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History of India – The Vedic Age (26)


XIII. The Psychological and the Historical Bases for the Interpretation of the Veda

C. Sri Aurobindo’s Detailed Psychological Interpretation of the Veda

(iii) The Mystic Meaning Behind the Symbols of the Soma-wine, and the GhÐta

“The drinking of the Soma-wine as the means of strength, victory and attainment is one of the pervading figures of the Veda. Indra and the Ashwins are the great Soma-drinkers, but all the gods have their share of the immortalising draught. The Angirases also conquer in the strength of the Soma. Sarama threatens the Panis with the coming of Ayasya and the Navagwa Angirases in the keen intensity of their Soma rapture, eha gamann ÐØayaÕ somaÙitÀ ayÀsyo aÚgiraso navagvÀÕ (X.108.8). It is the great force by which men have the power to follow the path of the Truth. …It is in the power of the Soma that the hill is broken open, the sons of darkness overthrown. This Soma-wine is the sweetness that comes flowing from the streams of the upper hidden world, it is that which flows in the seven waters, it is that with which the ghÐta, the clarified butter of the mystic sacrifice, is instinct; it is the honeyed wave which rises out of the ocean of life. Such images can have only one meaning; it is the divine delight hidden in all existence which, once manifest, supports all life’s crowning activities and is the force that finally immortalises the mortal, the amÐtam, ambrosia of the gods.”1

“ ‘Indra found the honey stored in the Shining One, the footed and hoofed (wealth) in the pasture of the Cow.’a The Shining One, usriyÀ (also usrÀ), is another word which like go means both ray and cow and is used as a synonym of go in the Veda. We hear constantly of the ghÐta or clarified butter stored in the cow, hidden there by the Panis in three portions according to Vamadeva; but it is sometimes the honeyed ghÐta and sometimes simply the honey, madhumad ghÐtam and madhu. We have seen how closely the yield of the cow, the ghÐta, and the yield of the Soma plant are connected in other hymns and now that we know definitely what is meant by the Cow, this strange and incongruous connection becomes clear and simple enough. GhÐta also means shining, it is the shining yield of the shining cow; it is the formed light of conscious knowledge in the mentality which is stored in the illumined consciousness and it is liberated by the liberation of the Cow: Soma is the delight, beatitude, Ananda inseparable from the illumined state of the being; and as there are, according to the Veda, three planes of mentality in us, so there are three portions of the ghÐta dependent on the three gods Surya, Indra and Soma, and the Soma also is offered in three parts, on the three levels of the hill, triØu sÀnuØu. We may hazard the conjecture, having regard to the nature of the three gods, that Soma releases the divine light from the sense mentality, Indra from the dynamic mentality, Surya from the pure reflective mentality.”2

(iv) The General and the Detailed Sense of the Veda that Emerges by Giving Deeper Meaning to the Vedic Legends and Symbols

After a detailed discussion of the mystic meanings behind various Vedic symbols and the Angiras legend, Sri Aurobindo writes, “Once we have the key to the meaning of the Cows, the Sun, the Honey-Wine, all the circumstances of the Angiras legend and the action of the Fathers, which are such an incongruous patchwork in the ritualistic or naturalistic and so hopelessly impossible in the historical or Arya-Dravidian interpretation of the hymns, become on the contrary perfectly clear and connected and each throws light on the other. We understand each hymn in its entirety and in relation to other hymns; each isolated line, each passage, each scattered reference in the Vedas falls inevitably and harmoniously into a common whole. We know, here, how the Honey, the Bliss can be said to be stored in the Cow, the shining Light of the Truth; what is the connection of the honey-bearing Cow with the Sun, lord and origin of that Light; why the discovery of the Sun dwelling in the darkness is connected with the conquest or recovery of the cows of the Panis by the Angirases; why it is called the discovery of that Truth; what is meant by the footed and hoofed wealth and the field or pasture of the Cow. We begin to see what is the cave of the Panis and why that which is hidden in the lair of Vala is said also to be hidden in the waters released by Indra from the hold of Vritra, the seven rivers possessed by the seven-headed heaven-conquering thought of Ayasya; why the rescue of the sun out of the cave, the separation or choosing of the light out of the darkness is said to be done by an all-discerning knowledge; who are Dakshina and Sarama and what is meant by Indra holding the hoofed wealth in his right hand. a And in arriving at these conclusions we have not to wrest the sense of words, to interpret the same fixed term by different renderings according to our convenience of the moment or to render differently the same phrase or line in different hymns, or to make incoherence a standard of right interpretation; on the contrary, the greater the fidelity to word and form of the Riks, the more conspicuously the general and the detailed sense of the Veda emerge in a constant clearness and fullness.”3

a“The right and left hand of Indra are his two powers of action in knowledge; …and they correspond to his two perceptive powers, his two bright horses, harÈ, which are described as suneyed, sÓracakØasÀ and as vision-powers of the Sun, sÓryasya ketÓ. Dakshina presides over the right-hand power, dakØiÍÀ, and therefore we have the collocation dakØiÍe dakØiÍÀvÀn . It is this discernment which presides over the right action of the sacrifice and the right distribution of the offerings and it is this which enables Indra to hold the herded wealth of the Panis securely, in his right hand.”4

