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Rig Veda – its attitude towards the world and life (2/7)

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.

Next :

Rig Veda _ Nature of God

And

Symbolism in Rig Veda (3/7)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Aside

This is the first 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 over the next seven days. I hope they find some readers.

***

1. What we know of the Rig Vedic society is not from archaeological evidence but through oral traditions. They were primarily a pastoral society that practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They were not a city building society. They waged battles. They excelled in military field in which light horse chariots played a prominent role. They loved outdoor activities like racing and hunting. The warrior class and the priests were the elite of the society. They were devoted to their gods and sang in praise of various deities. They danced in marriages, funerals, harvests, sacrifices and communal gatherings.

2. Rig Veda repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. It mentions the presence of several religions and languages and calls upon all persons to strive to become noble parts of that pluralistic society.

3. The plasticity of the Rig Vedic mind is evident in the use of language or in literary virtuosity as well as in the way in which they adapted to changes in life. Rig Vedic intellectuals were highly dexterous users of the words. Their superb ability to grasp multiple dimensions of human life, ideals and aspirations and to express them in pristine poetry was truly remarkable. However, we sadly know nothing about their ability to write. Strangely Rig Veda (1-164-39) states, “In the letters (akshara) of the verses of the Veda…”. Further there are references to compositional chandas (metres), lines in a meter and to specific number of words in a line of a text. Such exercises could not have been possible unless some form of writing was in existence. They might perhaps have employed a script that is now totally extant

(. http://www.crystalinks.com/indiawriting.html )

3.1. Similarly, we know very little about their art or architecture; though we know of their love for music, singing and dancing.

4. Rig Veda accepts that divine truths were reveled to sages. It does not make a distinction between male and female seers. There are more than thirty-five female sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns ascribed to them. Women did enjoy a right to learn and recite Vedas. The restrictions in this regard came at a later stage. The famous marriage hymn (10.85) calls upon members of the husband’s family to treat the daughter in law (invited into the family ‘as a river enters the sea’) as the queen samrajni. The idea of equality is expressed in the Rig Veda: “The home has, verily, its foundation in the wife”, “The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular.” (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8)

4.1. The seclusion of women was not practiced. Young women of the time had a voice in their marriage. “The woman who is of gentle birth and of graceful form,” so runs a verse in the Rig Veda, “selects among many of her loved one as her husband.”

5. It is not as if the Rig Vedic society was free of all vices. There are a number of references to gambling (dices), drinking, prostitution, indebtedness, destitute families of heavily indebted gamblers and drunkards. There were social inequalities, poverty, slavery and destitution too.

6. Nonetheless, the worldview of the Rig Veda is refreshing; its ideals are relevant to the modern age. The social life portrayed in Rig Veda reveals certain interesting features. Sanctity of the institution of marriage, domestic purity, a patriarchal system, a just and equitable law of sacrifice, and high honour for women , pluralistic view ,as also tolerance towards unpopular views and those that err ; were some of the noteworthy features of the social life during the Vedic period.

Rigveda

Next: Rig Veda- attitude towards the world and life (2/7)

Rig Veda – its Society (1/7)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Vedic origin of our gods

September 15, 2007 is Ganesh Chathurthi the day of joyous festivity in celebration of Ganapathi the most popular of our gods.

Most of our popular gods of today have their origin in the Rig-Veda. It would be interesting to trace the origin of a few of our popular gods.

When I say gods, I am not referring to the God the Supreme principle the substratum of all existence but to the gods who represent different aspects, powers and glory of the God.  Each Vedic god has a distinct power and personality, but he or she also carries the presence of the Supreme, “That one.”

The puranas tried to convey the esoteric truths of the Veda in a popular manner. In the process Puranas elevated some Vedic gods by endowing them  with virtues, which they loved to see; while at the same time they relegated some other Vedic gods to secondary status. I am not sure why the exercise of weeding out many and glorifying a few deties became necessary. I am clueless.

For instance, Bŗihaspathi, Brahmaņaspathi and Brahma were the three major gods of Rig-Veda; a large number of riks are in honor of these gods. In the Rig-Veda, Brahmaņaspathi/Bŗihaspathi is god of a very high order. There are over one hundred riks in praise of these two deities, giving a picture of their powers and personalities. However, the statuses of these Vedic Gods underwent a huge change in the Puranas; when new set of gods that emerged by the permutation and combination of their own (Vedic gods) powers replaced them. The new gods took over and the old gods were virtually forgotten.

Ganapathi:  The elephant-faced god Gaņapathi emerged out of some aspects of the Vedic god Brahmaņaspati. Ganapathi is therefore evoked by the Vedic rik associated with Brahmaņaspati (Jestha rajam brahmanaam Brahmanaspathi…). The word Gaņapathi means the lord of gaņas or hosts. In the Rig-Veda, the gaņās or hosts of Bŗihaspathi/Brahmaņaspathi are the chants, the riks and the stomas, the words of praise (RV. 4.50). They have little to do with the lower vital levels. However, in the purāņas, the hosts (gaņas) are the beings of the vital world and Gaņapathi is their lord. Ganapathi thus initially appeared on the scene as a tāntrik god of a lower order.

Ganesha emerged as a distinct deity in clearly recognizable form in the fourth and the fifth centuries during the Gupta period. His popularity rose quickly. The son of Shiva and Parvati; Ganesha with an elephantine countenance, a curved trunk, pair of big ears and a pot-bellied body of a human is now the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Ganesha also became one of the five prime Hindu deities (Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) worshipped in the panchayatana puja. A new tradition called Ganapathya thereafter came into existence. With the spread Indian trade to the Far- East, by around the tenth century, Ganesha a favorite with the traders and merchants reached the shores of Bali, Java, Cambodia, Malaya, Thailand and other island.

Ganesha appears in Jainism too. A fifteenth century Jain text provides procedures for the installation of Ganapati images. Images of Ganesha appear in the Jain temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat; the earliest of which is dated around eighth century.

In Buddhism, Ganesha appears not only in the form of the Buddhist god Vināyaka, but also as a Hindu demon form with the same name (Vināyaka). As the Buddhist god Vināyaka, he is the dancing Nṛtta Ganapati. Ganesha traveled to other countries along with Buddhism. In northern China, the earliest known stone statue of Ganesha carries an inscription dated 531 CE. In Japan, the Ganesha cult was first mentioned in 806 CE.

Brahma:  The concept of Brahma as the creator in the purāņa is derived from the Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati of the Rig Veda where they are the creators through the power of the Word. Puranas however denied  Brahma proper worship.

Between these two stages, Brahma is associated with the power to give a verbal identity to a thought. He is the creator and gives form to the formless. He represents Word. That word reaches sublime heights and becomes an intelligent tool for communication when it is associated with intellectual purity and excellence of Vac– the speech.

