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History of India – The Vedic Age (27)


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

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

(vi) The Idea of the United Human and Divine Existence and the Preliminary Conditions for the Great Achievement of the Immortality

Verses 9 to 12 of the third Sukta of Vamadeva (IV.3.9-12) give the preliminary conditions for the achievement of the Immortality. Since, “…no verse in the Veda can be properly understood except by reference to its context, to its place in the thought of the Sukta, to all that precedes and all that follows,”1 Sri Aurobindo begins with opening verses of this Suktaa(a IV.3.1) which “call to men to create Agni who sacrifices in the truth, to create him in his form of golden light (hiranyarupam, the gold being always the symbol of the solar light of the Truth, rtam jyotih) before the Ignorance can form itself, pura tanayitnor acittat. The god is asked to awaken to the work of man and the truth in him as being himself ‘the Truth-conscious who places aright the thought’, rtasya bodhi rtacit svadhih,b(b IV.3.4) – for all falsehood is merely a wrong placing of the Truth. He is to refer all fault and sin and defect in man to the various godheads or divine powers of the Divine Being so that it may be removed and the man declared finally blameless before the Infinite Mother – aditaye anagasah, or for the infinite existence, as it is elsewhere expressed.

Then in the ninth and tenth verses we have, expressed in various formulas, the idea of the united human and divine existence, Diti and Aditi, the latter founding, controlling and flooding with itself the former. ‘The Truth controlled by the Truth I desire (i.e. the human by the divine), together the unripe things of the Cow and her ripe and honeyed yield (again the imperfect human and the perfect and blissful divine fruits of the universal consciousness and existence); she (the cow) being black (the dark and divided existence, Diti) is nourished by the shining water of the foundation, the water of the companion streams (jamaryena payasa). By the Truth Agni the Bull, the Male, sprinkled with the water of its levels, ranges unquivering, establishing wideness (wide space or manifestation); the dappled Bull milks the pure shining teat.’a The symbolic opposition between the shining white purity of the One who is the source, seat, foundation and the variegated colouring of the Life manifested in the triple world is frequent in the Veda; this image of the dappled Bull and the pure-bright udder or source of the waters only repeats therefore, like the other images, the idea of the multiple manifestations of the human life purified, tranquillised in its activities, fed by the waters of the Truth and the Infinity.

Finally the Rishi proceeds to the coupling, which we so repeatedly find, of the luminous Cows and the Waters. ‘By the Truth the Angirases broke open and hurled asunder the hill and came to union with the Cows; human souls, they took up their dwelling in the blissful Dawn, Swar became manifest when Agni was born. By Truth the divine immortal waters, unoppressed, with their honeyed floods, O Agni, like a horse breasting forward in its gallopings ran in an eternal flowing.’b These four verses in fact are meant to give the preliminary conditions for the great achievement of the Immortality. They are the symbols of the grand Mythus, the mythus of the Mystics in which they hid their supreme spiritual experience from the profane and, alas! effectively enough from their posterity. That they were secret symbols, images meant to reveal the truth which they protected but only to the initiated, to the knower, to the seer, Vamadeva himself tells us in the most plain and emphatic language in the last verse of this very hymn; ‘All these are secret words that I have uttered to thee who knowest, O Agni, O Disposer, words of leading, words of seer-knowledge that express their meaning to the seer, – I have spoken them illumined in my words and my thinkings’; eta visva viduse tubhyam vedho, nithani agne ninya vacamsi; nivacana kavaye kavyani, asamsisam matibhir vipra ukthaih.a (a IV.3.16) Secret words that have kept indeed their secret ignored by the priest, the ritualist, the grammarian, the pandit, the historian, the mythologist, to whom they have been words of darkness or seals of confusion and not what they were to the supreme ancient forefathers and their illumined posterity, ninya vacamsi nithani nivacana kavyani.’ ”2

(vii) Sarama and Her Work

“That Sarama is some power of the Light and probably of the Dawn is very clear; for once we know that the struggle between Indra and the original Aryan seers on the one hand and the sons of the Cave on the other is no strange deformation of primitive Indian history but a symbolic struggle between the powers of Light and Darkness, Sarama who leads in the search for the radiant herds and discovers both the path and the secret hold in the mountain must be a forerunner of the dawn of Truth in the human mind. And if we ask ourselves what power among the truth-finding faculties it is that thus discovers out of the darkness of the unknown in our being the truth that is hidden in it, we at once think of the intuition. For Sarama is not Saraswati, she is not the inspiration, even though the names are similar. Saraswati gives the full flood of the knowledge; she is or awakens the great stream, maho arnah, and illumines with plenitude all the thoughts, dhiyo visva virajati. Saraswati possesses and is the flood of the Truth; Sarama is the traveller and seeker on its path who does not herself possess but rather finds that which is lost. Neither is she the plenary word of the revelation, the Teacher of man like the goddess Ila; for even when what she seeks is found, she does not take possession but only gives the message to the seers and their divine helpers who have still to fight for the possession of the light that has been discovered.”3

According to Sri Aurobindo Sarama has been mentioned by name only in few hymns of the Veda but from these and some other descriptions in the Veda the following two essential characteristics of Sarama emerge clearly; “…the knowledge comes to her beforehand, before vision, springs up instinctively at the least indication and with that knowledge she guides the rest of the faculties and divine powers that seek. And she leads to that seat, sadanam, the home of the Destroyers, which is at the other pole of existence to the seat of the Truth, sadanam rtasya, in the cave or secret place of darkness, guhayam, just as the home of the gods is in the cave or secrecy of light. In other words, she is a power descended from the superconscient Truth which leads us to the light that is hidden in ourselves, in the subconscient. All these characteristics apply exactly to the intuition.”4