(v) The Great Achievement of the Human Fathers and the Seven Divine Seers According to the Veda

“In order to hold clearly in our minds at the start what that great achievement was we may put before ourselves the clear and sufficient formulas in which Parashara Shaktya expresses them. ‘Our fathers broke open the firm and strong places by their words, yea, the Angirases broke open the hill by their cry a; they made in us the path to the great heaven; they found the Day and Swar and vision and the luminous Cows,’ cakrur divo bÐhato gÀtum asme, ahaÕ svar vividuÕ ketum usrÀÕ, (I.71.2). This path, he tells us, is the path which leads to immortality; ‘they who entered into all things that bear right fruit formed a path towards the immortality; earth stood wide for them by the greatness and by the Great Ones, the mother Aditi with her sons came (or, manifested herself) for the upholding’ (I.72.9). That is to say, the physical being visited by the greatness of the infinite planes above and by the power of the great godheads who reign on those planes breaks its limits, opens out to the Light and is upheld in its new wideness by the infinite Consciousness, mother Aditi, and her sons, the divine Powers of the supreme Deva. This is the Vedic immortality.

a“…this cry is the voice of the higher heaven, the thunder that cries in the lightning-flash of Indra, and the advance of the Angirases on their path is the forward movement of this cry of the heavens…”5

The means of this finding and expanding are also very succinctly stated by Parashara in his mystic, but still clear and impressive style. ‘They held the truth, they enriched its thought; then indeed, aspiring souls (aryaÕ), they, holding it in thought, bore it diffused in all their being,” dadhann ÐtaÌ dhanayann asya dhÈtim, Àd id aryo didhiØvo vibhÐtrÀÕ, (I.71.3). The image in vibhÐtrÀÕ suggests the upholding of the thought of the Truth in all the principles of our being or, to put it in the ordinary Vedic image, the seven-headed thought in all the seven waters, apsu dhiyaÌ dadhiØe, as we have seen it elsewhere expressed in almost identical language; this is shown by the image that immediately follows, – ‘the doers of the work go towards the unthirsting (waters) which increase the divine births by the satisfaction of delight,’ atÐØyantÈr apaso yanti acchÀ, devÀn janma prayasÀ vardhayantÈÕ. The sevenfold Truth-consciousness in the satisfied sevenfold Truth-being increasing the divine births in us by the satisfaction of the soul’s hunger for the Beatitude, this is the growth of immortality. It is the manifestation of that trinity of divine being, light and bliss which the Vedantins afterwards called Sachchidananda.

The sense of this universal diffusion of Truth and the birth and activity of all the godheads in us assuring a universal and immortal life in place of our present limited mortality is made yet clearer by Parashara in I.68. Agni, the divine Seer-Will, is described as ascending to heaven and unrolling the veil of the nights from all that is stable and all that is mobile, ‘when he becomes the one God encompassing all these godheads with the greatness of his being. Then indeed all accept and cleave to the Will (or the Work) when, O godhead, thou art born a living soul from the dryness (i.e. from the material being, the desert, as it is called, unwatered by the streams of the Truth); all enjoy godhead attaining to the truth and the immortality by their movements, bhajanta viÙve devatvaÌ nÀma, ÐtaÌ sapanto amÐtam evaiÕ. The impulse of the Truth, the thinking of the Truth becomes a universal life (or pervades all the life), and in it all fulfil their workings,’ Ðtasya preØÀ Ðtasya dhÈtir, viÙvÀyur viÙve apÀÌsi cakruÕ.

