The Vedas - The Veda and its Wisdom

The Veda and its Wisdom

The Veda and its Wisdom

To be blessed by the benign presence of His Holiness Shankaracharya Jayendra Swamigal and also that of His Holiness Shankaracharya Vijayendra Swamigal is an invaluable boon. Also the occasion on which we meet here is auspicious, because we have assembled here to celebrate the Veda and to learn its wisdom that has guided our history for several millennia. It was Adi Shankaracharya who declared that the "Veda is a mine of Knowledge", and it is that knowledge which has been summarised in the Upanishads and further distilled in the Bhagavadgita. Brahmasutra on which Adi Shankaracharya wrote his immortal bhashya gives us the aphoristic quintessence of the Veda. To recall the heritage of the Veda is to recall the supreme poets such as Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Vamadeva, Atri, Madhuchhandas and others. And in doing so, we celebrate not only the theme of wisdom but also the theme of poetry.

Poetry was to the Vedic seers a process of vision, a vision of the Vast-Truth (satyam, brihat). This vision generated inspiration that gave birth to that rhythmic Word which was evocative of images capable of rending the veil of darkness. Poetry was to the Vedic Poet a revelation of the dawn (Ushas) and growing power of the sun, Pushan. The poetry of the Vedas is thus the poetry of mantric power. Paying tribute to the Vedic poets, Sri Aurobindo has said:

The Vedic poets are masters of a consummate technique, their rhythms are carved like chariots of the gods and borne on divine and ample wings of sound, and are at once concentrated and wide-waved, great in movement and subtle in modulation, their speech lyric by intensity and epic by elevation, an utterance of great power, pure and bold and grand in outline, a speech direct and brief in impact, full to overflowing in sense and suggestion. ...[1]

The Vedic poets reveal to us the loftiest heights, but even those heights impelled the visions of still greater heights, so that knowledge gained does not degenerate into dogma but becomes a springboard to greater heights to be attained. The Vedic poets spoke of their journey as a constant ascent, and this is witnessed when in a hymn to Indra (RV.I.10.2), the poet sings:

यत् सानोः सानुमारुहद् भूर्यस्पष्ट कर्त्वाम् ।

yat sānoh sānum āruhad

bhūri aspaşta kartvam

As one ascends from peak to peak, there made clear much that has still to be done.

[1]Sri Aurobindo: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Centenary Edition, Vol. 14, pp. 266-7

The Veda and its Wisdom

The Veda and its Wisdom

The Veda is not, as many scholars of the West and even of India who are under the spell of the Western scholars want us to believe, a cry of barbarians wonderstruck or frightened by the phenomena of Nature. The Veda is an epic of heroic seekers of knowledge, who scaled the heights of the Spirit but who also measured the depths of Matter. They plunged also into the depths of the ocean of darkness from where, as the Nasadiya Sukta tells us, this entire world has evolved and been built. Astonishingly, therefore, the Veda contains, as Maharashi Dayananda Saraswati has proclaimed, the truth of all branches of knowledge, and it can give us fresh inspiration to new discoveries. Only we need to know how to read the Veda and how to scrutinise the secret meanings that the Vedic figures and symbols seem to hide from us. The Vedic Rishis had the knowledge of what the modern psychologists call the subconscient; they had also the knowledge of the various strands of human consciousness, both the crookedness of human consciousness and the upward flights of human consciousness; and they were masters of the superconscient. But above all, Veda reveals to us the secrets of the battle of human life and the profound methods by which that battle can be fought heroically and triumphantly. They were thus the masters of the science of life and they were the builders of the art of life. They had discovered the supreme dharma, which they called rita, law of Truth, the law that has been called in India sanatana dharma. That is why it is rightly said, vedokhilo dharmamulam वेदोऽखिलो धर्ममूलम्। The Veda, the entire Veda gives us the root knowledge of the dharma. It is that dharma that is portrayed and illustrated in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and it is that dharma which has given us in the personality of Rama and Krishna supreme examples that have constantly uplifted the people of our country. Even today, millions of Indians are inspired by these two incomparable personalities, who were upholders of the knowledge of the Veda.