Vac (Sarasvathi). How the Vedic goddess Vac (speech) transformed into Sarasvathi the Puranic goddess of learning, wisdom, culture and intellect; is very interesting.

In Rig Veda, Vac is the goddess associated with speech, a concept of central importance to the Vedas. Vac, the speech gives a sensible expression to ideas by use of words and is the medium of exchange of knowledge. She gives intelligence to those who love her. She is the power of the rishis. “She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and then express in words the true nature of things. She is the prompter of and vehicle of expression for visionary perception, and as such she is intimately associated with the rishis and the rituals that express or capture the truths of their visions.” (Rig Veda).

In a passage of the Rig Veda, Vac is praised as a divine being. Vac is omnipotent, moves amongst divine beings, and carries the great gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Agni, within itself. “All gods live from Vac, also all demigods, animals and people. Vac is the eternal being; it is the first-born of the eternal law, mother of the Vedas and navel of immortality.” The reason, the Vedic rishis paid such glowing tributes to Vac was perhaps because they attached great importance to intelligent communication through speech and to its purity.

In the later parts of the Rig Veda, Brahman (one of the three distinct voices in the Soma sacrifices) is associated with word without which speech is not possible. Brahma (word) and Vac (speech) are partners working towards good communication, spread of knowledge and for the fulfillment of the devotees’ aspirations. If word is flower, speech is the garland. If Vac is the weapons, it is Brahman that sharpens them. In Rig Veda the Vac-Brahman relation is a “growing partnership” (RV 10.120.5, and 9.97.34)

http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246

In the early Rig Veda, Sarasvathi is the river vital to their life and existence. Sarasvathi is described as ‘nadinam shuci; sacred and pure among rivers. It was, however, in Krishna Yajurveda, that Vac (speech personified, the vehicle of knowledge) for the first time is called Sarasvathi. The Aitreya Aranyaka calls her mother of Vedas. From here on, the association of Vac with Sarasvathi gets thicker.

Sarasvathi is invoked with Ida and Bharathi. The three, Ida, Bharathi and Sarasvathi are manifestation of the Agni (Yajnuagni) and are tri_Sarasvathi. The goddess Sarasvathi is also the destroyer of Vrta and other demons that stand for darkness (Utasya nah Sarasvati ghora Hiranyavartanih / Vrtraghni vasti sustuition).

As the might of the river Sarasvathi tended to decline, its importance also lessened during the latter parts of the Vedas. Its virtues of glory, purity and importance gradually shifted to the next most important thing in their life – speech, excellence in use of words and its purity. Emphasis shifted from the river to the Goddess With the passage of time, Sarasvathi’s association with the river gradually diminished. The virtues of Vac and the Sarasvathi (the river) merged into one divinity-  Sarasvathi; and she was recognized and worshipped as goddess of purity, speech, learning, wisdom, culture and intellect. The Rig Vedic goddess Vac thus emerged and shined gloriously as Vac-devi, Vedamatha, Vani, Sharada, Pusti, Vagishvari, Veenapani , Bharathi and Sarasvathi.

( http://orissagov.nic.in/emagazine/Orissareview/febmar2005/englishpdf/saraswati.pdf )

The association of the intellect and purity (Vac, Sarasvathi) with the word (Brahma) acquired a physical representation in the Puranas.

Vishnu:  (the pervader) Vishnu initially had a lower position to that of Indra. He is the younger brother of Indra. In the Rig-Veda Vishnu is described as living and wandering on the mountains. He is one of the celestial gods and one of the Adithyas. He resembles Surya and has rays in his appearance.

He later evolved into the most signifificant God and Godhead. The ‘Vishnu Sukta’ of the Rig Veda (1.154) mentions the famous three strides of Vishnu. It said that the first and second of Vishnu’s strides (those encompassing the earth and air) were visible and the third was in the heights of heaven (sky). The second mantra of the ‘Vishnu Sukta’ says that within the three vast strides of Vishnu all the various regions of the universe live in peace.

Yaskacharya, in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as ‘Vishnu vishateh; one who enters everywhere’, and ‘yad vishito bhavati tad vishnurbhavati; that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu.’ Vishnu is also characterized, as ‘veveshti vyapnoti vishvam yah; the one who covers the whole universe, or is omnipresent. In other words, Vishnu became the omnipresent dimension of the supreme Lord.

With the advent of the golden age of the puranas in the Gupta period, the transformation of Vishnu into a supreme Godhead was complete. The virtues and glory of the Vedic Indra and Surya were transferred to puranic Vishnu. At the same time, the Indra was demoted to a demigod, stripped of his power and glory. Indra’s status in puranas is pathetic and he is flawed by envy, greed and other human failings. How sad!

In this process, Vishnu, in place of Indra, became the lord of the universe. The attributes and titles that once applied to Indra were now employed to describe Vishnu. Now, Vishnu (not Indra) is the omniscient and omnipresent Godhead; he is ‘ashrutkarna; whose ears hear all things; and “Svayambhuva” meaning ‘Self-existent’ or ‘Self manifested’

The Bhagavata Purana states that Yajna (Indra) took incarnation as Svayambhuva Manu. That Indra was Vishnu (as Svayambhuva). Vishnu in turn becomes Dhanvantri the divine healer, Prithu the King and the Rishis such as Kapila. His later Avatars are celebrated in various Puranas. On his association with Narayana, he is The Supreme Lord of the universe.

Rudra:  In Rig Veda, Rudra is one of the intermediate level gods (antariksha devata) and is celebrated in three or four hymns and described as a fierce, armed with bow and arrows. He is endowed with strong arms, lustrous body and flowing golden hair. He is not purely benefic like other Rig Vedic gods, but he is not malevolent either. He punishes and at the same time rescues his devotees from trouble. He is the Shiva the auspicious one.

Rudra appears to he been a non-traditional god. But, one who stormrd into the world of orthodox gods and established his eminence among them

In Puranas, he becomes one of the Trinity and is the destroyer. He is the Lord of the universe, the cosmic dancer, the Supreme yogi and master of all yogis.

Vedic Rishi Vamadeva merges into to become one of five faces of Lord Shiva and the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.

He is at his benevolent best when his consort Uma accompanies him. He is Sowmya (sa uma)

****

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Rig Veda, its worldview

A. Attitude

1. Rig Veda, ancient as it is, has a disarmingly fresh view of life and the world at large. 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. It accepts the world as it is. 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.

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 sun rise a hundred autumns. May we live a hundred autumns, hear (through) a hundred autumns, speak (through) a hundred autumns, and be happy and contented a hundred autumns, 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.They talk 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 as 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. (Incidentally, the Buddha also mentions andha_tamas as the world for sinners. He also does not use terms like hell or heaven). They pray that when the body breaks up, may its elements join their source.

