Let Us All Work For the Greatness Of India

History of India – The Vedic Age (19)


XI. The Problem of Vedic Interpretation

A Hypothesis of the sense of Veda must always proceed, to be sure and sound, from a basis that clearly emerges in the language of the Veda itself. Even if the bulk of its substance be an arrangement of symbols and figures, the sense of which has to be discovered, yet there should be clear indications in the explicit language of the hymns which will guide us to that sense. Otherwise, the symbols being themselves ambiguous, we shall be in danger of manufacturing a system out of our own imaginations and preferences instead of discovering the real purport of the figures chosen by the Rishis. In that case, however ingenious and complete our theory, it is likely to be a building in the air, brilliant, but without reality or solidity.

Our first duty, therefore, is to determine whether there is, apart from figure and symbol, in the clear language of the hymns a sufficient kernel of psychological notions to justify us in supposing at all a higher than the barbarous and primitive sense of the Veda. And afterwards we have to find, as far as possible from the internal evidence of the Suktas themselves, the interpretation of each symbol and image and the right psychological function of each of the gods. A firm and not a fluctuating sense, founded on good philological justification and fitting naturally into the context wherever it occurs, must be found for each of the fixed terms of the Veda. For, as has already been said, the language of the hymns is a language fixed and invariable; it is the carefully preserved and scrupulously respected diction consistently expressing either a formal creed and ritual or a traditional doctrine and constant experience. If the language of the Vedic Rishis were free and variable, if their ideas were evidently in a state of flux, shifting and uncertain, a convenient licence and incoherence in the sense we attach to their terminology and the relation we find between their ideas, might be justified or tolerated. But the hymns themselves on the very face of them bear exactly the contrary testimony. We have the right therefore to demand the same fidelity and scrupulousness in the interpreter as in the original he interprets. There is obviously a constant relation between the different notions and cherished terms of the Vedic religion; incoherence and uncertainty in the interpretation will prove, not that the face evidence of the Veda is misleading, but simply that the interpreter has failed to discover the right relations.

If, after this initial labour has been scrupulously and carefully done, it can be shown by a translation of the hymns that the interpretations we had fixed fit in naturally and easily in whatever context, if they are found to illuminate what seemed obscure and to create intelligible and clear coherence where there seemed to be only confusion; if the hymns in their entirety give thus a clear and connected sense and the successive verses show a logical succession of related thoughts, and if the result as a whole be a profound, consistent and antique body of doctrines, then our hypothesis will have a right to stand besides others, to challenge them where they contradict it or to complete them where they are consistent with its findings. Nor will the probability of our hypothesis be lessened, but rather its validity confirmed if it be found that the body of ideas and doctrines thus revealed in the Veda are a more antique form of subsequent Indian thought and religious experience, the natural parent of Vedanta and Purana.”1

“The interpretation of the Rigveda is perhaps the most difficult and disputed question with which the scholarship of today has to deal. This difficulty and dispute are not the creation of present-day criticism; it has existed in different forms since very early times. To what is this incertitude due? Partly, no doubt, it arises from the archaic character of a language in which many of the words were obsolete when ancient Indian scholars tried to systematise the traditional learning about the Veda, and especially the great number of different meanings of which the old Sanskrit words are capable. But there is another and more vital difficulty and problem. The Vedic hymns are full of figures and symbols, – of that there can be no least doubt, – and the question is what do these symbols represent, what is their religious or other significance? Are they simply mythological figures with no depth of meaning behind them? Are they the poetic images of an old Nature-worship, mythological, astronomical, naturalistic, symbols of the action of physical phenomena represented as the action of the gods? Or have they another and more mystic significance? If this question could be solved with an indubitable certitude, the difficulty of language would be no great obstacle; certain hymns and verses might remain obscure, but the general sense, drift, purport of the ancient hymns could be made clear. But the singular feature of the Veda is that none of these solutions, at least as they have been hitherto applied, gives a firm and satisfactory outcome. The hymns remain confused, bizarre, incoherent, and the scholars are obliged to take refuge in the gratuitous assumption that this incoherence is a native character of the text and does not arise from their own ignorance of its central meaning. But so long as we can get no farther than this point, the doubt, the debate must continue.”2

