INDIAN COUNCIL OF PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH, NEW DELHI
3rd April 2004
VENUE: SHRI LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI RASHTRIYA SANSKRIT VIDYAPEETHA, QUTAB INSTITUTIONAL AREA, NEW DELHI – 110 016
Permit me first to offer my reverential salutations to His Holiness Shankaracharya Jayendra Swamigal and invoke his blessings for universal welfare, which is the noblest aim of the teaching of the Veda. In invoking the blessings of Shankaracharya ji, we are also invoking the blessings of the great Rishis Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Madhuchhandas, Vamadeva, Dirghatamas, Atri, Bhardwaja and hundreds of others whose memory is to us a sacred inspiration to ascend the path and to climb on the heights of our spirit.
That path which has been prepared by the Vedic Rishis is the Aryan path, the path of human journey that can transform human life into divine life. This path begins with Agni as our priest and leader, where we adore this mystic fire, the fire that is the knower and possessor of rita-chit, ritwik, the fire that gives us a call for sacrifice and reveals to us the highest ecstasies, since it bears within its being divine boons of delight. Hence, the Rig Veda begins with the prayer:
अ॒ग्निमी॑ळे पु॒रोहि॑तं य॒ज्ञस्य॑ दे॒वमृ॒त्विज॑म् । होता॑रं रत्न॒धात॑मम् ॥
I adore the Flame, the vicar, the divine Ritwik of the Sacrifice, the summoner who most founds the ecstasy. Rig Veda I.1.1
Agni, like many other Vedic terms, has many meanings. It means fire, it means aspiration, force of consciousness, an urge, mounting and burning askesis. As we study the Veda deeply, we find that Agni is not only a principle of physical fire, but it stands much more constantly and thoroughly for the psychological principle of Will-Force, of which physical fire is only one outer manifestation, which can be used as a symbol in an attempt to bring the physical mind nearer to a sense and feeling for something that is profoundly present and dynamic in the universe.
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 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 (bhur), and the intermediate world (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.
The Vedic seers have discovered that Agni is not only an impersonal force of will or aspiration, it is also a being, a God, who presides over all the psychological activities that relate to will, force, action, energising. Agni can be contacted, he can be approached, he can be invited, he can be made active within us and within the universe. The Veda describes through its hymns the method by which a dynamic contact with God Agni can be established. For, according to the Vedic poets, a sound or a certain secret set of vibrations tunes exactly with the vibrations which are psychological entities. The Veda provides these secret sets of vibrations. The very hymns, their sounds, their specific measures are themselves these secret vibrations.
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’. (RV.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:
O 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. O Vastness, Thou art a multitude or riches spread out on every side.
The human journey which is charted out by the Vedic seers moves upwards by the help of Agni to the conquest of higher and higher domains of consciousness. Agni leads 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 still 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, 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, infinity, 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 from 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 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 is 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 the 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, that the 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 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 (rit-chit). It is that by which reality expresses itself. It may, therefore, be described as the Real-Idea.
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 Ashwin, 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).
Still at a deeper level, the Veda reveals to us that the light that leads us to immortality is one, it is the same everywhere. It 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 Savitri is followed and completed by the discovery and uncovering of the light in the very depths of darkness, of Inconscient, tamas. It seems that the whole legend of the Angirasa Rishis, who are described in the Veda as pitarah, forefathers, is a parable of a momentous effort and 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 conquest presents a gate leading to a further and a darker depth, requiring a greater and intenser help form 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 the light which is concealed in its bosom can be made manifest. This is the deep secret of the Veda, and it is that which is held as a promise for an eventual realisation in the history of the earth.
The Vedic Rishis have thus presented to us a road map toward human destiny and its fulfilment. It is the victory of Vedic seers over the heart and mind that has rendered the story of Indian culture the story of continuity and change, the story of quest, a story of unfoldment of knowledge, free from dogma and all narrow conceptions of existence. It is rightly declared that the Vedas are numberless, vedāh anantāh, and the Indian tradition is, therefore, a tradition of constant discovery of new knowledge and it is the finders of new that are admired most in our culture:
युगेयुगे विदथ्यं गृणद्भ्योऽग्ने रयिं यशसं धेहि नव्यसीम् ।
पव्येव राजन्नघशंसमजर नीचा नि वृश्च वनिनं न तेजसा ॥
Established the foundation for those who from age to age speak the word that is new, the word that is a discovery of knowledge. (RV.VI.8.5)
It is in the worship of that constant new knowledge that this Sammelan is devoted, and it is that which makes this Sammelan a new celebration.