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.

B.Society

1. What we know of the Rig Vedic society is not from archaeological evidence but through oral traditions. They were primarily a pastoral society that practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They do not appear to have been a city building society. They waged battles. They excelled in military field in which light horse chariots played a prominent part. They loved outdoor activities like racing and hunting. The warrior class and the priests were the elite of the society. They were devoted to their gods. Sang in praise of various deities. They danced in marriages, funerals, harvests, sacrifices and communal gatherings.

2. Rig Veda repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. It mentions the presence of several religions and languages and calls upon all persons to strive to become noble parts of that pluralistic society.

3. The plasticity of the Rig Vedic mind is evident in the use of language or in literary virtuosity as well as in the way in which they adapted to changes in life. Rig Vedic intellectuals were highly dexterous users of the words. Their superb ability to grasp multiple dimensions of human life, ideals and aspirations and to express them in pristine poetry was truly remarkable. However, we sadly know nothing about their ability to write. Strangely Rig Veda (1-164-39) states, “In the letters (akshara) of the verses of the Veda…”. Further there are references to compositional chandas (metres), lines in a metre and to specific number of words in a line of a text. Such exercises could not have been possible unless some form of writing was in existence. They might perhaps have employed a script that is now totally extant (. http://www.crystalinks.com/indiawriting.html )

3.1. Similarly, we know very little about their art or architecture; though we know of their love for music, singing and dancing.

4. Rig Veda accepts that divine truths are reveled to sages. It does not make a distinction between male and female seers. There are more than thirty-five female sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns ascribed to them. Women did enjoy a right to learn and recite Vedas. The restrictions in this regard came at a later stage. The famous marriage hymn (10.85) calls upon members of the husband’s family to treat the daughter in law (invited into the family ‘as a river enters the sea’) as the queen samrajni. The idea of equality is expressed in the Rig Veda: “The home has,verily, its foundation in the wife” ,”The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular.” (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8)

4.1. The seclusion of women was not practiced. Young women of the time had a voice in their marriage. “The woman who is of gentle birth and of graceful form,” so runs a verse in the Rig Veda, “selects among many of her loved one as her husband.”

5. It is not as if the Rig Vedic society was free of all vices. There are a number of references to gambling (dices), drinking, prostitution, indebtedness, destitute families of heavily indebted gamblers and drunkards. There were social inequalities, poverty, slavery and destitution too.

6. Nonetheless, the worldview of the Rig Veda is refreshing; its ideals are relevant to the modern age. The social life portrayed in Rig Veda reveals certain interesting features. Sanctity of the institution of marriage, domestic purity, a patriarchal system, a just and equitable law of sacrifice, and high honor for women , pluralistic view ,as also tolerance towards unpopular views and those that err ; were some of the noteworthy features of the social life during the Vedic period.

C.Symbolism

1. Rig-Veda is not a textbook or a manual. It is a collection of hymns, in a free-flowing language that is universal and that requires no elaboration. To make a connection with that ancient culture, we have to live the same inner experience.

2. Rig Veda is often criticized as being a book of rituals. However, not a single hymn in Rig Veda out of its 1017 hymns gives a description of a ritual or a rite. For instance, Agni translated as fire in the altar, is mentioned in several hundred verses, there is however no mention of a priest lighting a fire. Agni is used symbolically to signify the subtle energy in all beings. Sometimes, the fire principle is the same as the sun, which illumines the universe; the same Reality underlies Ushas that makes everything effulgent.

3. Creation, preservation and destruction are not distinct occurrences. In reality, the process of birth, growth and decay is ever present, ongoing and twined into one another. There is no death in the universe. It is transformation from one state to another. When we loose a desire, we mistakenly think it is destroyed. No, it is now transformed into a larger vision – the aspiration. Agni ignites aspiration. The cosmic god Agni is the one who transforms little desires into great aspirations. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. It illumines and elevates our consciousness. The aspiration to attain super consciousness is the theme of the Rig Veda.

4. The elements of the outer sacrifice are symbolic of the inner sacrifice and are representations of self-surrender. Behind these rituals and hymns runs the thread of gradual evolution of the concept of spiritual life. Our sacrifice is a journey towards super consciousness with Agni, the inner flame, as the pathfinder. The sacrifice is an act of self-surrender to God. That sacrifice is perpetual. That concept of life as a Yajna was later enlarged in the Gita.

D. Nature of God.

1. In its earlier stages, Rig Veda mentions various gods and goddesses. Mitra the Sun; Varuna the god of night and of the blue sky; Dyu and Prithivi the Sky and the Earth; Agni or fire god and the friend of all; Savitri the refulgent; Indra the master of the universe; Vishnu the measurer of the three worlds and Aditi the mother of all other gods (the Adityas) are some of them. Gradually, a tendency to extol a God as the greatest and controlling all other divine entities comes into play. This marks the progress of man’s concept of God or the ultimate Reality from polytheism to monotheism, ultimately leading to monism.

2. The seeds of Advaita are found in Rig Veda. Some of the most beautiful verses that Shankara interprets occur in the Samhita portion of the Rig Veda. For example, the following mantra traditionally associated with the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.1) is found in the Rig Veda as well “Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats the fruits of divergent tastes and the other looks on without eating”.

3. The tenth book of the Rig-Veda regards the highest conception of God as both the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is the Unmanifest and the Manifest, Existence as well as Non existence. He is the Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. The Purusha-Sukta (Rig Veda 5.10.90) proclaims that this Universe is God. The Supreme Person the Purusha with an infinite number of heads, eyes, hands and feet envelops the whole of his creation in His Cosmic Body. He is the cause of the world. He encompasses the whole cosmos and transcends it to infinity. He is the supreme and the solitary divinity.

Nasadiya Suktha -translation of Prof. Juan Mascaro.

(In the beginning…)

There was neither existence nor non-existence.

There was not then what is not, what is not.

There was neither sky nor any heaven beyond the sky.

What power was there? Where

Who was that power?

Was there an abyss of fathomless water?

There was neither death nor immortality then

No signs were there of night or day.

The One was breathing with its own power,

in deep space.

Only the One was:

And there was nothing beyond.

The darkness was hidden in darkness.

And all was fluid and formless.

Therein, in the void,

By the fire of fervor arose One.

And in the One arose love.

Love the first seed of the soul.

The truth of this the sages found in their hearts:

Seeking in their hearts with wisdom,

The sages found that bond of union

Between being and non-being

Between the manifest and the unmanifest

Who knows this truth?

Who can tell, when and how arose this universe?

The gods came after its creation.

Whether this universe was created or uncreated

Only the God who sees in the highest heaven:

He only knows, when came this universe

And, whether it was created or uncreated

He only knows or perhaps He knows not?