Sri Aurobindo’s explanation of the ambiguous character of the Veda is based on a distinction between the inner (for the initiates) and the outer (for the profane) sense of the Vedic hymns. According to him “… these hymns were written in a stage of religious culture which answered to a similar period in Greece and other ancient countries, – I do not suggest that they were contemporary or identical in cult and idea, – a stage in which there was a double face to the current religion, an outer for the people, profanum vulgus, an inner for the initiates, the early period of the Mysteries. The Vedic Rishis were mystics who reserved their inner knowledge for the initiates; they shielded it from the vulgar by the use of an alphabet of symbols which could not readily be understood without the initiation, but were perfectly clear and systematic when the signs were once known. These symbols centred around the idea and forms of the sacrifice; for the sacrifice was the universal and central institution of the prevailing cult. The hymns were written round this institution and were understood by the vulgar as ritual chants in praise of the Nature-gods, Indra, Agni, Surya Savitri, Varuna, Mitra and Bhaga, the Aswins, Ribhus, Maruts, Rudra, Vishnu, Saraswati, with the object of provoking by the sacrifice the gifts of the gods, – cows, horses, gold and other forms of wealth of a pastoral people, victory over enemies, safety in travel, sons, servants, prosperity, every kind of material good fortune. But behind this mask of primitive and materialistic naturalism, lay another and esoteric cult which would reveal itself if we once penetrated the meaning of the Vedic symbols. That once caught and rightly read, the whole Rigveda would become clear, consequent, a finely woven, yet straightforward tissue.

According to my theory the outer sacrifice represented in these esoteric terms an inner sacrifice of self-giving and communion with the gods. These gods are powers outwardly of physical, inwardly of psychical nature. Thus Agni outwardly is the physical principle of fire, but inwardly the god of the psychic godward flame, force, will, Tapas; Surya outwardly the solar light, inwardly the god of the illuminating revelatory knowledge; Soma outwardly the moon and the Soma-wine or nectarous moon plant, inwardly the god of the spiritual ecstasy, Ananda. The principal psychical conception of this inner Vedic cult was the idea of the Satyam Ritam Brihat, the Truth, the Law, the Vast. Earth, Air and Heaven symbolised the physical, vital and mental being, but this Truth was situated in the greater heaven, base of a triple Infinity actually and explicitly mentioned in the Vedic riks, and it meant therefore a state of spiritual and supramental illumination. To get beyond earth and sky to Swar, the Sun-world, seat of this illumination, home of the gods, foundation and seat of the Truth, was the achievement of the early Fathers, pûrve pitarah, and of the seven Angiras Rishis who founded the Vedic religion. The solar gods, children of Infinity, Adityah, were born in the Truth and the Truth was their home, but they descended into the lower planes and had in each plane their appropriate functions, their mental, vital and physical cosmic motions. They were the guardians and increasers of the Truth in man and by the Truth, ritasya pathâ, led him to felicity and immortality. They had to be called into the human being and increased in their functioning, formed in him, brought in or born, devavîti, extended, devatâti, united in their universality, vaisvadevya.

