RigVeda and the Indian Systems of Approach to the One

H.B.Dave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Tue Aug 1 03:49:03 CDT 2000

Dear List Members,

Here is posting NO. 9.

Best wishes,

-- Himanshu

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RigVeda and Indian Systems of Approach to the One :
(notes from selfstudy - svaadhyaaya)

IX : Mantras Containing Seeds of Vijnanavada

------------------------------------------------------------ Himanshu B. Dave

aha.m raa.s.trii sa.mgamanii vasuunaa.m cikitu.sii prathamaa yaj~niyaanaam |
taam maa devaa vy adadhu.h purutraa bhuuristhaatraam bhuury aave"sayantiim ||(3)

mayaa so annam atti yo vipa"syati ya.h praa.niti ya iim "s.r.noty uktam |
amantavo maa.m ta upa k.siyanti "srudhi "sruta "sraddhiva.m te vadaami || (4)
[RV X-125-3,4]

{I am the empress. I, knowing Brahman non-separate from me, collector of
various wealth, am the most important amongst the gods fit for yajna. I am
present in all the things existing [in form of illusion]. I have entered in
all the things born. Gods, staying in many places, whatever they do, they do
for me. (3)}

{Whatever beings are able to eat, see, breath or hear speech -- they do so
due to me only. Those who do not know my this form are condemned to a lowly
existence due to that ignorance. O learned one! I am telling you the
Ultimate Truth, which is obtainable only by Shraddha; listen --- (4)}

These are next two mantras from Vaak, daughter of Ambhrini. See what words
she has used to describe her exhilarated state of mind!
I am Empress -- raa.s.trii -- I preside over all that is this Universe;
know Brahman non-separate from me -- cikitu.sii; having paramaatmaa
collector of wealth -- vasuunaa.m sa.mgamanii -- obtain for the yajamaana
                       the wealth in form of Self-realization;
the most important amongst gods who are to be worshipped by yajna --
                       prathamaa yaj~niyaanaam
I exist in all things existing -- bhuuristaatraam; in inanimate objects;
I have entered in all things born -- bhuuri aave"sayantiim; as jiiva in
                                  animate beings;
Concept of yajna is central to Vedas. Here only a very brief note is given.
Basically yajna means any procedure which leads to either :
(i) transformation of information/existence at certain level of reality to a
    finer or higher level, i.e. abstraction; OR
(ii) transformation of information/existence at certain level to grosser
    level or lower level of reality, i.e. detailing;

For example, a group of people building a village road, This physical
activity is abstracted by saying that they are building a communication
link, or at a still higher level, building a path to their upliftment. If
they are doing the work with such idea in mind, they are doing yajna.

Yajna can be in the reverse direction also, for example, when an artist
visualizes a painting (a higher level activity) and then actually paints it
(lower or gross activity), he is doing a yajna.
The second mantra says, whatever a person accepts as input (annam), or sees
clearly (vipa"syati), breaths, etc., in short any activity he does, it is
done due to Vaak only. Those who do not know this are condemned to a lowly
existence. Scriptures specify three kinds of existences for a human being :
(i)  one who follows path of knowledge (including Knowledge); saatvika aayu;
(ii) one who follows path of valid activities; raajasika aayu;
(iii) those who simply exist, like animals,  tamasika aayu; they take birth,
     do just enough activities for lowly existence, procreate and die.
Scripture says, following the first two paths is acceptable, the third is a
lowly path, to be avoided.

Vaak is going to tell us something, but that will be in next posting.

In this posting we try to point out some of the mantras in RigVeda which
have a seed of Vijnanavada. Very roughly, Vijnanavada says that the world
exists only as a set of perceptions of the illusory objects, in our mind.
No perceptions, no World. It is quite near to Advaita, especially Ajatavada,
except the important difference that Advaita propounds a basis, Brahman, as
the Ultimate Reality, something that exists independently of the mental
perceptions (i.e. an observer), while Vijnanavada does not accept any such
basis. No observer, nothing exists as a final reality. The line between the
two is rather fine. Here I am tempted to tell a story about a Chinese
philosopher (from memory, so it can be slightly inaccurate) :

There was a female disciple of sage Chung Tzu, who was entrusted the job of
fetching water for the Ashram of the master, from hights of a mountain. For
many years she continued this service (remember the story of "svetaketu ?),
without the master instructing her. Every day she would watch impassively
the dance of reflection of sun-light on the water in the pails, while
bringing the water.

One day, while coming down the mountain, she stumbled, the wooden pails on
the bamboo fell and broke, water was spilt. Like a flash she had Realization
-- no water surface, no reflection of sun-light, no sun's image, sharp or
distorted. It is said that master Chung Tzu had not to instruct her further.

So that is Vijnanavada for you. The problem that Advaitins find is : where
did the Sun go?

In fact, some of the mantras that we have already seen can be interpreted as
supporting Vijnanavada.

