Veda and Yogic Knowledge
There seem to be three main grounds on which we are led to conclude that the Veda contains a huge mine of wisdom and even a mature system of yogic knowledge.5 First of all, the Veda reveals its full consistent meaning only when its language is interpreted through certain key words, which are ambiguous, and while they mean something very ordinary, in one sense, they mean something very extra-ordinary in another sense. To take only one example, the word go means a cow, in one sense, but it also means light in another sense. Now it is found that if the word go is interpreted to mean cow in the Veda, it serves well up to a certain point, but the interpretation breaks down at some most crucial points, and thus on that line of interpretation, the Vedic Samhitas might seem to be incoherent, bizarre or meaningless. But, if this word is understood in the sense of spiritual light, it fits in fully and consistently in all the varied contexts. This is only one illustration but it has been possible to show, as has been shown by Sri Aurobindo in his book ' The Secret of the Veda’, that the Veda has a secret Wisdom, and that this secret pertains to the realm of deeper truths of existence. Secondly, the Upanishads, which are universally acknowledged to be records of deep knowledge, declare the Veda as the highest authority for their own sublime utterances. They quote the Vedic verses as supporting citations. Thirdly, the Veda has been regarded as the highest source of knowledge throughout the long history of the Vedic tradition, and it continues to be
so right up to the present day. The entire line of the orthodox systems of philosophy refers to the Veda as the highest indisputable authority of knowledge and truth.
It is also noteworthy that the poets of the Vedic verse were described by themselves as the hearers of the truth (kavayah satya śrutayah). They did not look upon themselves as a sort of superior medicinal-men, but as seers and thinkers, Rsi, dhīra. They themselves announced that their utterances had secret meaning, and that they revealed their whole significance only to the seers (kavaye nivacānāni ninyā vacāmsi)6 The poetical rhythms and the poetical words in which the Vedic knowledge has been expressed are themselves consummate, and it is evident that their excellence, their force and their beauty betray some high and sustained inspiration. If one reads this poetry without any pre-suppositions, one will find that it is a sacred poetry sublime and powerful in its words and images, though with another kind of language and imagination than we now prefer and appreciate. We find that it is deep and subtle in its psychological experience and that it is stirred by a moved soul of vision and utterance.
Let us take the following examples:
"States upon states are born, covering over covering awakens to knowledge; in the lap of the Mother he wholly sees. They have called to him, getting a wide knowledge, they guard sleeplessly the strength, they have entered into the strong city. The peoples born on earth increase the luminous force of the son of the White Mother, he has gold on his neck, he is large of speech, he is as if by the power of this honey wine a seeker of plenty. He is like pleasant and desirable milk, he is a thing uncompanioned and is with the two who
are companions and is as a heat that is the belly of plenty and is invincible and an overcomer of many. Play, O Ray, and manifest thy self."7
Or, again, in the succeeding hymn, — "Those flames of thee, the forceful godhead, that move not and are increased and puissant, uncling the hostility and crookedness of one who has another law. O Fire, we choose thee for our priest and the means of effectuation of our strength and in the sacrifices bringing the food of thy pleasure we call thee by the word.. .O god of perfect works may we be for thee felicity, for the truth, revelling with rays, revelling with the heroes."
And finally, let us take the bulk of the third hymn that follows couched in the ordinary symbol of sacrifice: "As the human we set thee within us, as the human we kindle thee: O Flame, O Seer-Puissance, as the human, offer sacrifice to the gods for the seeker of the godheads. O Flame, thou burnest in the human creature when thou art satisfied with his offering; his ladles go to thee unceasingly, O perfect in thy birth, O presser of the running richness. Thee all the gods with one heart of love made their envoy; O seer, men serve and adore thee in their sacrifices as in the godheads. That mortal man adores the Will, the divine, by sacrifice to the powers divine; but thou, O Brightness, shine out high-kindled; enter into the home of the Truth, enter into the home of the bliss."
The meaning of this third hymn will become clearer if it is gathered from the Vedic texts, when interpreted through the right key, that the godhead descending into man assumes the veil of humanity. The god is eternally perfect, unborn, fixed in the Truth, and Joy; descending, he is born in man, grows, and gradually manifests his completeness, as if by battles and difficult progress to the Truth and Joy. Man is a thinker, the god is the eternal seer; but the Divine veils his
seerhood in the forms of thought and life to assist the development of the mortal into immortality.