The sacrifice was represented at once as a giving and worship, a battle and a journey. It was the centre of a battle between the Gods aided by Aryan men on one side and the Titans or destroyers on the opposite faction, Dasyus, Vritras, Panis, Rakshasas, later called Daityas and Asuras, between the powers of the Truth or Light and the powers of falsehood, division, darkness. It was a journey, because the sacrifice travelled from earth to the gods in their heaven, but also because it made ready the path by which man himself travelled to the home of the Truth. This journey opposed by the Dasyus, thieves, robbers, tearers, besiegers (vritras), was itself a battle. The giving was an inner giving. All the offerings of the outer sacrifice, the cow and its yield, the horse, the Soma were symbols of the dedication of inner powers and experiences to the Lords of Truth. The divine gifts, result of the outer sacrifice, were also symbols of inner divine gifts, the cows of the divine light symbolised by the herds of the Sun, the horse of strength and power, the son of the inner godhead or divine man created by the sacrifice, and so through the whole list. This symbolic duplication was facilitated by the double meaning of the Vedic words. Go, for instance, means both cow and ray; the cows of the dawn and the sun, Homer’s boes Eelioio, are the rays of the Sungod, Lord of Revelation, even as in Greek mythology Apollo the Sungod is also the Master of poetry and of prophecy. Ghrita means clarified butter, but also the bright thing; soma means the wine of the moon plant, but also delight, honey, sweetness, madhu. This is the conception, all other features are subsidiary to this central idea. The suggestion seems to me a perfectly simple one, neither out of the way and recondite, nor unnatural to the mentality of the early human peoples.”3

An a priori objection that can be brought against such a theory by Western scholarship is that “… there is no need for all this mystification, that there is no sign of it in the Veda unless we choose to read it into the primitive mythology, that it is not justified by the history of religion or of the Vedic religion, that it was a refinement impossible to an ancient and barbaric mind. None of these objections can really stand. The Mysteries in Egypt and Greece and elsewhere were of a very ancient standing and they proceeded precisely on this symbolic principle, by which outward myth and ceremony and cult objects stood for secrets of an inward life or knowledge. It cannot therefore be argued that this mentality was non-existent, impossible in antique times or any more impossible or improbable in India, the country of the Upanishads, than in Egypt and Greece. The history of ancient religion does show a transmutation of physical Nature-gods into representatives of psychical powers or rather an addition of psychical to physical functions; but the latter in some instances gave place to the less external significance. I have given the example of Helios replaced in later times by Apollo. Just so in the Vedic religion Surya undoubtedly becomes a god of inner light, the famous Gayatri verse and its esoteric interpretation are there to prove it as well as the constant appeal of the Upanishads to Vedic riks or Vedic symbols taken in a psychological and spiritual sense, eg, the four closing verses of the Isha Upanishad. Hermes, Athena represent in classical mythology psychical functions, but were originally Nature gods, Athena probably a dawn goddess. I contend that Usha in the Veda shows us this transmutation in its commencement. Dionysus the wine-god was intimately connected with the Mysteries; I assign a similar role to Soma, the wine-god of the Vedas.

But the question is whether there is anything to show that there was actually such a doubling of functions in the Veda. Now in the first place, how was the transition effected from the alleged purely materialistic Nature-worship of the Vedas to the extraordinary psychological and spiritual knowledge of the Upanishads unsurpassed in their subtlety and sublimity in ancient times? There are three possible explanations. First, this sudden spirituality may have been brought in from outside; it is hardily suggested by some scholars that it was taken from an alleged highly spiritual non-Aryan southern culture; but this is an assumption, a baseless hypothesis for which no proof has been advanced; it rests as a surmise in the air without foundation. Secondly, it may have developed from within by some such transmutation as I have suggested, but subsequent to the composition of all but the latest Vedic hymns. Still even then it was effected on the basis of the Vedic hymns; the Upanishads claim to be a development from the Vedic knowledge, Vedanta repeatedly appeals to Vedic texts, regards Veda as a book of knowledge. The men who gave the Vedantic knowledge are everywhere represented as teachers of the Veda. Why then should we rigidly assume that this development took place subsequent to the composition of the bulk of the Vedic mantras? For the third possibility is that the whole ground had already been prepared consciently by the Vedic mystics. I do not say that the inner Vedic knowledge was identical with the Brahmavada. Its terms were different, its substance was greatly developed, much lost or rejected, much added, old ideas shed, new interpretations made, the symbolic element reduced to a minimum and replaced by clear and open philosophic phrases and conceptions. Certainly, the Vedic mantras had already become obscure and ill-understood at the time of the Brahmanas. And still the groundwork may have been there from the beginning. It is, of course, in the end a question of fact; but my present contention is only that there is no a priori impossibility, but rather a considerable probability or at least strong possibility in favour of my suggestion. I will put my argument in this way. The later hymns undoubtedly contain a beginning of the Brahmavada; how did it begin, had it no root origins in the earlier mantras? It is certain that some of the gods, Varuna, Saraswati, had a psychological as well as a physical function. I go farther and say that this double function can everywhere be traced in the Veda with regard to other gods, as for instance, Agni and even the Maruts. Why not then pursue the inquiry on these lines and see how far it will go? There is at least a prima facie ground for consideration, and to begin with, I demand no more. An examination of the actual text of the hymns can alone show how far the inquiry will be justified or produce results of a high importance.”4

