XIII. The Psychological and the Historical Bases for the Interpretation of the Veda
B. The Basic Approach and the Beginnings
After examining the very first hymn (Sukta) to Agni, Sri Aurobindo goes on to examine the next Sukta addressed to Indra and Vayu with a view that if his interpretation of the first hymn which amounts to the conception of a supramental consciousness – the basis of a state of immortality or beatitude – be the leading conception of the Vedic Rishis then one is “bound to find it recurring throughout the hymns as a centre for other and dependent psychological realisations.”1 This second hymn of Madhuchchhandas is again found to be “full of clear and this time quite invincible psychological suggestions in which the idea of the Ritam is insisted upon with an even greater force than in the hymn to Agni.”2 Sri Aurobindo’s translation of the passage which comprises last three Riks of the Sukta (I.2.7-9) runs as follows:
“‘I invoke Mitra of purified strength (or, purified discernment) and Varuna destroyer of our foes perfecting (or accomplishing) a bright understanding.’
‘By Truth Mitra and Varuna, truth-increasing, truth-touching, enjoy (or, attain) a mighty work’ or ‘a vast (effective) power.’
‘For us Mitra and Varuna, seers, multiply-born, wide-housed, uphold the strength (or, discernment) that does the work.’”3
The above three riks occur as the closing passage of a hymn of which the first three verses are addressed to Vayu alone and the next three to Indra and Vayu. “Indra in the psychological interpretation of the hymns represents, as we shall see, Mind-Power. The word for the sense-faculties, indriya, is derived from his name. His special realm is Swar, a word which means sun or luminous, being akin to sÓra and sÓrya, the sun, and is used to indicate the third of the Vedic vyÀhÐtis and the third of the Vedic worlds corresponding to the principle of the pure or unobscured Mind. Surya represents the illumination of the Ritam rising upon the mind; Swar is that plane of mental consciousness which directly receives the illumination. Vayu on the other hand is always associated with the Prana or Life- Energy which contributes to the system all the ensemble of those nervous activities that in man are the support of the mental energies governed by Indra. Their combination constitutes the normal mentality of man. These two gods are invited in the hymn to come and partake together of the Soma-wine. This wine of Soma represents, as we have abundant proof in the Veda and especially in the ninth book, a collection of more than a hundred hymns addressed to the deity Soma, the intoxication of the Ananda, the divine delight of being, inflowing upon the mind from the supramental consciousness through the Ritam or Truth. If we accept these interpretations, we can easily translate the hymn into its psychological significance.
Indra and Vayu awaken in consciousness (cetathaÕ) to the flowings of the Soma-wine; that is to say, the mind-power and life-power working together in human mentality are to awaken to the inflowings of this Ananda, this Amrita, this delight and immortality from above. They receive them into the full plenitude of the mental and nervous energies, cetathaÕ sutÀnÀÌ vÀjinÈvasÓ.a The Ananda thus received constitutes a new action preparing immortal consciousness in the mortal and Indra and Vayu are bidden to come and swiftly perfect these new workings by the participation of the thought, À yÀtam upa niØkÐaÌ makØÓ dhiyÀ.b For dhÈ is the thought-power, intellect or understanding. It is intermediate between the normal mentality represented by the combination of Indra and Vayu and the Ritam or truth-consciousness.
It is at this point that Varuna and Mitra intervene and our passage begins. Without the psychological clue the connection between the first part of the hymn and the close is not very clear, nor the relation between the couple Varuna-Mitra and the couple Indra-Vayu. With that clue both connections become obvious; indeed they depend upon each other. For the earlier part of the hymn has for its subject the preparation first of the vital forces represented by Vayu who is alone invoked in the three opening Riks, then of the mentality represented by the couple Indra-Vayu for the activities of the Truth-consciousness in the human being; the close has for its subject the working of the Truth on the mentality so as to perfect the intellect and to enlarge the action. Varuna and Mitra are two of the four gods who represent this working of the Truth in the human mind and temperament.”4
“It is by the thought that Indra and Vayu have been called upon to perfect the nervous mentality, niØkÐaÌ dhiyÀ. But this instrument, thought, has itself to be perfected, enriched, clarified before the mind can become capable of free communication with the Truth-consciousness. Therefore Varuna and Mitra, Powers of the Truth, are invoked ‘accomplishing a richly luminous thought,’ dhiyaÌ ghÐtÀcÈÌ sÀdhantÀ.”5 The expression dhiyaÌ ghÐtÀcÈÌ means the intellect full of a rich and bright mental activity.