These are obviously stray examples of a mystic and symbolic poetry, and when we study passages after passages of the Vedic Samhitas, and if we apply the right key of interpretation, we shall find that these Vedic Samhitas are a testimony of a profound quest and a witness to secret wisdom and yogic shastra.
Esoteric knowledge contained in the text of the Veda can be said to be a record of a vast effort of Indian yoga, and considering that we find in this record a harmonized complexity and totality, it appears it must have been preceded by a number of specialized efforts. We find in the Veda an earliest synthesis of yoga. We find in these texts a close connection and even identity between the three main psychological interests, viz., thought, action and enjoyment. The symbolization of the cow refers to the powers of light, of the horse to those of will and action, and the symbol of soma- wine stands for the powers of joy. These are common figures of the Vedic triple sacrifice, yajna, — which, in the esoteric sense stands for yoga. (i) The offering of ghrita, the clarified butter, is the yield of the cow, (ii) the offering of the horse, and (iii) the offering of the soma are its three principal forms or elements. The synthesis of the powers of thought, will and feeling and the yoga of sacrifice of these three powers are related to the yoga-siddhi, the accomplishment that is attained by the processes of yoga, which consists of victorious illuminations, and highest spiritual ecstasies.
Veda and Symbolic Meaning of 'Yajna'
The word yajna is of supreme importance in the Veda.
The word yajna has been used in the Indian tradition of spirituality and divine knowledge in many senses, and all these senses give us clues to the richness of the connotation of this important word. The root Yaj conveys swiftness, decisiveness, and rapid brilliance. It also means to love habitually and fervently, so to worship, and to adore. It also means to give freely, wholly or continuously; it also means to master thoroughly, habitually, with a continual repetition of the act of mastery. Yaj, as distinguished from Yat (endeavour), cannot mean mere endeavour; it is too decisive and triumphant and implies possession or mastery. Yaj means therefore to rule, govern, order and possess. That is why Yajna also means Almighty Ruler, the Master of man's action, body and thought, and that is why yajna has also come to mean Vishnu, the supreme Lord ruling from the higher faculty in man, the parardha. The word yajna is formed by the combination of yaj + na, and the suffix na carries a sense of action. It may therefore convey the actor, the instrument, the agent or the sufferer of the action. Yajna therefore came to mean, he who rules, the governor or master; loving, adoring, also who is loved; the man of mastery and so yoga, in its processes; the weaver of mastery and so dharma, a rule of action or self-government; adoration or an act of worship, giving, offering, sacrifice. The word yajna was closely connected with yajuh, which specifically means giving, offering, and sacrifice.
Although the ritualistic sense of the word yajna came to be restricted to the sacrifice connected with rituals and ceremonies, the inner sense of this word is very rich. The Vedas speak of sacrifice as a journey, — a journey in which the acts of self-giving of various processes of thought, feeling and action are gradually heightened, so that one can arrive in
a methodical manner to the Master of sacrifice. Sacrifice is a journey, a journey of yoga, and this journey is governed by a law or yoga. In the Indian tradition, the law of yoga or the law of sacrifice refers to the common decisive action that maintains the solidarity of the universe. It is contended that it is by the attraction of that law that a sovereign power descends to limit and correct and gradually to eliminate the errors of an egoistic and self-divided creation. It was this descent, which has been described as sacrifice of the Purusha in the Veda,8 whereby the Divine Soul has submitted itself to Force and Matter so that it may form and illuminate them. It is by the sacrifice of the Purusha that this world of Inconscience and Ignorance can be redeemed and transformed. In the Gita, the word sacrifice is used in a sense which is free from ritualistic connotation. It is even said that it is "with sacrifice as a companion, the all-Father created these peoples".9 The law of sacrifice, which is the law of every act of thought, will and love, is the law of self-giving; the integral Karma Yoga of the Gita which is also a synthesis of the yoga of knowledge, of will and of love, is based on the recognition that the ego is neither alone in the world nor chief in the world, and that even in our fragmented existence, there is beyond itself and behind that which is not its own egoistic person, something greater and completer, a diviner All which demands from it obedience and service. The truth of the inner solidarity of the universe and the law of action that proceeds from this truth, which is termed rita in the Veda is a law that governs the journey of yoga. Hence, the law of sacrifice is law of the truth and the right, satya and rita, informing all the processes of thought, feeling and action. An action, when it is filled with truth and right, can rightly be called sacrifice.