The message of the Veda has a great significance for the destiny of the human race, particularly for the contemporary crisis through which human is passing today. The issue is not merely that of politics and economics or of technology, but that of consciousness. We speak of globalisation, but what are we doing to develop global consciousness? And do we know the science and art of enlarging our consciousness? It is here that the Veda comes to our aid. There is a legend in the Veda, which speaks of a great Rishi who has been referred to by his name, namely, Ayasya. The greatness of this Rishi was that he discovered beyond the lower triple world of Matter, Life and Mind, a fourth, turiyam svid, and in that discovery Ayasya became universal. It is this discovery of turiyam to which we need to turn.

A Rishi in the Yajurveda (17.67) declares:

I have arisen from the physical to the vital, I have risen from the vital to the mental, and from the level of the firmament of the heaven of the mind I have gone to the fourth world, ‒ the world of plenary light, universal light.

The Veda and its Wisdom

The Veda and its Wisdom

The Vedic Rishis had discovered a great passage so that one can be delivered from the egoistic consciousness into universal consciousness. They had identified human intellect as the instrument through which connection can be made between the human consciousness and universal consciousness. And the method was the method of concentration, not exclusive concentration but concentration that had three openings. First was the opening through meditation; second was concentration on works which the Vedic Rishis called the works of sacrifice or yajña; and the third was the concentration of adoration, obeisance, and surrender. If the mind can be trained on these three lines, the narrowness of the mind can be broken. In India, we are very ‒ familiar with the Gayatri mantra which is composed by Vishvamitra. It speaks of meditation of the intellect (dhimahi) on the supreme light (savitur varenyam), and it promises the possibility of union of the finite with the infinite and the possibility of receiving guidance for our life from the supreme light (dhiyo yo nah prachodyāt). This is the secret which needs to be visited again in our age. We need Yoga and yajña; we need Yoga and dedicated work, work that is filled with adoration of the higher light. The science of concentration is the science that in our recent times Swami Vivekananda brought to us with a new energy both to India and the world. He wanted to make our life a process of quest that stops at no lower or intermediate goal but which aims at vast universality. This is the message of the Veda that the contemporary world needs to learn and practise.

In one of the important hymns of the Rig Veda (X.53), the Vedic Rishis announced:

Weave an inviolate work,
become the human being, create the divine race...
Seers of truth you are,
sharpen the shining spears with which
you cut the way to that which
is immortal;
knowers of the secret planes,
form them, the steps by which
the gods attained to immortality.

Manurbhava janaya davyam janam. Be human first and then become divine. This is the message that we need to learn once again at the critical stage of our evolution. Fortunately, the recent history of India of the last two centuries has been marked by the pioneering works of some of the greatest leaders like Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivekananda. They brought us back to the realisation of the treasures that lie in the Veda and the Upanishads. The life and work of Sri Aurobindo have opened up a new course for India's complete recovery of its spirituality that can transform the earthly life of the human race. We are now at the stage where we need to fulfil the three tasks that Sri Aurobindo has outlined for the contemporary India. He has stated these three tasks in the following words:

The Veda and its Wisdom

The Veda and its Wisdom

The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity.[1]

The great statement of the Veda, ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti, the truth is one but it is expressed in various ways, has inspired our culture to insist on the tendency for synthesis and the tendency not only towards tolerance but also towards comprehensiveness. This is also the reason why in India different religions have flourished, and even when there are conflicts, we constantly strive to surmount these conflicts. For it is the Veda which teaches us that beyond boundaries of religions, beyond the boundaries of formulations of dharma, there is the realm of supreme knowledge in the light of which the whole world can be seen and experienced as one family, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. India has, therefore, been the home of this great message, the message of brotherhood, the message of togetherness, the message of creating the nest in which the whole universe can rest in peace.

I am very happy that the organisers of this Vedic Sammelan have invited Veda Pathis and Vedic scholars from all parts of the country. Rameshwar Thakur ji has provided dynamic leadership in organising this Sammelan, and our Human Resource Development Minister, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, who is himself a Vedic scholar, has guided the entire effort and imparted to it the dimension of academic excellence. Above all, we are so grateful that His Holiness Shankaracharya Jayendra Swamigal and His Holiness Shankaracharya Vijayendra Swamigal have graced this occasion. We seek their blessings for the welfare of the whole world.

Let me close with the famous message of the Rigveda, which is often repeated, but which deserves to be repeated again:

सं गच्छध्वं सं वदध्वं सं वो मनांसि जानताम् ।

Join together, speak one word, let your minds arrive at one knowledge.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Centenary Edition, Vol. 14, p. 409

The Veda and its Wisdom

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