 4. The word Brahman or brāhmaņa occurs more than a hundred times in the Rig-Veda. In only one place, the purusha sūkta occurring in the tenth mandala, a relatively late composition, it uses the term brāhmaņa to signify a caste. In all other places, brāhmaņa has nothing to do with caste. Again, Brahman of the Rig-Veda is not the Brahman Para Brahman of the Upanishads, the highest principle of Existence. Rig-Veda uses the words “tad ekam”, “That one,” param (beyond), ekam sat (one reality) to signify the Para Brahman or “The one without a second” of the Upanishads.

5. Brahman is used in the Rig Veda as term for a high divinity or as another name for Agni. “ He has come, chosen bearer, and is seated in man’s home, Brahman, Agni, the Supporter, He whom both Heaven and Earth exalt and strengthen whom, Giver of all boons, the Hotar worships”.( http://oaks.nvg.org/rv7.html ). The term Brahman is also used to represent the spoken word. It is said, “The development of Brahman into a word which designates formulated speech more than it does an independent power is the most significant change from the Family Books to the later Rig Veda ( http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246 ). Brahman acquires the meaning of unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality at a later stage in the Upanishads.

6. Rig Veda primarily follows Saguno_pasana.The Supreme Being in Rig Veda is the abode of all auspicious qualities. The Ultimate supreme Reality is described (though it is beyond description or definition) as sat-chit-ananda. He is the one who created the world and sustained it. He is the omniscient and the original cause of the world (tasyedu visva bhuvanadhi murdhani). He manifests himself as the world (Visvarupah). Rig Veda pursues a strategy later expounded by Bhakthi yoga, the path of devotion. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relation ship with each Deva as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). It firmly believes in grace of God and preaches that a virtuous life in this world and the progression to Amrutatva, immortality is possible only with complete surrender to God and with the grace of God.

E.Gods

1. A question commonly asked is whether Rig Veda speaks of one God or many gods. The Rig Veda does mention a number of gods such as Indra, Agni, Mitra, Varuna and others. The Vedas speak of thirty-three different deities. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, these thirty-three deities include eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Dyaus, and Prithvi. Yajnavalkya at one stage says, ‘The eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati are the thirty-three gods”. According to Yaska, the original thirty-three gods (eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas and two Asvinis) are divided equally in three different planes of existence namely the celestial plane (dyuloka) the intermediate region (antarikshaloka) and the terrestrial plane (bhurloka) each plane having eleven gods. The dyuloka (celestial plane) is presided over by Savitri or Surya; while antarikshaloka (intermediary space) is presided over by Indra or Vayu; and the bhurloka (terrestrial plane) is presided over by Agni.

2. Agni has a special position among the Vedic gods. Agni is the symbol of Paramatman and all the other gods are different aspects or manifestations of Agni. According to many scholars, the appropriate Vedic symbol of the Supreme is Agni. Agni is the fire principle that shines in the sun and is the one who carries our offerings to other gods. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. He is the friend of man and mediates on our behalf. He is the symbol of wisdom, knowledge, compassion and lordship.

3. It would be safer to make a distinction between The God the Supreme principle the substratum of all existence; and the gods who represent different aspects, powers and glory of the God. While the God is One, the gods are many. All the gods lead to One God. And, one should make a distinction between a path and the goal .The goal is consciousness of the Supreme in all its manifestations.

4. All gods mentioned in the Rig-Veda have human features such as the face, limbs etc, their forms are shadowy but they have a distinct power and personality. For instance, Indra is endowed with strength and vigor; Pushan with ability to protect so is Vishnu, the sun stands for many forms of brilliance while Rudra represents the anger. The physical features represent a specific form of nature. For example, the tongue of the fire god represents the tongue of the flames. The names Visvedeva, Visvakarma, Prajapathi etc. are used to describe the indescribable form.

5. Yaska’s Nirukta discusses the question whether devatas have form, whether they are different gods or whether they are manifestations of the same God. Yaska_charya defines a Deva as one who gives gifts (devo danat), who is effulgent (devo dipanat), who illumines (devo dyotanat), and who resides in heaven or the celestial world (dyusthane bhavati iti). After discussing the three different views (namely, they have form, they do not have form, and a combination of these two views), the Nirukta concludes that, in reality, there is only one devata who can be addressed in various ways depending upon the temperament of the aspirant. Yaska_charya confirms by saying Eka atma Bahudha Stuyate meaning there is only One God and many praise by different names. He further says the many forms of gods are manifestation of the atman., One Reality. He emphasizes that the Sat Vastu includes in itself different deities. Sayana in his Rig_bashya_bhumika says praise of all Gods’ leads to the same tat (entity).

5.1. The real is but One, bearing a multiplicity of names and forms. The origin of all deities is One, the nature of all deities is One and goal of all of them is One. The differences perceived in the deities are due to their functions and personalities, but they are different aspects of the same reality.

6. Rig Veda accepts the plurality of views and approach to the Supreme knowledge .The acquisition of knowledge by an individual is unique. No two paths are alike. We cannot envision all the grandeurs of the nature in one-step. When we are at an elevation, we get a better view of the road that lies ahead than when we were at the base of the hill .We have to go from one peak to another. The knowledge is infinite like a vast mountain, in which each peak corresponds to a level of knowledge

[There is a view that it may not be quite correct to translate the term Deva as God. The term ‘Deva’, according to them, means ‘Those that shine’ derived from the root ‘div’ (to shine, illuminate). The twelve Adityas refer to the seasons, while the seven Adityas refer to the seven Planets or Grahas (excluding Rahu and Ketu, which are the head and tale of Vritrasura, or Svarbhanu). Thus forming the basis for naming the seven days of the week, nine planets and twelve months. The Adityas are children from Maya or Aditi (hence all representing Kala, or Time). Hence, the basis of Vedic Astrology and Astronomy. http://varahamihira.blogspot.com/2004/07/33-devas-pt-sanjay-rath.html ]

F.The gods that faded away

 

Some of the major Rig Vedic gods have virtually disappeared today. They are no longer worshipped as “gods” in the sense that there are no temples built or services conducted for them.

 

1. Varuna was a major celestial Deva considered equal in status to Indra and was the guardian of the cosmic order (rta). Hence, the hymns addressed to Varuna are more devout and ethical in tone. Varuna also addressed as Asura has his counterpart in Ahur Mazda the supreme god in the Avstha.Today, Varuna is reduced to the guardian of water element.

 

2.Indra the most important Rig Vedic god described as ‘Yo jata eva prathamo manasvan; he who, from his very birth, is the first (of the deities)’, the lord of the universe etc. is demoted in Puranas to the level of a satrap. He is always in danger of loosing his throne and is ever busy deving schemes to survive fresh attacks from asuras. He is scared of not only the villainous but also the most virtuous as he fears they might usurp his throne. It is a steep fall.

