This is the second in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim to post an instalment each day. I hope they find some readers.
1. Rig Veda, ancient as it is, has a disarmingly fresh view of life and the world around it. There is no trace of pessimism in Rig Veda. It is optimistic and uncomplicated. It does not get into debate whether the world is an illusion, a reality, a substance, or a shadow. Its view of the world is characterized by the acceptance of the reality of life as it is; and, the plurality of things and of beings.
But there is faith in the relation between action and its appropriate good or bad result.But, It does not talk of fate that is inevitable or of Karma that one carries on from one stage of life to another. It does not also talk about the cyclical evolution of the Universe or about transmigration of souls or even about re-birth etc.
That seed idea of Karma – the operative power between action (cause) and result (effect) – later took root in all the Indian traditions. The concept of re-birth was one of its corollaries
Rig Veda does not subscribe to the view that life is a misery that could be ended with the eradication of desire or vasana, the cause for the recurring cycle of births and deaths. It takes a direct approach to life. Rig-Veda does not suggest anywhere that world is an illusion; and one needs to escape from its snares.
2. There is a healthy desire to enjoy the world, in full. There is no extortion to give up desires. There are a number of prayers addressed to Devas seeking worldly happiness, the cattle, wealth, children, family, heroic sons and longevity. The worship of nature and its powers is sincere and utilitarian. They do not view family life as a hindrance to achieving spiritual excellence. The Vedic seers pray for fullness of life. “May we see the sunrise a hundred Sharad Ritus. May we live a hundred Sharad Ritus, hear (through) a hundred Sharad Ritus, speak (through) a hundred Sharad Ritus and be happy and contented a hundred Sharad Ritus, nay, even beyond these years.”
3. There is a strong faith in God. It preaches that one should have a pure mind to realize God. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relationship with each Deva, Agni, Indra and others as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. “Instill in us a wholesome, happy mind, with goodwill and understanding. Then shall we ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in meadows green.” There is faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires.
4. An ideal person in Rig Veda is Aptakama, the one whose desires have been satisfied. One should not cringe and humiliate oneself before others; and one should lead an independent life. Our day-to-day activities should be pure and we should make our companions and fellow beings happy. It addresses the humans as the children of immortal bliss (Amruthasya putrah). Swami Vivekananda was very fond of this phrase. The Vedic mind is a progression from prayers for long and happy life (pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam) to lofty idealism. There is a harmonious blend of nivritti and pravritti margas.
5. On the death of a person, Asu the life-breath separates from the body. Rig-Veda talks of a Amruta_loka (sadanam-rtasya).The object is to reach that loka through devotion and dedication(Rtasya_panthah),to travel from mortality (mruthah) to immortality (Amruthah) and from untruth (Anrtahah) to truth (rtahah) (Sampraptam Rtam Amrutam). Rig Veda says the righteous ones go by the Deva_marga and the others go by Pitri_marga. The Upanishads later enlarged this idea into Deva_yana and Pirti_yana.
6. Rig Veda does not condemn those who do not believe in Devas or in their existence. There is no direct reference to sin or hell; there is thus no question of thrusting the unbelievers into hell. It only says the unrighteous go to the world of andha_tamas, land where there is no light. They pray that when the body breaks up, may its elements join their source.
(Incidentally, the Buddha also mentions andha_tamas as the world for sinners. He also does not use terms like hell or heaven).
7. Rig Veda speaks of satya and rta .While Satya is the principle of integration in the cosmic order; Rta is its operating rule. There is a faith that the world is sustained by a just and an eternal law decreed by God for the well-being of all. Rig Veda advocates conformity with the aim and purpose of these processes. Conformity with this law tends to material and spiritual progress and advancement paving way to higher forms of integration in life; while its violation is punished with banishment to andha_tamas.
8. Though there are many philosophical aspects in Rig Veda, they do not involve a systematic exposition of a particular school of thought unlike in the later texts. There are no references to individual soul and universal soul and their Oneness or otherwise. The word atman does not appear in Rig Veda directly, though there is a reference to a certain Chetana (a universal spirit) that is higher than the mortals are. A belief is present that the decaying body does not signify the end of atman.
Rig Veda _ Nature of God
Symbolism in Rig Veda (3/7)