A. The Three Necessary Processes

“I hold that three processes are necessary for a valid interpretation of the Veda. First, there must be a straightforward rendering word by word of the text which shall stick to a plain and simple sense at once suggested by the actual words no matter what the result may be. Then, this result has to be taken and it has to be seen what is its actual purport and significance. That meaning must be consistent, coherent with itself; it must show each hymn as a whole in itself proceeding from idea to idea, linked together in sequence, as any literary creation of the human mind must be linked, which has not been written by lunatics or is not merely a string of disconnected cries. It is impossible to suppose that these Rishis, competent metrists, possessed of a style of great power and nobility, composed without the sequence of ideas which is the mark of all adequate literary creation. And if we suppose them to be divinely inspired, mouthpieces of Brahman or the Eternal, there is no ground for supposing that the divine wisdom is more incoherent in its Word than the human mind; it should rather be more luminous and satisfying in its totality. Finally, if a symbolic interpretation is put on any part of the text, it must arise directly and clearly from suggestions and language of the Veda itself and must not be brought in from outside.”5

(i) Straightforward  Rendering of the Text

“A few words may be useful on each of these points. The first rule I follow is to try to get at the simplest and straightforward sense to which the Rik is open, not to strain, twist and involve. The Vedic style is terse, but natural, it has its strong brevities and some ellipses, but all the same it is essentially simple and goes straight to its object. Where it seems obscure, it is because we do not know the meaning of the words or miss the clue to the idea. Even if at one or two places, it seems to be tortured, that is no reason why we should put the whole Veda on the rack or even in these places torture it still worse in the effort to get at a sense. Where the meaning of a word has to be fixed, this difficulty comes either because we have no clue to the true meaning or because it is capable in the language of several meanings. In the latter case I follow certain fixed canons. First, if the word is one of the standing terms of the Veda intimately bound up with its religious system, then I must first find one single meaning which attaches to it wherever it occurs; I am not at liberty to vary its sense from the beginning according to my pleasure or fancy or sense of immediate fitness. If I interpret a book of obscure Christian theology, I am not at liberty to interpret freely the constantly recurring word grace sometimes as the influx of the divine favour, sometimes as one of the three Graces, sometimes as charm of beauty, sometimes as grace marks in an examination, sometimes as the name of a girl. If in one it evidently bears this or that sense and can have no other, if it has no reference to the ordinary meaning, then indeed it is different; but I must not put in one of these other meanings where the normal sense fits the context. In other cases I may have greater freedom, but this freedom must not degenerate into licence. Thus the word ritam may signify, we are told, truth, sacrifice, water, motion and a number of other things. Sayana interprets freely and without obvious rule or reason according to any of them and sometimes gives us two alternatives; not only does he interpret it variously in different hymns, but in three different senses [in]the same hymn or even in the same line. I hold this to be quite illegitimate. Ritam is a standing term of the Veda and I must take it consistently. If I find truth to be its sense in that standing significance, I must so interpret it always, unless in any given passage it evidently means water or sacrifice or the man who has gone and cannot mean truth. To translate so striking a phrase as ritasya panthâh in one passage as ‘the path of truth’, in another ‘the path of sacrifice’, in another ‘the path of water’, in another ‘the path of the one who has gone’ is a sheer licence, and if we follow such a method, there can be no sense for the Veda except the sense of our own individual caprice. Then again we have the word Deva, which undoubtedly means in ninety-nine places out of a hundred, one of the shining ones, a god. Even though this is not so vital a term as ritam, still I must not take it in the sense of a priest or intelligent man or any other significance, where the word god gives a good and sufficient meaning unless it can be shown that it is undoubtedly capable of another sense in the mouth of the Rishis. On the other hand a word like ari means