 

3. The Rig Veda calls the presiding deity of the wind as Vata or Vayu. The god conceived as the element (vata) moves wherever he wants, at his pleasure. Describing him as the soul and indweller of other gods, a sukta in the tenth mandala says: ‘the soul of the gods, the germ of the world, this divinity moves according to his pleasure; his voices are heard, his form is not (seen); let us worship that Vata with oblations.’ The wind god, Vayu, is ‘the messenger of gods’; The Vayu later becomes a mere element in the Puranas. The Dwaita sect however elevated Vayu to a higher-level and Hanuman became mukhya_prana.

 

4.Mitra , a friend invoked very often in the Rig-Veda along with Varuna had a separate identity. He is the counter part of the Avestan Mithra. Some believe that Mitra and Varuna together represent the Indo-European duality of Fire and water; of earth and spiritual power.

 

5.Savitir a younger member of the Vedic pantheon, the most handsome of the Vedic gods with raised arms that were golden (hiranya hasta) is the embodiment of gold. Savitir is the great inspirer. He dispels darkness. The Sun just before he arises is Savitir, according to Sayana. The most celebrated Gayathri mantra belongs to him (tat Savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhi_yoyonah prachodayat).

 

6.Pushan (one who nourishes) is a solar deity who is the keeper of herds and one who brings prosperity. Yaska says that when Sun appears with his rays he is Pushan.He is the husband of Ushas. He has a charming appearance. He has immense wealth and has always at his command a chariot ready to ride. He is the greatest of the charioteers. Pushan wards off calamities that might occur on the road; so pray to him. This celebrated rik is addressed to Pushan: ‘By the lid of the golden orb is your face hidden. Please remove it, O nourisher of the world, so that I may see you, I who am devoted to Truth.’

 

G.Gods in Rig Veda and Puranas

 

1. A word about the connection between the Vedic gods and purāņic gods is appropriate here. In Rig Veda a god is neither less nor more than the other is. In the Veda, all the Gods are pure and harmonious with no rivalry, jealousy and such other flaws. All of them are equal, bereft of impurities, endowed with auspicious qualities and all represent Truth. Each Vedic god has a distinct power and personality, but he or she also carries the presence of the Supreme, “That one.” All the Vedic gods harmoniously work together in providing the divine inspiration to the individual .The Rig Vedic gods are kind and compassionate. They fulfill the desires and aspirations of the devotees.

 

2. At a much later period, the purāņās tried to convey the esoteric truths of the Veda in a popular form. However, in that attempt the qualities of the Vedic gods were partially humanized and endowed with human virtues/flaws. Thus in the purāņās, the various Gods work together sometimes, but also quarrel with one another. They are bitten by jealousy, envy, greed, arrogance, etc.

 

3.Many of the Puanic gods are transformations of the Vedic Devas The now major puranic Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not prominent Devas in the Vedas; at the same time the prominent Vedic Devas do get diminished in stature  in the Puranas..

 

4. For instance, Bŗhaspati, Brahmaņaspati, Brahma are the three gods to whom the rişhi Vāmadeva addresses his mystic hymn of praise. However, the statuses of these Gods undergo a huge change in the Puranas.

 

The concept of Brahma as the creator in the purāņa is derived from the Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati of the Vedas where they are the creators through the power of the Word. The elephant-faced tāntrik God Gaņapathi captures some aspects of the Vedic god Brahmaņaspati. Gaņapati is invoked by a Vedic rik associated with the Brahmaņaspati. The word Gaņapati means the lord of gaņas or hosts. In the purāņa, the hosts (gaņas) are the beings of the vital world. However, in the Rig-Veda, the gaņās or hosts of Bŗhaspati/Brahmaņaspati are the chants, the riks and the stomas, the words of praise (RV. 4.50). In the Rig-Veda, Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati is a God of a very high plane and has little to do with the lower vital levels. The two deities are closely connected to each other. There are over one hundred riks in praise of these two deities, giving a picture of their powers and personalities.

 

4.1. The puranic Brahma and Ganapathi are derived from Vedic Brahmanaspathi. However, the Vedic Brihaspathi is reduced in the Puranas to become the preceptor of Devas and guardian of the planet Jupiter. Brahma becomes the Creator, one of the purāņic Trinity. He is however denied worship. Brahmaņaspati, the middle term that once linked the Vedic Brahma and Brihaspathi has disappeared altogether.

 

5. Indra is one of the important Rig Vedic gods and is described as ‘Yo jata eva prathamo manasvan‘; He who, from his very birth, is the first (of the deities). Indra is the lord of the universe. The idea of an omniscient and omnipresent Godhead is also applied to Indra when he is addressed as ‘ashrutkarna; whose ears hear all things. Indra in one verse is “Svayambhuva” meaning ‘Self-existent’ or ‘Self manifested’ The Vedic Indra is transformed into Puranic Vishnu; while the Puranic Indra is a demigod much reduced in status and flawed by envy, greed and other human failings.

5.1. The Bhagavata Purana states that Yajna (Indra) took incarnation as Svayambhuva Manu. Indra thus becomes Vishnu (as Svayambhuva). Vishnu in turn becomes Dhanvantri the divine healer, Prithu the King and the Rishis such as Kapila. His later Avatars are celebrated in various Puranas. He is the preserver in the Trinity. He is the Narayana the supreme deity.

6. Vishnu (the pervader) initially had a lower position to that of Indra. He is the younger brother of Indra. In the Rig-Veda Vishnu is described as living and wandering on the mountains. He is one of the celestial gods and one of the Adithyas. He resembles Surya and has rays in his appearance. He later evolves into the most signifificant God and Godhead. The ‘Vishnu Sukta’ of the Rig Veda (1.154) mentions the famous three strides of Vishnu. It said that the first and second of Vishnu’s strides (those encompassing the earth and air) were visible and the third was in the heights of heaven (sky). The second mantra of the ‘Vishnu Sukta’ says that within the three vast strides of Vishnu all the various regions of the universe live in peace.

6.1. Yaskacharya, in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as ‘Vishnu vishateh; one who enters everywhere’, and ‘yad vishito bhavati tad vishnurbhavati; that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu.’ Vishnu is also characterized, as ‘veveshti vyapnoti vishvam yah; the one who covers the whole universe, or is omnipresent. In other words, Vishnu became the omnipresent dimension of the supreme Lord. 

7. Rudra one of the intermediate gods (antariksha devata) is celebrated in three or four hymns and is described as a fierce, armed with bow and arrows. He is endowed with strong arms, lustrous body and flowing golden hair. He is not purely benefic like other Rig Vedic gods, but he is not malevolent either. He punishes and at the same time rescues his devotees from trouble. He is the Shiva the auspicious one. In Puranas, he becomes one of the Trinity and is the destroyer. He is the Lord of the universe, the cosmic dancer, the Supreme yogi and master of all yogis.