We start by considering the folowing mantra from Mandala I, sukta 1,  by
.r.si madhucchandas of vi"svaamitra family :

agnir hotaa kavikratu.h satya"s citra"sravastama.h | devo devebhir aa gamat ||
[RV I-1-5]  [I-1-1-5]

{May Agni, who offers oblations, who attains knowledge, he who is true,
renowned and divine, come here with the gods. (5)}

attains knowledge -- kavikratu.h -- a name for Agni, having visionary
                     thoughts; extracts knowledge to more abstract levels;
who is true -- satya.h -- Agni represents the Reality, all that is perceived
                     is Agni only;
offers oblations -- hotaa -- Agni, itself a deva, is also a Hota, a "priest"
                     who offers oblations (havi) to the higher levels of Self;
                     agnirvai devaanaam hotaa [aitareya br. 3-14]
renowned -- citra"sravastama.h -- renowned due to various famous acts;
come here -- aa gamat -- come, be present, in my sacrifice, yajna;

Agni offers havi in form of knowledge, attains the knowledge and is true --
this shows that all the knowledge that we can get is due to Agni only. As
Agni is activity of the brain at various levels of Vaak (and especially at
madhyamaa level), we know the perceived World via Agni, movements of mind,

Now consider the following mantra from Mandala X, sukta 45 by .r.si
vatsapri.h addressed to Agni :

vi"svasya ketur bhuvanasya garbha aa rodasii ap.r.naaj jaayamaana.h |
vii"du.m cid adrim abhinat paraaya~n janaa yad agnim ayajanta pa~nca ||
[RV X-45-6] [X-4-3-6]

{The manifester of all, the origin of the world, Agni, as soon as born,
fills Heaven and Earth. He breaks the solid cloud as he moves forward,
when the five classes of men praise him. (6)}

ketu.h -- indicator by which something is known, manifester, a means of
bhuvanasya -- of the created world; Sayanacharya says udakasya -- of the
          mass of "waters" that constitute these world perceptions;
garbha.h -- origin, germ, seed;
rodasii  -- Heaven and Earth, the total perceptions of a man, including both
            the surface level and higher levels of awareness;
ap.r.naat -- filled up (fills up);
jaayamaana.h -- as if born, created or manifested;
paraayan -- going ahead, forward or far; going towards higher levels of
vii"dum cit -- firm, solid; difficult to penetrate or see through;
adrim -- a stone, a cloud; but here ignorance about true nature of Self;
abhinat -- broken (breaks), penetrates;
panca janaa.h -- five [classes] of people; the four "priests" Hota etc. plus
           Indra, Ego of the yajamaana;
agnim ayajanta -- worshipped or sacrificed to Agni;

6. A means of knowledge about all, the origin of the World, Agni, i.e. the
total brain activities, constitute the total World perceptions. When the
five -- four "priests" (Hota, Adhvaryu, Udgata and Brahma) and Ego --
sacrifice via Agni, as it goes to higher levels of awareness penetrates the
cloud of ignorance which is difficult to break.

The word bhuvana indicates that the world is known only through its

Let us consider next the following mantra fro Mandala I, sukta 19, by .r.si
medhaatithi of ka.nva family :

nahi devo na martyo mahas tava kratu.m para.h | marudbhir agna aa gahi ||
[RV I-19-2] [I-5-2-2]

{Neither god nor man has power over a rite for you, who is mighty. Come
here, Agni, with Maruts. (2)}

martya.h -- mortal, man;
maha.h   -- mahata.h, mighty;
kratum -- (to) rite; the process of perceiving the World;
marudbhi.h -- with Maruts; as explained in the previous posting, Maruts are
              basic messages via which various regions of brain (devaa.h)

Whatever information processing is available at manu.syaloka.h (p.rthivii)
gross level thinking, or devaloka.h (antarik.sa.h), highest level thinking,
can not go beyond what is propvided by Agni -- the Vaak as a group and Maruts,
the basic messaging system. This being so, all our perceptions of the World
depend upon these "movements of mind".

Let us consider the following mantra by .r.si diirghatamas, Mandala I, sukta
164 :

ya ii.m cakaara na so asya veda ya ii.m dadar"sa hirug in nu tasmaat |
sa maatur yonaa pariviito antar bahuprajaa nir.rtim aa vive"sa ||
[RV I-164-32]

{He who has made [this] is not aware of it. He who has seen it, has it
also verily hidden [from him]. He, while still enclosed in his mothers womb,
is subject to many births and has entered upon evil. (32)}

As the last mantra in this posting, let us consider the following by .r.si
diirghatamas :

tasyaa.h samudraa adhi vi k.saranti tena jiivanti pradi"sa"s catasra.h |
tata.h k.saraty ak.sara.m tad vi"svam upa jiivati ||
[RV I-164-42]

{From her the clouds shed plenty of rain and then [the people of] four
quarters live. Then the moisture spreads and universe exixts. (42)}

people of the four quarters - pradi"sa.h catasra.h - the functions and
                    regions of the brain during the four states jaagrata,
                    svapna, su.supti and soma (meditative state);
from her ... rain -- tasyaa.h samudraa adhi vi k.saranti -- rain means bliss
                    or flow of information/knowledge; "clouds" are pockets
                    of such thoughts or concept formation related to some
                    particular subject; as these are defined in terms of
                    vaak at various levels, that is why it is said "her
                    clouds" tasyaa.h samudraa;
the moisture spreads -- "vegitation" is the brain neurons or individual
                    signals, carried by them; the "rain" spreads amongst
                    them, means these signals carry information/knowledge;
the universe exists -- the whole of world perception depends upon these
                    signals, the "rain" -- flow of information; whatever we
                    know or perceive about this World is due to this "rain".

The summary is : the perceived Universe is existing due to activity of our

Considering the mantras given above (any many more with similar meanings), I
wonder why they say that Vijnanavadis reject Vedas.

With that we come to the end of this posting.

.o bhadra.m no apivaataya mana.h |

-- Himanshu

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