sometimes a fighter, one’s own champion, sometimes a hostile fighter, assailant, enemy, sometimes it is an adjective and seems almost equivalent to arya or even ârya. But mark that these are all well-connected senses. Dayananda insists on a greater freedom of interpretation to suit the context. Saindhava he says means a horse or rocksalt; where it is a question of eating we must interpret as salt, where it is a question of riding, as horse. That is quite obvious; but the whole question in the Veda is what is the bearing of the context, what are its connections? If we interpret according to our individual sense of what the context ought to mean, we are building on the quicksands. The only safe rule is to fix the sense usually current in the Veda and admit variations only where they are evident from the context. Where the ordinary sense makes a good meaning, I ought to accept it; it does not at all matter that that is not the meaning I should like it to have or the one suitable to my theory of the Veda. But how to fix the meaning? We can evidently do it only on the totality or balance of the evidence of all the passages in which the word occurs and, after that, on its suitability to the general sense of the Veda. If I show that ritam in all passages can mean truth, in a great number of passages but not by any means all sacrifice, in only a few water, and in hardly any, motion, and this sense, truth, fits in with the general sense of the Veda, then I consider I have made out an unanswerable case for taking it in that significance. In the cases of many words this can be done; in others we have to strike a balance. There remain the words of which frankly we do not know the meaning. Here we have to use the clue of etymology and then to test the meaning or possible meanings we arrive at by application to the passages in which the word occurs, taking into consideration where necessary not only the isolated riks, but the context around, and even the general sense of Veda. In a few cases the word is so rare and obscure that only a quite conjectural meaning can be attached to it.”6

(ii) Actual Purport and Significance

“When we have got the rendering of the text, we have to [see]to what it amounts. Here what we have to do is to see the connection of the ideas in the verse itself, next its connection with the ideas in the verses that precede and follow and with the general sense of the hymn; next parallel passages and ideas and hymns and finally the place of the whole in the scheme of ideas of the Veda. Thus in IV.7 we have the line vXus dnk r vkuq”kx~ Hkqon~ nsoL; psrua, and I render it, “O Flame, when may there be in uninterrupted sequence the awakening (to knowledge or consciousness) of thee the god (the shining or luminous One)?” But the question I have to put is this, “Does this mean the constant burning of the physical fire on the altar and the ordered sequence of the physical sacrifice, or does it mean the awakening to constant developing knowledge or ordered conscious action of knowledge of the divine Flame in man?” I note that in the next rik (3) Agni is described as the possessor of truth (or of sacrifice?), the entirely wise, _rkokua fopsrla, in 4 as the vision or knowledge perception shining for each creature, dsrqa Hk`xok.ka fo’ks fo’ks, in 5 as the Priest who knows, gksrkja fpfdRokala, in 6 as the bright one in the secrecy who has perfect knowledge, fp=ka xqgk fgra lqosna, in 7 as coming possessed of the truth for the sacrifice when the gods rejoice in the seat of the Truth, [in 8]as the messenger fo}ku~ lafpfdRoku~ fonqÎj%. All this is ample warrant for taking Agni not merely as a physical flame on the altar, [but]as a flame of divine knowledge guiding the sacrifice and mediating between man and the gods. The balance is also, though not indisputably, in favour of taking it as a reference to the inner sacrifice under the cover of the outer symbols; for why should there be so much stress on divine knowledge if the question were only of a physical sacrifice for physical fruits? I note that he is the priest, sage, messenger, eater, swift traveller and warrior. How are these ideas, both successive and interwoven in the Veda, connected together? Is it the physical sacred flame that is all these things or the inner sacred flame? There is sufficient to warrant me in provisionally taking it for the inner flame; but to be sure I cannot rely on this one rik. I have to note the evolution of the same ideas in other hymns, to study all the hymns dedicated to Agni or in which he is mentioned, to see whether there are passages in which he is indubitably the inner flame and what light they shed on his whole physiognomy. Only then shall I be in a position to judge certainly the significance of the Vedic Fire.”7