Vedic Rishi Vamadeva merges into to become one of five faces of Lord Shiva and the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.

H.Female deities in Rig Veda

The Rig Veda mentions many goddesses but none of them is central to the text. Although Ushas is celebrated in the Vedas, she is not offered Soma in the sacrifices. In addition to Ushas, Aditi, Prithvi and Vac are the other female deities mentioned in the Vedas.

1. Ushas is identified with the dawn in the Rig Veda, praised for driving away the darkness. She rouses life and sets things in motion. Ushas is compared to a graceful dancer. She also gives strength and fame; and like Prthivi is called mother. She is referred to as ‘she who sees all’ and invoked to drive away or punish enemies .She is a skilled hunter who “wastes away people’s lives”. Perhaps in Ushas there is a hint of the goddess, as both nurturing and fierce.

2. Aditi is the mother principle. Her name means the unbound one. In the Rig Veda, she is the mother of all the gods, the mother of all creation. She is invoked for protection and wealth. She is mentioned nearly eighty times in the Rig-Veda yet at no time she appears as a consort to any of the gods. Sri Aurobindo addresses Aditi as the Goddess of infinity and the infinite consciousness.

3. Prthivi the earth principle is the mother while sky is as a father. The earth and sky principles are together referred as Dyava_prithivi. She is the basis for all beings animate or otherwise. She protects, she feeds and without her we have no existence. She is addressed as mother and regarded as warm, nurturing and a provider of sustenance. Prithvi is seen as stable, fertile and benign, forgiving all our tressspasses.She is sarvam_saha and Vasundhara.

4. Vac is the goddess associated with speech, which is a concept of central importance to the Vedas. Vac, the word or the exchange of knowledge, is the mother of all communications that give intelligence to those who love her. She is associated with the power of the rishis. ‘She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and then express in words the true nature of things. She is the prompter of and vehicle of expression for visionary perception, and as such she is intimately associated with the rishis and the rituals that express or capture the truths of their visions.’

4.1. In a passage of the Rig Veda, Vac is praised as a divine being. Vac is omnipotent, moves amongst divine beings, and carries the great gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Agni, within itself. “All gods live from Vac, also all demigods, animals and people. Vac is the eternal being; it is the first-born of the eternal law, mother of the Vedas and navel of immortality.” The reason, the Vedic rishis paid such glowing tributes to Vac was perhaps that they attached great importance to the word and to its purity.

4.2. In the later parts of the Rig Veda, Brahman (one of the three distinct voices in the Soma sacrifices) is associated with speech and comes to be recognized as the verbal forms of Vac.They are seen as partners working for the fulfillment of the devotees aspirations. If Vac is regarded the weapons, it is Brahman that sharpens them. In Rig Veda the Vac-Brahman relation is a “growing partnership” (RV 10.120.5, and 9.97.34) http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246

4.3. In the Rig Veda, Sarasvathi is the river vital to their life and existence. Sarasvathi is described as ‘nadinam shuci; sacred and pure among rivers. It was, however, in Krishna Yajurveda, that Vac (speech personified, the vehicle of knowledge) for the first time comes to be known as Sarasvathi. The Aitreya Aranyaka calls her mother of Vedas. From here on the association of vac with sarasvathi gets thicker.

4.4. In the Rig Veda, Sarasvati is often invoked with Ida and Bharati. The three, Ida, Bharathi and Sarasvathi are manifestation of the Agni (Yajnuagni) and are tri_Sarasvathi. The goddess Sarasvathi is also the destroyer of Vrta and other demons that stand for darkness (Utasya nah Sarasvati ghora Hiranyavartanih / Vrtraghni vasti sustuition). With the passage of time Sarasvathi’s association with the river gradually diminishes. The virtues of Vac and Sarasvathi (the river) merge into one divinity the Sarasvathi; and get recognized and worshipped as goddess of purity, speech, learning, wisdom, culture and intellect. The Rig Vedic goddess Vac thus emerges and shines gloriously as Vac-devi, Vedamatha, Vani, Sharada, Pusti, Vagishvari, Veenapani , Bharathi and Sarasvathi.

(http://orissagov.nic.in/emagazine/Orissareview/febmar2005/englishpdf/saraswati.pdf )

The association of the intellect and purity (Vac, Sarasvathi) with the spoken word (Brahma) acquires a physical representation in the Puranas.

  ****

The high idealism of the Rig Veda poetry represents the soaring human aspirations. It is the intense desire to grow out of the limited physical confines and to reach out to the super consciousness that inspired the Vedic rishis. Sri Aurobindo believed that the human being is at the crest, on the threshold of evolving into super consciousness. He asserted that Rig Veda encases that esoteric message and attainment of that super consciousness was the vision  of the Rig Veda.

References:

The Human Aspiration:

http://www.mountainman.com.au/auro_0.html

The concept of gods in Vedas:

http://www.eng.vedanta.ru/library/prabuddha_bharata/May2005_the_concept_of_God_in_the_Vedas.php

http://www.eng.vedanta.ru/library/prabuddha_bharata/June2005_the_concept_of_god_in_the_vedas.php

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Kavi, Rishi and the Poet

1. Kavi the Sanskrit term, generally, means poet, the one who creates poetry.

If the meaning of the term were to be derived from the root “kru_varne”, it means “one who describes”. In which case, it refers, particularly, to those creations that spring from intuition (prathibha) rather from logic. The poetic genius (prathibha) has two aspects; Bhavaitri, the inner experience (also called darshana); and, karayitri the skill, virtuosity in expression (vivrana). What shines forth into the outer world is Kavitva, poetry.

2. According to Yaska, the term Kavi denotes, comprehensively, all those who express themselves through their intuitional (artistic) creations . The creative expression could be through words, color, sculpture, sound, or any other form, so long it flows out of intuition (prathibha) and manifests in an enjoyable form, to the benefit of all beings. Kavitva (poetry) thus encompasses in itself all forms of art expressions.

3.The Rig Veda mentions the term Kavi, any number of times. Yaska_charya in his glossary derives the meaning of the word from the root “kram” and interprets kavi as one who can see the unseen (kavihi_krantha_darshano_bhavathi) . Here again it is  the intuition that inspires the kavi to expand his consciousness and express himself spontaneously. Yaska suggests a close empathy, unison  between the creator and his creation, and that each tends to become a part of the other.

4. The Rig Veda further enlarges this concept and addresses the Creator as the Supreme Poet (kavir manishi paribhu swayambhuh) who conceives the grand design and expresses himself spontaneously through his creation. He is the seer, the thinker who expands his consciousness to encompass the entire Universe (Vishwa_rupaani_prathimancha_kavihi). The creator, the kavi, through his all-pervasive consciousness becomes one with his creation. That undoubtedly is the most sublime concept of a poet.

