The Vedas - Veda as Word

Veda as Word













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Veda as Word

Veda as Word

We are too familiar with the world. Solidity of the earth, liquidity of water, heat and cold, taste of honey, festivity of colour of the dawn and the sunset, whisper and roar of breeze and winds and wideness and emptiness of the sky and the space, and slow rapidity of ticking of time, — we know them all quite well. We talk and sleep.

But as we grow quiet, the world seems to be knocking our complacency and inertia. We begin to wonder at the mind and speech, sight and sound. And, as in the Kenopanishad, we feel the pressure of the questions:

By whom missioned falls the mind shot to its mark? By whom yoked moves the first life breath forward on its path, by whom impelled is this word that man speaks? What cosmic forces or beings set eye and ear to their workings?[1]

The mystery of the mind is perhaps the deepest. In the huge universe, which seems to be an explosion of fire in an eternal night, only a small assemblage of inexplicable organisms moving about on a small speck of what we call earth seem to be conscious or self-conscious, capable of reflection and imposing their own ideation on the vast expanse of Matter. How has the mind managed to break-in into the vast ocean of unconsciousness? And the more we reflect on this question, the more we find that mind is limited and hampered and is not able to find anything appropriate to its own formula which can conquer or sufficiently expand the limitations imposed upon its workings. Mind is obliged to call in a new principle beyond itself, freer than itself and more powerful. In our search, we may find the earliest compositions of humanity, the Veda, which bring to us an idea or a glimpse of what we may call the mind beyond the mind, or to use the expression of the Kenopanishad, manaso manah, mind of our mind. The Veda speaks of a faculty or principle which sees the Truth unveiled, an eternal faculty of knowledge which corresponds to the eternal faculty of the Truth. The Veda calls it Truth-Consciousness (Rita-Chit), which sees the Truth directly and is in possession of it continuously. That Truth-Consciousness fulfils what mind labours to effect but succeeds in accomplishing it only partially. The importance of the Veda lies in the fact that it is the only work in the history of the world which affirms and describes the nature of the Truth-Consciousness and, when we recover the algebra of its language, we find descriptions of the disciplines by which mind can surmount its limitations and attain to that supramental consciousness and farther consequences of that attainment. In the Indian tradition, the Veda has come to be acknowledged as a book of knowledge, and even though ancient, holds still the attention of supreme researchers who are keen to resolve the riddle of the universe and to heal the afflictions of humanity which is ruled by the mind. And when we try to follow these researchers, one of the first things that we find is the claim that Veda is Word, and we are startled in perplexity.

[1]  केनेषितं पतति प्र्रोषितं मनः । केन प्राणः प््राथमः प्रौति युक्तः।  केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति। चक्षुः श्रोत्रं क उ देवो युनक्ति।। 1।। Kenopanishad.1

Veda as Word

Veda as Word

To our mind that is confined to experiences of familiarity word is only an arbitrary combination of sounds which convey a meaning because humanity in its march has erected certain practices and conventions for meeting necessities of communication and interchange. At a deeper level, however, word is a mystery and wonder. This mystery is brought to our awareness in a startling manner, when it is claimed that Veda is word, what is sought to be conveyed is that Veda which is knowledge is itself identical with words and sounds, and this claim we are unable to understand or appreciate.

What do we mean by word? The Sanskrit word for the word or speech is Vāk. Veda as Vāk is, therefore, our theme of inquiry.

Word, speech, hearing, knowledge and creation are interrelated, and this interrelationship becomes clearer when we are freed from the veil of familiarity, and we begin to wonder at them with fresh eyes and begin to ask if sound is not a mystery. For speech is only a particular application of the principle of sound. It is from sound that words are formed naturally and spontaneously to express the emotions created by an object or an occurrence. At first, the value of words and speech would seem to be only that of representation. But, as the modern science has discovered, vibration of sound has the power to create — and to destroy — forms. It may, therefore, be supposed that behind all words and even behind all forms there has been a creative vibration of sound. It is indisputable that sound, speech and music, which are all interrelated, create forms and mental images and impulses of action. Even daily and hourly, we produce by the sounds thought vibrations, thought-forms which result in corresponding vital and physical vibrations. These thought vibrations act upon ourselves, act upon others and produce actions and forms in the physical world. It is only because we do not examine the subtlety of this process that we remain ignorant of the power of the word to create.

