for the pursuit and recovery of the stolen cattle. `Let Pushan follow after our kine, let him protect our war-steeds. … Pushan, go thou after the kine. … Let him drive back to us that which was lost.’ (VI.54.5,6,10). And in the hymn of Madhuchhandas (I.II.5), we have this striking image that gives a clue to all the variations of the legend, while addressing Indra, `Oh lord of the thunderbolt, thou didst uncover the hole of Vala of the Cows; the gods, unfearing, entered speeding (or putting forth their force) into thee.”

In order to understand the deeper secret of the Veda, this legend of the lost Cows and of the Agnirasa Rishis seems to promise us a key. Now the important word that is used for the Cow is go. But this word `go’ has also another meaning, viz., light, and it is this meaning which gives us the clue. The legend of the lost Cow is really about the lost light. The Vedic Rishis seem to suggest that there has occurred in the world process an event

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

whereby the spiritual light has become obscured or has become concealed, and that this event has a relationship with an action of Panis, the sons of darkness. This concealment of light does not amount to the cancellation of light. There is no destruction of light. But there is nonetheless an effective covering of light. This covering is the Night of Darkness, but there is in it a secret light, which is the cherished possession of the forces of darkness, described by Dasyus and Panis, of whom Vritra and Vala are the Chief leaders. This is the distinctive feature of the Vedic idea of evil and darkness. For in this view, evil and darkness have in their deepest profundities their own cure. It is true that according to the Veda, evil and darkness have to be combated, but the end of the combat is not merely the destruction of evil and darkness, but also the recovery and manifestation of the light which is concealed in them. In other words, the light is not only to be discovered and possessed at the supreme height, in Swar and in Surya Savitri. The discovery of the light in Surya Savirti is followed and completed by the discovery and uncovering of the light in the very depths of darkness, of Incosncient, tamas. It seems that the whole legend of the Angirasa Rishis, is an account of a momentous effort and of a war waged by them in their search of the light that is at the end of the tunnel of darkness. It has been affirmed through this legend that one meets in the process of this discovery an opposition from the armies of Vritra and Vala, but also help from the gods. The gods, according to this legend, can be invited by a sacrifice, which in its inner significance, means the kindling of the inner aspiration, Agni. Each god can be invoked by a specific word, a mantra, and the gods, when activised by the power of the mantra, operate effectively in a war with the forces of darkness. Gods are thus partners of men in their struggle and battle. This battle has not only an upward movement but also a downward movement. Every step of

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

conquest presents a gate leading to a further and a darker depth, requiring a greater and intenser help of the gods.

Thus, there is in the Veda the affirmation of the possibility of the recovery of the Sun that is lying in the darkness. It is said that the Sun, `that Truth’, was the thing found by Indra and the Agnirasa in the cave of the Panis. By the rending of their cave, the Veda declares, the herds of the divine dawn which are the rays of the Sun of Truth ascend the hill of being and the Sun itself ascends to the luminous upper ocean of the divine existence, led over it by the thinkers like a ship over the waters till it reaches its farther shore.

In simple terms, the light is one, it is the same everywhere. It is not merely there above, it is also here below. In fact, the distinction between the above and below is itself a false distinction. It is true that ignorance is an effective phenomenon, but it is also something which can be effectively destroyed, so that the light above and the light below are both realised as the one identical light. Spirit above is not the only light, Matter below is also that very light, and matter too can be pierced by which the light which is concealed in its bosom can be made manifest. This is the deeper secret of the Veda, and it is that which is held as a promise for an eventual realisation in the history of the earth.

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

rushed unto them vehemently and they were able to see it.[1] Rushing of the eternal Vedic knowledge to the seer spontaneously and, in the state of mind in which he was completely purged of all worldly attachments and distractions, bears out the supra-sensory and supramental character of the knowledge which dawned upon them. From the state of mind in which the seer at that time was it is evident that the knowledge he received could by no means be a mental construct. For, his mind at the moment was passively receptive and reflective rather than actively constructive and creative. It was like a screen of the television charged with the power of consciousness to receive what was transmitted to it from afar rather than anything capable of producing something out of itself.

III. Secret of the Divine Origin of the Vedic Knowledge

It is on the basis of these facts and related assumptions that the Veda has been considered as of divine origin as distinct from the human. Works of great poets like Valmiki, Vyasa and Kalidasa are also said to have some higher inspiration behind them, but simply on that very account they are not regarded as Veda. The reason is that though having inspiration of a very high order behind them, they are out and out human

[1] तद्यदेनांस्तपस्यमानान् ब्रह्म स्वयम्भ्वम्यानर्षत् तदृषीणामृषित्वमिति ह विज्ञायते। NiruktaI.11 quoting from Taittiriya Aranyaka II.9

Glimpses of Vedic Cosmology

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