5. Poetry raised to its sublime heights is mantra to which the Rishi gives utterance. It is said; the Rishi not only knows the mantra but also is the essence of it.

Kavi is the forerunner of Rishi in the Rig Veda. He is the wise seer. One cannot be a Kavi unless one is a Rishi (naan rishir kuruthe kavyam). However, not all Rishis are kavis. A Kavi is a class by himself.

6. Yasca_charya makes a very significant classification of the Rishis.He draws a clear distinction between a Sakshath_ Krutha_ Rishi, the seer who has the direct intuitional vision; and the Srutha_Rishi, the one who heard it from the seers and remembered what he heard.

6.1. The Kavi, the seer is the Sun (savitr, Agni) who shines by himself (swayabhu), who spreads light and life to benefit all beings. He is the great  inspirer (sarvasya prasavita). The Kavis (mantra drastarah) envisioned the entities beyond the range of human senses and realized the Truth by direct intuition. They were the ones who had the direct intuitional perception and who conceived the self-evident knowledge (svatah pramana). The Kavis, the seers were “the hearers of the Truth” (kavayah satya_srurtah).

Sri Aurobindo described Shruti as “divine recordings of the cosmic sounds of truth” heard by the Rishis. The Vedas are thus Sruthis, revealed scriptures. That is the reason; the Vedas are Apaurusheya, not authored by any agency.

6.1.1. It is preciously because of those reasons, Sri Aurobindo emphasized that Vedas have a deeper, esoteric meaning apart from their superficial meaning.

6.1.2. Vamadeva, an unusual Rishi, in one of his hymns (RV 4.3.16) describes himself as illumined; expressing the Truth reveled to him (ninya vachasmi).

Rig Veda mentions about four hundred Rishis and about twenty-five of them were women.

6.2. The Srutha_rishi, in comparison, is like the mirror or the moon that basks in the glory of the sun (kavi). The moon and the mirror both take in the glory of the sun and put forth the shine to the world in their own way. The Srutha_rishi obtained the knowledge by listening to the Kavi and more importantly by remembering what he heard.

6.3. The bifurcation of the Vedas/Upanishads on one hand (as Shruthi, as heard) and the Vedangas, Sastras, Puranas, Ithihasa etc. on the other (as smriti, as remembered) stems from the above concept. Smriti, in general, is secondary in authority to Shruti.

***

7. A brief explanation about prathibha, before we proceed further.

7.1. Well, bha meaning light is at the root of prathibha; prati is a proactive term. Prathibha is generally understood as light that flashes within; perceived without the intervention of senses or the mind (logic).It is a direct perception.

7.2.That kind of perception (intuition) is not uncommon. Ordinary people in their day-to-day life experience it at times. However, it has neither intensity nor a sense of direction. In the case of Rishis or yogis, it is said, this natural gift is cultivated over years of sustained practice. It is therefore a more comprehensive, intense and direct understanding.

7.3. As it usually happens, there is no single term in English that brings out all shades of the meaning of prathibha. Perhaps one could use terms like genius, poetic genius, creative imagination, invention, inventive flash or intuition; or all of them. I preferred to use intuition, as I thought it was nearer to the Sanskrit term, and it was shorter.

7.4. A considerable bulk of literature has grown around the attempts to define prathibha (intuition or whatever term), its source, its relation to reality, its fulfillment etc.

This is particularly true in the Indian context. It is debated widely, not merely in Vedic literature but also in poetics, yoga (sadhana). Sri Aurobindo makes frequent references to this intuitional (super-sensory) force.

7.5. Bharatha, the author of the natya_shastra, while discussing about Rasa, its embodiment, its fulfillment etc.talks of the importance of prathibha.

7.6. The vedangas, nyaya, yoga and shaiva siddanthas, shaktha siddantha also employ the concept; but each has its own interpretation about the source, the role of prathibha.

***

8. Continuing the discussion on the dichotomy of intuition (prathibha) and memory (Smrithi or call back), centuries later the Indian scholars Ananda Vardhana (Kashmir c.860 AD) and Abhnava Gupta (Kashmir c.960AD) emphasized that intuition, inner experience was the lifeblood of good poetry.

They declared, creativity (karaka) was the hallmark of poetry as it brings into the world a new art experience. They said the poetic genius reinvents itself all the time (nava navonvesha shalini prathibha). Poetry need not aim to remind (jnapaka) what is already present; that they said was the function of sastras. A poet need not seek justification or approval of scriptural authority. He is the lord of his domain. He is the creator. They recommend, the poet need not allow himself to be bound by logic, propriety and such other restrictions.

9. There is, in fact, such type of poetry that disregards all restrictions. For instance, Bhanudatta, a scholar of poetics (c.15 century AD) describes three “out of world” (alaukika) types of poetry that totally disregard the mundane realities of the world.

Snapika, is a dream like creation beyond space, time or reason. There is utter disregard for reality. The poet creates a world of his own.

The second is Manorathika. It is a fantasy ride; the object is to realize unfulfilled wishes. Unlike in the first one the poet is not completely cut off from the reality. His wishes have some relation to the real world.

The third is Aupanayika, where poet describes the world as he sees or as it pleases him; and not merely the actual world.

9.1. According to Bhanudatta, the third (Aupanayika) is a more credible form of poetry. It offers scope for grafting the poet’s views on the reality without rejecting or condemning the world. It could be a fine blend of expressions that evoke sense of beauty, idealism (chamath_kruthi) and harsh reality (pratheethi).The poet could whisper into ears of the reader as his beloved does (kantha_samhitha). That, Bhanudatta says, is a subtle and a persuasive way of communicating with the reader.

9.2. He says certain things shine in contrast. For instance, a flash of kindness in a cruel heart; a pair of beautiful eyes in an otherwise ordinary face; smile breaking through the teary face of a little girl.

He was trying to say the world is not one-dimensional (eka_mukha). The world is full of opposites (dwandwa). The way you look at it and the choices you make; that is what matters.

10. Our poetic scholars described that the word and its meaning (vak, Artha) as the body of the poetry; the essentials such as rasa, dhwani (tone), merit as internal organs of poetry. Intuition (prathibha), they said, was the vital driving force. Without intuition (prathibha), they said, a poem would read like a “toll collector’s   manual”.

11. Abhinava Gupta adds one more dimension to the issue in his”Dwanya_loka_lochana”.

He says prathibha may be a flash of enlightenment; but what sustains that vision is the “unmeelana_shakthi”. He refers to something that charges the mind, opens up or awakens the potent faculties.

Abhinava Gupta clarifies that prathibha is inspirational in nature and it does not transform itself, automatically, into a work of art or poetry. It needs a medium to express it self. And , that medium has to be cultivated, honed and refined diligently over a period to produce a work of class.