And in order that we may not, haunted by the unfortunate misconstruction of the Veda which European scholarship has imposed on the modern mind, carry with us the idea of the seven earthly rivers of the Punjab into the super-terrestrial achievement of the human forefathers,…”6 Sri Aurobindo cites the following illuminating verses from Rishi Parashara in which he tells us about the seven rivers. “The fostering cows of the Truth (dhenavaÕ, an image applied to the rivers, while gÀvaÕ or usrÀÕ expresses the luminous cows of the Sun) nourished him, lowing, with happy udders, enjoyed in heaven; obtaining right thinking as a boon from the supreme (plane) the rivers flowed wide and evenly over the hill,’ Ðtasya hi dhenavo vÀvaÙÀnÀÕ, smadÓdhnÈÕ pÈpayanta dyubhaktÀÕ; parÀvataÕ sumatiÌ bhikØamÀÍÀ, vi sindhavaÕ samayÀ sasrur adrim, (I.73.6). And in I.72.8, speaking of them in a phrase which is applied to the rivers in other hymns, he says, ‘The seven mighty ones of heaven, placing aright the thought, knowing the Truth, discerned in knowledge the doors of felicity; Sarama found the fastness, the wideness of the luminous cows; thereby the human creature enjoys the bliss,’ svÀdhyo diva À sapta yahvÈ, rÀyo duro vi ÐtajÜÀ ajÀnan; vidad gavyaÌ saramÀ dÐÄham ÓrvaÌ, yenÀ nu kaÌ mÀnuØÈ bhojate viÒ. These are evidently not the waters of the Punjab, but the rivers of Heaven, the streams of the Truth,a goddesses like Saraswati, who possess the Truth in knowledge and open by it the doors of the beatitude to the human creature. We see here too what I have already insisted on, that there is a close connection between the finding of the Cows and the outflowing of the Rivers; they are parts of one action, the achievement of the truth and immortality by men, ÐtaÌ sapanto amÐtam evaiÕ.”7

Rishi Vamadeva, speaking of the attainment of the human fathers, says, “ ‘Here our human fathers seeking possession of the Truth went forward to it; the bright cows in their covering prison, the good milkers whose pen is in the rock they drove upward (to the Truth), the Dawns answered their call. They rent the hill asunder and made them bright; others all around them declared wide this (Truth) of theirs; drivers of the herds they sang the hymn to the doer of works (Agni), they found the light, they shone in their thoughts (or, they accomplished the work by their thoughts). They with the mind that seeks the light (the cows, gavyatÀ manasÀ) rent the firm and compact hill that environed the luminous cows; the souls that desire opened by the divine word, vacasÀ daivyena, the firm pen full of the kine.’b These are the ordinary images of the Angiras legend, but in the next verse Vamadeva uses a still more mystic language. ‘They conceived in mind the first name of the fostering cows, they found the thrice seven supreme (seats) of the Mother; the females of the herd knew that and they followed after it; the ruddy one was manifested by the victorious attainment (or, the splendour) of the cow of Light,’ te manvata prathamaÌ nÀma dhenos, triÕ sapta mÀtuÕ paramÀÍi vindan; taj jÀnatÈr abhyanÓØata vrÀ, Àvirbhuvad aruÍÈr yaÙasÀ goÕ.c The Mother here is Aditi, the infinite consciousness, who is the Dhenu or fostering Cow with the seven rivers for her sevenfold streaming as well as Go the Cow of Light with the Dawns for her children; the Ruddy One is the divine Dawn and the herd or rays are her dawning illuminations. The first name of the Mother with her thrice seven supreme seats, that which the dawns or mental illuminations know and move towards, must be the name or deity of the supreme Deva, who is infinite being and infinite consciousness and infinite bliss, and the seats are the three divine worlds, called earlier in the hymn the three supreme births of Agni, Satya, Tapas and Jana of the Puranas, which correspond to these three infinities of the Deva and each fulfils in its own way the sevenfold principle of our existence: thus we get the series of thrice seven seats of Aditi manifested in all her glory by the opening out of the Dawn of Truth.a Thus we see that the achievement of the Light and Truth by the human fathers is also an ascent to the Immortality of the supreme and divine status, to the first name of the all-creating infinite Mother, to her thrice seven supreme degrees of this ascending existence, to the highest levels of the eternal hill (sÀnu, adri).”8

a  Note that in I.32 Hiranyastupa Angirasa describes the waters released from Vritra as ‘ascending the mind’, mano ruhÀÍÀÕ, and elsewhere they are called the waters that have the knowledge, Àpo vicetasaÕ (I.83.1).

b IV.1.13-15, c IV.1.16

According to Sri Aurobindo, “The fathers are the ancient Rishis who discovered the Way of the Vedic mystics and are supposed to be still spiritually present presiding over the destinies of the race and, like the gods, working in man for his attainment to Immortality. They are the sages who received the strong divine vision, nÐcakØasaÕ, the Truth-vision by which they were able to find the Cows hidden by the Panis and to pass beyond the bounds of the Rodasi, the mental and physical consciousness, to the Superconscient, the Vast Truth and the Bliss.”9

a The same idea is expressed by Medhatithi Kanwa (I.20.7) as the thrice seven ecstasies of the Beatitude, ratnÀni triÕ sÀptÀni, or more literally, the ecstasies in their three series of seven, each of which the Ribhus bring out in their separate and complete expression, ekam ekaÌ suÙastibhiÕ.



  1. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.15, p.184, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
  2. Ibid, pp.193-94
  3. Ibid, pp.195-96
  4. Ibid, p.194
  5. Ibid, p.185
  6. Ibid, pp.199-201
  7. Ibid, pp.201-02
  8. Ibid, pp.204-05
  9. Ibid, p.358
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