(iii) A Symbolic Interpretation Must Arise Directly from the Language of the Veda Itself

“This example will show the method I follow in regard to the third question, the interpretation of the Vedic symbols. That there are a mass of figures and symbols in the hymns, there can be no doubt. The instances in this 7th hymn of the Fourth Mandala are sufficient by themselves to show how large a part they play. In the absence of any contemporary evidence of the sense which the Rishis attached to them, we have to seek for their meaning in the Veda itself. Obviously, where we do not know we cannot do without a hypothesis, and my hypothesis is that of the outer ritual form as a significant symbol of an inner spiritual meaning. But this or any hypothesis can have no real value if it is brought in from outside, if it is not suggested by the words and indications of the Veda itself. The Brahmanas are too full of ingenuities; they read too much and too much at random into the text. The Upanishads give a better light and we may get hints from later work and even from Sayana and Yaska, but it would be dangerous at once to read back literally the ideas of a later mentality into this exceedingly ancient Scripture. We must start from and rely on the Veda to interpret the Veda. We have to see, first, whether there are any plain and evident psychological and spiritual conceptions, what they are, what clue they give us, secondly, whether there are any indications of psychological meanings for physical symbols and how the outer physical is related to the inner psychological side. Why for instance is the Flame Agni called the seer and knower? why are the rivers called the waters that have knowledge? why are they said to ascend or get into the mind? and a host of other similar questions. The answer again must be found by a minute comparative study of the Vedic hymns themselves.”8

B. The Three Different Tests or Bases

(i) The Philological Test

The problem of Vedic interpretation depends, in my view, on three different tests, philological, historic and psycholo­gical. If the results of these three coincide, then only can we be sure that we have understood the Veda. But to erect this Delphic tripod of interpretation is no facile undertaking. It is easy to misuse philology. I hold no philology to be sound and valid which has only discovered one or two bye laws of sound modification and for the rest depends upon imagination and licentious conjecture, – identifies for instance ethos with swadha, derives uloka from urvaloka or prachetasa from prachi and on the other ignores the numerous but definitely ascertain­able caprices of Pracritic detrition between the European and Sanscrit tongues or considers a number of word-identities sufficient to justify inclusion in a single group of languages. By a scientific philology I mean a science which can trace the origins, growth and structure of the Sanscrit language, discover its primary, secondary and tertiary forms and the laws by which they develop from each other, trace in­telligently the descent of every meaning of a word in Sanscrit from its original root sense, account for all similarities and identities of sense, discover the reason of unexpected divergences, trace the deviations which separated Greek and Latin from the Indian dialect, discover and define the connection of all three with the Dravidian forms of speech. Such a system of comparative philology could alone deserve to stand as a science side by side with the physical sciences and claim to speak with authority on the significance of doubtful words in the Vedic vocabulary. The development of such a science must always be a work of time and gigantic labour.”9