“…the action of Sarama is precisely that of the Intuition which goes straight to the Truth by the straight path of the Truth and not through the crooked paths of doubt and error and which delivers the Truth out of the veil of darkness and false appearances; it is through the illuminations discovered by her that the Seer-mind can attain to the complete revelation of the Truth.”5

“The hill of our already formed triple existence which rises into heaven at its summit is rent asunder by Indra and the hidden illuminations go abroad; Swar, the higher heaven of the superconscient, is manifested by the upward streaming of the brilliant herds. The sun of Truth diffuses all the strength and glory of its light, the inner Dawn comes from the luminous wideness instinct with knowledge, – janati gat, the same phrase that is used of her who leads to the house of the Dasyu in I.104.5; and of Sarama in III.31.6, – the rivers of the Truth, representing the outflow of its being and its movement (rtasya presa), descend in their rushing streams and make a channel here for their waters; heaven, the mental being, is perfected and made firm like a well-shaped pillar to support the vast Truth of the higher or immortal life that is now made manifest and the largeness of that Truth is lodged here in all the physical being. The delivery of the pregnant contents of the hill, parvatasya garbhah, the illuminations constituting the seven-headed thought, rtasya dhitih, which come forth in answer to the inspired word, leads to the supreme birth of the seven great rivers who constitute the substance of the Truth put into active movement, rtasya presa.”6

“We find another allusion to Sarama in a hymn by Parashara Shaktya, I.72. This is one of the Suktas which most clearly reveal the sense of the Vedic imagery, like most indeed of the hymns of Parashara, a very luminous poet who loves always to throw back something more than a corner of the mystic’s veil. It is brief and I shall translate it in full. ‘He has created, within, the seer-knowings of the eternal Disposer of things, holding in his hand many powers (powers of the divine Purushas, narya purumi); Agni creating together all immortalities becomes the master of the (divine) riches. All the immortals, they who are not limited (by ignorance), desiring, found him in us as if the Calf (of the cow Aditi) existing everywhere; labouring, travelling to the Seat, holding the Thought they attained in the supreme seat to the shining (glory) of Agni. O Agni, when through the three years (three symbolic seasons or periods corresponding perhaps to the passage through the three mental heavens) they, pure, had served thee, the pure one, with the ghata, they held the sacrificial names and set moving (to the supreme heaven) forms well born. They had knowledge of the vast heaven and earth and bore them forward, they the sons of Rudra, the lords of the sacrifice; the mortal awoke to vision and found Agni standing in the seat supreme. Knowing perfectly (or in harmony) they kneeled down to him; they with their wives (the female energies of the gods) bowed down to him who is worthy of obeisance; purifying themselves (or, perhaps, exceeding the limits of heaven and earth) they created their own (their proper or divine) forms, guarded in the gaze, each friend, of the Friend. In thee the gods of the sacrifice found the thrice seven secret seats hidden within; they, being of one heart, protect by them the immortality. Guard thou the herds that stand and that which moves. O Agni, having knowledge of all manifestations (or births) in the worlds (or, knowing all the knowledge of the peoples) establish thy forces, continuous, for life. Knowing, within, the paths of the journeying of the gods thou becamest their sleepless messenger and the bearer of the offerings. The seven mighty ones of heaven (the rivers) placing aright the thought, knowing the Truth, discerned the doors of the felicity; Sarama found the fastness, the wideness of the cows whereby now the human creature enjoys (the supreme riches). They who entered upon all things that bear right issue, made the path to Immortality; by the great ones and by the greatness earth stood wide; the mother Aditi with her sons came for the upholding. The Immortals planted in him the shining glory, when they made the two eyes of heaven (identical probably with the two vision-powers of the Sun, the two horses of Indra); rivers, as it were, flow down released; the shining ones (the cows) who were here below knew, O Agni.’

So runs this hymn of Parashara, translated with the utmost possible literalness even at the cost of some uncouthness in the English. It is clear at the very first glance that it is throughout a hymn of knowledge, of the Truth, of a divine Flame which is hardly distinguishable from the supreme Deity, of immortality, of the ascent of the gods, the divine powers, by the sacrifice to their godhead, to their supreme names, to their proper forms, to the shining glory of the supreme state with its thrice seven seats of the Godhead. Such an ascent can have no other meaning than the ascent of the divine powers in man out of their ordinary cosmic appearances to the shining Truth beyond, as indeed Parashara himself tells us that by this action of the gods mortal man awakens to the knowledge and finds Agni standing in the supreme seat and goal; vidan marto nemadhita cikitvan, agnim pade parame tasthivamsam. What is Sarama doing in such a hymn if she is not a power of the Truth, if her cows are not the rays of a divine dawn of illumination? What have the cows of old warring tribes and the sanguinary squabbles of our Aryan and Dravidian ancestors over their mutual plunderings and cattle-liftings to do with this luminous apocalypse of the immortality and the godhead? Or what are these rivers that think and know the Truth and discover the hidden doors? Or must we still say that these were the rivers of the Punjab dammed up by drought or by the Dravidians and Sarama a mythological figure for an Aryan embassy or else only the physical Dawn?”7


  1. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.15, p.209, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
  2. Ibid, pp.209-10
  3. Ibid, p.211
  4. Ibid, p.212
  5. Ibid, pp.214-15
  6. Ibid, p.213
  7. Ibid, p.218-20
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