But what about the sound itself? What about the speech itself, what about the word itself, what about their origin? How are they created?

Veda as Word

Veda as Word

According to the Veda, neither Mind, Life, Senses and Speech nor their objects or expressions are the Reality which we have to know or pursue. True knowledge is the knowledge of That which forms these instruments for us but It is itself independent of their utilities. Therefore, Kenopanishad speaks not only of the mind of the mind, but also of the speech of the speech (vāco ha vācam). The Kenopanishad points out that:

That which is unexpressed by the word, that by which the word is expressed, know That to be the Brahman and not this which men follow after here.[1]

The Upanishad also speaks of hearing of our hearing, life of our life-breath, and sight of our sight (श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रम् .प्रााणस्य प्राणः, चक्षुषः चक्षुः). The Upanishad makes us aware that what we ordinarily experience as sound, speech, life, sight, and even sensations are mysterious operations behind which there are vast experiences knowing which we can have a deeper awareness and a greater power of effectivity in life.

The world, as we ordinarily know it, is superficial; behind all that is gross, there are subtleties, and all those who surpass superficiality become aware of subtle realities. A philosopher who goes beyond words discovers behind them a creative idea, and if he goes behind the idea, he like Plato, discovers larger and larger syntheses of ideas which culminate in the discovery of the unity of existence. An artist goes behind the objects of ordinary sight and discovers a play of colours and mystery of the lines and proportions that reveal a form creative of forms. A poet hears sounds and words and, as he strains beyond ordinary limits, discovers sound behind sound and word behind word, and in his poetic speech, he expresses those sounds and those words which can express deeper depths of what is seen and heard. According to the Vedic theory, words are expressions of seed-sounds, and these seed-sounds are creative of the whole universe. Based on this discovery, we have in the Veda, the theory of the mantra, according to which, the poet enters into a deeper consciousness where the seed-sounds vibrate constantly and give birth to the word of power which effects creativity and mantra is the poetic expression of the Word that is heard at deeper and higher levels of consciousness.

In a rare text of occult knowledge, we find that there are three layers rising above our ordinary experiences of sight, sound and thought, -- three layers that connect our ordinary existence with the highest and most comprehensive state of creativity expressive of Truth-Consciousness. The lowest of these three is the layer of colours, and higher than that layer is the layer of sounds, above which is the layer of ideas. These colours, sounds, and ideas are truth-ideas, truth-sounds and truth-colours, and when a seeker passes beyond superficial existence and rises in the higher intensities of consciousness, he is able to rise into those three higher layers which can transmit their contents to the seeker’s aspiring consciousness. In this process, to the extent to which the intensity of consciousness reaches its pitch, their arises the appropriate operation of the sight behind the sight, hearing behind the hearing, and mind behind the mind.

[1] यद्वाचानभ्युदितं येन वागभयुद्यते। तदेव ब््राह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ।। Kenopanishad 4

Veda as Word

Veda as Word

In one of the hymns of the Veda (Rigveda, I.164.39), Dirghatamas speaks of the riks, the mantras of the Veda as existing in a supreme ether, imperishable and immutable in which all the cosmic forces and beings are seated. He further alludes to four planes from where speech issues, three of them hidden in the secrecy while the fourth is human, and from there comes the ordinary word; but the word and thought of the Veda belong to the higher planes. The Vedic word is described as thought which is supreme and the topmost height of speech, the best and the most faultless. It is something that is hidden in secrecy and from there it comes out and is manifested. It enters into the truth-seers, the Rishis, and it is found by following the track of that speech. It is also mentioned that all can not enter into its secret meaning, and that those who do not know the inner sense are as men who seeing see not, hearing hear not, only to one here and there, the Word desiring him like a beautifully robed wife to a husband lays open her body. It points out that others unable to drink steadily of the milk of the Word, the Vedic cow, move with it as with one that gives no milk, to him the Word is a tree without flowers or fruits.[1]