Veda, Karma-Kanda and Karma Yoga
There is a view that the Veda is basically, karma-kanda, and that it consists of injunctions relating to performances of various kinds of sacrifices and to the prescribed procedures that are to be observed in those sacrifices. In this sense, the Veda is considered to be a book of religion, the prescriptions of which are binding on the adherents of the Vedic religion and which are to be scrupulously followed in the performance of rituals, ceremonies and prescribed acts. It cannot be denied that such a view of the Veda can be confirmed in the light of the vast literature of Brahamanas and various ritualistic interpretations of the Vedic texts. But when we come to understand the Vedic texts in their esoteric sense, we find in them a profound system of yoga, which is not confined merely to Karma Yoga but also to a synthesis of yoga. This yoga synthesizes the psychological being of man in its highest flights and widest ranging of divine knowledge, power, joy, life and glory with cosmic existence of the gods perceived behind the symbols of the material universe into those superior planes which are hidden from the physical sense and the material mentality. The highest achievements which have been described in the Vedic records of yoga consist of the experiences of the Vedic rishis that manifest the unity and integrality of the divine consciousness, transcendent and blissful. The ideal that was pursued by the rishis was that of increasing powers of the. soul of man and attaining unity of the soul of man and the eternal divine fullness of the cosmic godheads in their synthesis and in their highest fulfillment. The Vedic yoga thus aimed at the divine perfectibility of man, and therefore of the divine integration or perfect integrality of human consciousness when it rose up to the divine consciousness.
As a stray illustration of this synthesis of this Vedic yoga, we may refer to the following verses. These verses constitute the third hymn of Madhuchandas in the first mandala, and it is a hymn of the Soma sacrifice. It is composed in movements of three stanzas, the first addressed to the Ashwins, the second to Indra, the third to the Vishvadevas, and the fourth to the goddess Saraswati. When these verses are translated in their esoteric sense, as we find them in Sri Aurobindo's translation, they read as follows:
"O Riders of the Steed, O Ashwins, swift-footed, much- enjoying lords of bliss, take delight in the energies of the sacrifice.
"O Riders of the Steed, male souls effecting a manifold action, take joy of the words ,O holders in the intellect, by a luminously energetic thought.
"I have piled the seat of sacrifice, I have pressed out the vigorous Soma-juices; fulfillers of action, powers of the movement, come to them with your fierce speed on the path."
"Come, O Indra, with thy rich lustres, these Soma-juices desire thee; they are purified by the subtle powers and by extension in body.
"Come, O Indra, impelled by the mind, driven forward by the illumined thinker, to my soul-thoughts, I who have poured out the Soma-juice and seek to express them in speech.
"Come, O Indra, with forceful speed to my soul-thoughts, O lord of the bright horses; hold firm the delight in the Soma-juice."
" O fosterers who uphold the doer in his work, O all-gods, come and divide the Soma-wine that I distribute.
" O all-gods, who bring over to us the Waters, come passing through to my Soma-offerings as illumined powers to your places of bliss.
" O all-gods, you who are not assailed nor come to hurt, free-moving in your form of knowledge, cleave to my sacrifice as its upbeareres."
"May purifying Saraswati with all the plenitude of her forms of plenty, rich in substance by the thought, desire our sacrifice.
"She, the impeller to happy truths, the awakener in consciousness to right mentalisings, Saraswati upholds the sacrifice.
"Saraswati by the perception awakens in consciousness the great flood (the vast movement of the rtam) and illumines entirely all the thoughts."10
These verses show the intimate connection between the yoga of the Vedic sacrifice and certain states of mind and soul, the interdependence between the offering of the clarified butter and soma juice and luminous thought, richness of psychological content, right states of the mind and its awaking and impulsions with the truth and the light. This illustration will indicate the point that the Veda abounds with the statements of psychological states of consciousness and that various prayers indicate the processes by which lower states of consciousness were sought to be led or transmuted towards higher and diviner states of consciousness, and that these processes could be utilized in similar circumstances of yogic practices for attaining those higher states which have been described in the prayers.