(ii) The Psychological Test

“But even such a science, when completed, could not, owing to the paucity of our records be, by itself, a perfect guide. It would be necessary to discover, fix and take always into account the actual ideas, experiences and thought-atmosphere of the Vedic Rishis; for it is these things that give colour to the words of men and determine their use. The European translations represent the Vedic Rishis as cheerful semi­savages full of material ideas and longings, ceremonialists, naturalistic Pagans, poets endowed with an often gorgeous but always incoherent imagination, a rambling style and inability either to think in connected fashion or to link their verses by that natural logic which all except children and the most rudimentary intellects observe. In the light of this conception they interpret Vedic words and evolve a meaning out of the verses. Sayana and the Indian scholars perceive in the Vedic Rishis ceremonialists and Puranists like themselves with an occasional scholastic and Vedantic bent; they interpret Vedic words and Vedic mantras accordingly. Wherever they can get words to mean priest, prayer, sacrifice, speech, rice, butter, milk, etc, they do so redundantly and decisively. It would be at least interesting to test the results of another hypothesis, – that the Vedic thinkers were clear-thinking men with at least as clear an expression as ordinary poets have and at least as high ideas and as connected and logical a way of expressing themselves – allowing for the succinctness of poetical forms – as is found in other religious poetry, say the Psalms or the Book of Job or St. Paul’s Epistles. But there is a better psychological test than any mere hypothesis. If it be found, as I hold it will be found, that a scienti­fic and rational philological dealing with the text reveals to us poems not of mere ritual or Nature worship, but hymns full of psychological and philosophical religion expressed in relation to fixed practices and symbolic ceremonies, if we find that the common and persistent words of Veda, words such as vaja, vani, tuvi, ritam, radhas, râti, raya, rayi, uti, vahni etc, – an almost endless list, – are used so persistently because they expressed shades of meaning and fine psychological dis­tinctions of great practical importance to the Vedic religion, that the Vedic gods were intelligently worshipped and the hymns intelligently constructed to express not incoherent poetical ideas but well connected spiritual experiences, – then the interpreter of Veda may test his ren­dering by repeating the Vedic experiences through Yoga and by testing and confirming them as a scientist tests and confirms the results of his predecessors. He may discover whether there are the same shades and distinctions, the same connections in his own psychological and spiritual experiences. If there are, he will have the psychological con­firmation of his philological results.”10

(iii) The Historical Test

“Even this confirmation may not be sufficient. For although the new version may have the immense superiority of a clear depth and simplicity supported and confirmed by a minute and consistent scientific experimentation, although it may explain rationally and simply most or all of the passages which have baffled the older and the newer, the Eastern and the Western scholars, still the confirmation may be discounted as a personal test applied in the light of a previous conclusion. If, however, there is a historical confirmation as well, if it is found that Veda has exactly the same psychology and philosophy as Vedanta, Purana, Tantra and ancient and modern Yoga and all of them indicate the same Vedic results which we ourselves have dis­covered in our experience, then we may possess our souls in peace and say to ourselves that we [have discovered]the meaning of Veda; its true meaning if not all its significance. Nor need we be discouraged, if we have to disagree with Sayana and Yaska in the actual rendering of the hymns no less than with the Europeans. Neither of these great authorities can be held to be infallible. Yaska is an authority for the interpretation of Vedic words in his own age, but that age was already far subsequent to the Vedic and the sacred language of the hymns was already to him an ancient tongue. The Vedas are much more ancient than we usually suppose. Sayana represents the scholarship and traditions of a period not much anterior to our own. There is therefore no authoritative rendering of the hymns. The Veda remains its own best authority.”11


  1. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.15, pp.34-35, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
  2. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.16, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, pp.676-77
  3. Ibid, pp.677-79
  4. Ibid, pp.679-81
  5. Ibid, p.683
  6. Ibid, pp.684-86
  7. Ibid, pp.686-87
  8. Ibid, pp.687-88
  9. Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, Issue April 1984, pp.22-23, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
  10. Ibid, pp.23-24
  11. Ibid, pp.24-25
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