The contention of the Vedic Rishis is that the Veda is a collection of poems which are mantric in character and according to the theory of the mantra, a poem can be designated as a mantra when it is a word of power born out of the secret depths of our being where it has been brooded upon by a deeper consciousness than the mental, framed in the heart and not constructed by the intellect, held in the mind, again concentrated on by the awakening mental consciousness and thrown out silently or vocally – the silent word is perhaps held to be more potent than the spoken – precisely for the sake of creation. According to this theory, the Veda is the word, Veda is Vāk, the Veda is the mantra that can not only create new subjective states in ourselves, alter our psychical being, revealed knowledge and faculties which we did not before possess, can not only produce similar results in others minds than that of a user, but can produce vibrations in the mental and vital atmosphere which result in effects, in actions, and even in the production of material forms on the physical plane.


बृहस्पते प््राथमं वाचो अग््रां यत् प््रौरत नामधेयं दधानाः।
यदेषां श्रेष्ठं यदरिप्रमासीत प््रोणा तदेषां निहितं गुहाविः।।1
सक्तुमिव तितउना पुनन्तो यत्र धीरा मनसा वाचमक्रत।
अत्रा सखायः सख्यानि जानते भद्रैषां लक्ष्मीर्निहिताधि वाचि।।2
यज्ञेन वाचः पदवीयमायन् तामन्वविन्दन्नृषिषु प्रावेष्टाम्।
तामाभृत्या व्यदधुः पुरुत्रा तां सप्त रेभा अभि सं नवन्ते ।।3
उत त्वः पश्यन् न ददर्श वाच मुत त्वः शृण्वन् न शृणोत्येनाम्।
उतो त्वस्मै तन्वं वि सस्रे जायेव पत्य उशती सुवासाः।। 4
उत त्वं सख्ये स्थिरपीतमाहु र्नैनं हिन्वन्त्यपि वाजिनेषु।
अधेन्वा चरति माययैष वाचं शुश्रुवां अफलामपुष्पाम्।।5।। RV.71. 1-5

Veda as Word

Veda as Word

According to the Vedic theory, the poet is the seer-will (kavi kratu),and he sees, and he hears the word of the word, vāco ha vācam and what he composes is only what he has heard, shruti. The Veda that is the supreme word is vibration of pure existence, instinct with the perceptive and originative power of the infinite omnipotent consciousness, shaped by the mind behind the mind into the inevitable word of the truth of things. Out of whatever substance of whatever plane, the form or physical expression emerges by its creative agency.

Human speech is only a secondary expression and it is at the highest a shadow of the divine Word, of the seed-sound, the satisfying rhythm, the revealing form of sounds that are the omniscient and omnipotent speech of the eternal Thinker, Harmonist, Creator. The highest divine word has its seed-sounds, such as AUM, which carry in them the principles of things; it has its forms which stand behind the revelatory and inspired speech that comes to man’s supreme faculty. As Sri Aurobindo points out, they compel, “the forms of things in the universe; it has its rhythms, — for it is no disordered vibration, but moves out into great cosmic measures, — and according to the rhythm is the law, arrangement, harmony, processes of the world it wills.”[1]

The Veda as word is the word that creates, expresses, but is itself only a creation and expression. And that which stands behind the word is the Truth-Consciousness (rita-chit), and it can be said that that Truth-Consciousness, which is the Supermind or the Mind behind mind using the Word is the creative Logos.

Thus, when we begin to inquire into the real nature of the word and sound and their origin, we shall be led to the awakening of the mystery of the magic of the creative power that we see in poetry, and following the track of the supreme examples of poetic expressions, we shall come appreciate what is meant when it is said that that the Vedic poetry is mantric in character and that the Veda is the Word. Veda is the Word that has been discovered by the Rishis at the supramental level of consciousness and which is found also as the creative power of the universe expressing the truth of the ideas that move out of the unifying and underlying substance of the ultimate Reality, and which, again, when caught and expressed are capable of creating in the world vibrations of truth-ideas and truth-forms of knowledge and will and thus of a new creation enabling humanity to refashion itself in the images and forms of the supramental consciousness.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Upanishads, Centenary Edition, Vol. 12, p.171

Veda as Word

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