“Varuna and Mitra who accomplish or perfect this state of the intellect, are distinguished by two several epithets. Mitra is pÓtadakØa, possessed of a purified judgment; Varuna is riÙÀdas, he destroys all hurters or enemies. In the Veda there are no merely ornamental epithets. Every word is meant to tell, to add something to the sense and bear a strict relation to the thought of the sentence in which it occurs. There are two obstacles which prevent the intellect from being a perfect and luminous mirror of the truth-consciousness; first, impurity of the discernment or discriminative faculty which leads to confusion of the Truth, secondly the many causes or influences which interfere with the growth of the Truth by limiting its full application or by breaking up the connections and harmony of the thoughts that express it and which thus bring about poverty and falsification of its contents. Just as the Gods in the Veda represent universal powers descended from the Truth-consciousness which build up the harmony of the worlds and in man his progressive perfection, so the influences that work against these objects are represented by hostile agencies, Dasyus and Vritras, who seek to break up, to limit, to withhold and deny. Varuna in the Veda is always characterised as a power of wideness and purity; when, therefore, he is present in man as a conscious force of the Truth, all that limits and hurts the nature by introducing into it fault, sin and evil is destroyed by contact with him. He is riÙÀdas, destroyer of the enemy, of all that seek to injure the growth. Mitra, a power like Varuna of Light and Truth, especially represents Love, Joy and Harmony, the foundations of Mayas, the Vedic beatitude. Working with the purity of Varuna and imparting that purity to the discernment, he enables it to get rid of all discords and confusions and establish the right working of the strong and luminous intellect.
This progress enables the Truth-consciousness, the Ritam, to work in the human mentality. With the Ritam as the agency, rtena, increasing the action of the Truth in man, rtavrdha, touching or reaching the Truth, enabling, that is to say, the mental consciousness to come into successful contact with and possession of the Truth-consciousness, ÐtaspÐÙÀ, Mitra and Varuna are able to enjoy the use of a vast effective will-power, kratuÌ bÐhantam ÀÙÀthe.( I.2.9) For it is the Will that is the chief effective agent of the inner sacrifice, but a will that is in harmony with the Truth, guided therefore by a purified discernment. The Will as it enters more and more into the wideness of the Truth-consciousness becomes itself wide and vast, free from limitation in its view and of hampering impediments in its effectivity. It works urÀvanibÀdhe, in the wideness where there is no obstacle or wall of limitation.
Thus the two requisites on which the Vedic Rishis always insist are secured, Light and Power, the Light of the Truth working in the knowledge, dhiyaÌ ghÐtÀcÈÌ, the Power of the Truth working in the effective and enlightened Will, kratuÌ bÐhantam. As a result Varuna and Mitra are shown to us in the closing verse of the hymn working in the full sense of their Truth, kavÈ tuvijÀtÀ urukØayÀ.(I.2.8) Kavi, we have seen, means possessed of the Truth-consciousness and using its faculties of vision, inspiration, intuition, discrimination. TuvijÀtÀ is ‘multiply born’, for tuvi, meaning originally strength or force, is used like the French word ‘force’ in the sense of many. But by the birth of the gods is meant always in the Veda their manifestation; thus tuvijÀtÀ signifies ‘manifested multiply’, in many forms and activities. UrukØayÀ means dwelling in the wideness, an idea which occurs frequently in the hymns; uru is equivalent to bÐhat, the Vast, and indicates the infinite freedom of the Truth-consciousness. Thus we have as the result of the increasing activities of the Ritam the manifestation in the human being of the Powers of wideness and purity, of joy and harmony, a manifestation rich in forms, seated in the wideness of the Ritam and using the faculties of the supra-mental consciousness.
This manifestation of the Powers of the Truth upholds or confirms the discernment while it does the work, dakØaÌ dadhÀte apasam. The discernment, now purified and supported, works in the sense of the Truth, as a power of the Truth and accomplishes the perfection of the activities of Indra and Vayu by freeing the thought and the will from all defect and confusion in their working and results.”6
Sri Aurobindo’s detailed discussion not only of the above three Riks (I.2.7-9) but also the earlier three Riks on Agni (I.2.5-8) clearly shows that these hymns of the Veda confirm each other by their reproduction of the same terms and ideas and the same relation of ideas. In fact every part of the Veda, when properly understood, throws light upon every other part. Only when one is misled by its veils that one finds in it incoherence. According to Sri Aurobindo the internal evidence of the above Riks themselves establishes that they are based on a coherent doctrine and have a precise significance which is psychological, “…as otherwise the terms lose their fixed value, their precise sense, their necessary connection, and their constant recurrence in relation to each other has to be regarded as fortuitous and void of reason or purpose.
We see then that in the second hymn we find again the same governing ideas as in the first. All is based on the central Vedic conception of the supra-mental or Truth-consciousness towards which the progressively perfected mentality of the human being labours as towards a consummation and a goal. In the first hymn this is merely stated as the aim of the sacrifice and the characteristic work of Agni. The second hymn indicates the preliminary work of preparation, by Indra and Vayu, by Mitra and Varuna, of the ordinary mentality of man through the force of the Ananda and the increasing growth of the Truth.
We shall find that the whole of the Rig Veda is practically a constant variation on this double theme, the preparation of the human being in mind and body and the fulfilment of the godhead or immortality in him by his attainment and development of the Truth and the Beatitude.”7
- Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.15, p.70, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
- Ibid, p.70
- Ibid, pp.70-71
- Ibid, pp.73-75
- Ibid, p.75
- Ibid, pp.76-78
- Ibid, pp.78-79