11.1. In this context, Abhinava Gupta mentions three essentials that a poet has to keep in view. They are Rasa (rasa_vesha), Vaishadya and Saundarya.

The Rasa  concept is well known and I do not wish to elaborate it here.

The second one refers to clarity in thought, lucidity in expression and comfortable communication with the reader.

The third is the sense of poetic beauty about which the Alankarikas have produced delectable works. A good poetry can manifest, according to him, only when the delightful combination of these three essentials are charged or supported by prathibha.

He cites Valmiki and kalidasa as classic examples and states it is the wonderful combination of those poetic virtues and prathibha that sets them apart from the rest of the tribe.

12.. The fulfillment of poetry is Ananda, joy. It therefore needs a good reader (Sah_hrudaya) who can understand, appreciate, empathize and enjoy the beauty of the poetry. He is an integral part of poetic experience. Magha, the poet, said, a good poetry draws the reader towards it repeatedly and each time he finds in it a new source of enjoyment. He remarked the diction, ornamentation, structure and other virtues of poetry could shine only when poetic genius, the intuition, Prathibha, charges them.

 
 

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Rig Veda and the Gathas

Rig Veda and the Gathas

I am  intrigued by the close relation between the Rig-Veda and the Gathas–the language, the locale, the names of the principal characters etc.

It is generally accepted that the language of the Gathas (the older scriptures) known as Avesthanis close to that of the Vedic Sanskrit (please see the notes at the bottom mentioning some similarities as also  differences between Sanskrit and Avesthan). Avesthan Gathas were reflected in a hymn kakshivant Ausija – Zarathustra representing the side of the defeated Anuras (Asuras?) and Usijica representing the side of the victor. Hashurva is recognized as Sushravas who entered into a truce with Diwodasa, while Vistapa  the patron of Zarathustra  is found to be Ishtashwa of Rigveda.There is  also references to Devas(Daevas ?) , Asuras(Ahura) , Gandharvas , Anavas , Turvashas(Turanians) etc . In the Gathas the word Asura is pronounced as Ahura because the Indic  “S “ becomes Iranian “H”(like Sindhu – Hindhu , Soma – Homa,Saptha – Haptha). Similarly the Indic “V” becomes Iranian “P” (Ashwa – Aspa); Indic “H” becomes Iranian “Z” (Hind – Z(s) Ind) et al. Apparently, both the scriptures speak of the same set of Deities / Characters.

Further, in the Avesta the Asuras (Ahura) are the Gods, and Devas (Daeva) are the demons. It appears the Angirasas were the priests of the Vedic Aryans and the Bhrgus were the priests of the Iranians. In addition, that there was a period of acute hostility between the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians, which left its mark on the myths and traditions of both the peoples.

Now we have two issues here :

1) Where and when did this hostility take place?

2) Many hold the view that it is impossible to understand Indian pre- history unless:

a) is also taken into consideration .The whole of Aryana () should be taken as one unit of Aryan prehistory .

 b)The original Gathas of Zarathustra and Rig-Veda is comprehended together because the Sixth and Seventh Mandalas of Rig-Veda represent Devas (Daevas of Zarathustra) and the   likely (?) scene of action was the present day Iran: and the Caspian region

Can some learned members on the forum please throw light on the issues 1?

Can some one pl recommend to me book/s on a comprehensive comparative study of the Rig Veda and the Gathas as also of their language…issue2.

Thanks
Please read the next part of the article @

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[Similarities and differences between Rig Vedic Sanskrit and Avestan .Source : Encyclopedia Britannica.

The long and short varieties of the Indo-European vowels e, o, and a, for example, appear as long and short a: Sanskritmanas- “mind, spirit,” Avestanmanah-, but Greek ménos “ardour, force; Greek pater “father,” Sanskrit pitr-, Avestan and Old Persian pitar-. After stems ending in long or short a, i, or u, an n occurs sometimes before the genitive (possessive) plural ending am (Avestan -am)—e.g., Sanskrit martyanam “of mortals, men” (from martya-); Avestan mašyanam (from mašya-); Old Persian martiyanam.In addition to several other similarities in their grammatical systems, Indo-Aryan and Iranian have vocabulary items in common—e.g., such religious terms as Sanskrit yajña-, Avestan yasna- “sacrifice”; and Sanskrit hotr-,zaotar- “a certain priest”; as well as names of divinities and mythological persons, such as Sanskrit mitra-, Avestan miqra- “Mithra.” Indeed, speakers of both language subgroups used the same word to refer to themselves as a people: Sanskrit arya-, Avestan airya-, Old Persian ariya- “Aryan.” Avestan

The Indo-Aryan and Iranian language subgroups also differ duhitr- “daughter” (cf. Greek thugáter). In Iranian, however, the sound is lost in this position; e.g., Avestan dugdar-, dudar-. Similarly, the word for “deep” is Sanskrit gabhira- (with i for i), but Avestan jafra-. Iranian also lost the accompanying aspiration (a puff of breath, written as h) that is retained in certain Indo-Aryan consonants; e.g., Sanskrit dha “set, make,” bhr, “bear,” gharma- “warm,” but Avestan and Old Persian da, bar, and Avestan garma-. Further, Iranian changed stops such as p before consonants and r and v to spirants such as f: Sanskrit pra “forth,” Avestan fra; Old Persian fra; Sanskrit putra- “son,” Avestan puqra-, Old Persian pusa- (s represents a sound that is also transliterated as ç). In addition, h replaced s in Iranian except before non-nasal stops (produced by releasing the breath through the mouth) and after i, u, r, k; e.g., Avestan hapta- “seven,” Sanskrit sapta-; Avestan haurva- “every, all, whole,” Sanskrit sarva-. Iranian also has both xš and š sounds, resulting from different Indo-European k sounds followed by s-like sounds, but Indo-Aryan has only ks; e.g., Avestan xšayeiti “has power, is capable,” šaeiti “dwells,” but Sanskrit ksayati, kseti. Iranian was also relatively conservative in retaining diphthongs that were changed to simple vowels in Indo-Aryan.Iranian differs from Indo-Aryan in grammatical features as well. The dative singular of -a-stems ends in -ai in Iranian; e.g., Avestan mašyai, Old Persian cartanaiy “to do” (an original dative singular form functioning as infinitive of the verb). In Sanskrit the ending is extended with a—martyay-a. Avestan also retains the archaic pronoun forms yuš, yuzm “you” (nominative plural); in Indo-Aryan the -s- was replaced by y (yuyam) on the model of the 1st person plural—vayam “we” (Avestan vaem, Old Persian vayam). Finally, Iranian has a 3rd person pronoun di (accusative dim) that has no counterpart in Indo-Aryan but has one in Baltic.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in History, Rigveda

 

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