RigVeda and Indian Systems of Approach to the One

H.B.Dave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Tue Jul 11 02:23:42 CDT 2000

Posting No. II
Best wishes to all.

-- Himanshu

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

II. Some General Remarks about the contents and methods
    of RigVeda.
------------------------------------- Himanshu B. Dave

aha.m jyotiraham.rta.m vinaddhiraha.m jaata.m jani jani.syamaa.nam |
aha.m tvamahamaha.m tvaminnu tvamaha.m cak.sva vicikitsiima .rtvaa ||
[Ba.skalamantropani.sat 23]

{I am the Light, I am the Truth unlimited, I am [whatever is] born, being
born or will be born. I am you, [you are] me. I am you just as you are me,
seeing this, understand clearly the [nature of] this world in an unconfused
way.} [From Bashkalamantra Upanishad of Bashkala branch of RigVeda]

Seemingly RigVeda contains Suktas, made up of mantras, which are prayers or
eulogies, but really they are like technical papers, written in poetical
style. Taking an analogy, imagine the following "prayer" in MMVeda (multi
media Veda !!) : Sukta 123, Rishi Coachpotato, Devata Televi :

     "O Televi! protect me your friend from boredom,
      your nitynine channels give me many choices,
      and bring pleasure to me, wife and children;
      your face is criss-crossed with 525 bright lines,
      which repeat for my pleasure 50 times a second;
      when connected to the rod on the roof,
      you become miserly and show only a few Lokas (!),
      but connected to the long rope from the provider,
      you take us to many shining Lokas ..."

Do you get what I mean? (Now, I have already shown you one of the methods of
RigVeda, conveying knowledge by analogy.)

Vedas refer to various regions of human logical brain or brain functions as
if they were some distinct objects separate from the man.  This is very
confusing to a person not aware of the methods of RigVeda.
One should also be aware of the plane of reality being used by the Riishi
in a particular mantra. Consider the following mantra by Rishi diirghatamaa:

.rco ak.sare parame vyoman yasmin devaa adhi vi"sve ni.sedu.h |
yastanna veda kim.rcaa kari.syati ya it tad vidusta ime samaasate ||
[RV I - 164 - 39]

{All the gods have taken their seats upon this supreme heaven, the
imperishable [text of] the Veda; what will he, who knows not this, do with
the Veda? But they who do know it are perfect.}

That was a straight translation by Prof. Dayananda Bhargava of Delhi
We shall come back to this mantra again later on, but  at this
stage of our study, note that :
(i) this is an internal authority about some ideas;
(ii) the text of the Veda is called a kind of space (concept space),
"supreme heaven" (parame vyoman) denotes the highest level of concept space,
most abstract ideas;
(iii) the gods (very roughly : my mental faculties) "have taken their seats"
i.e., are now tuned to or aware of, the level of reference to reality
denoted by parame vyoman.
(iv) Rishi very clearly says : "what will you do with Veda if you do not
understand this? You can NOT get its real purport. But if you do understand the
way the Vedic text is to be understood, then you are a perfect student."
(v) Why the Veda text is called imperishable? Not now, it will be rather
long discussion. (I have found Western scholars making fun of the saying
that Vedas are apauru.seya. They know not, but it requires some explanation.)

Mostly, I shall try to give only internal authority as far as interpretation
of the Vedic text is concerned. The relationships  with Vedant and other
concepts will, of course, involve references to other texts.

Each RigVedic sukta has a Rishi (author?), Devata (deity?) and Chhanda

Rishis' names are probabely less indicative of historical persons than a
representation of attitudes or stand-point.

Similarly, Devata is the subject matter of a sukta or a mantra rather than

Chhanda is an important aspect of the Vedic mantras. It has several uses, to
be indicated in due course.

There are generally several levels of meanings of a mantra - aadhibhautika,
aadhidaivika and aadhyaatmika.

Consider this English sentence :
     "the eagle has landed."
Here, the meaning of each of the words is individually known and the syntax
is clear, so the direct meaning is known, though not very illuminating. Thus
the semantics of the sentence is known, but what does the sentence convey?
Is it just saying that "some bird has come down on some land"? .........(1)
Is that the purpose of the sentence?
The real meaning or the intended meaning is :
"the American Atom bomb has been successfully released on a predetermined
target." ...............................................................(2)

What is the implication of this meaning (2)?
"the power and might of USA (eagle) has been established in the neuclear
field (has landed)" ....................................................(3)

Can you see the three levels of meanings of this simple sentence? Consider
what input is required to arrive at these three levels of meanings. Thank
over that.

Note the interesting and important fact that though we have three distinct
meanings, none of them invalidates the others, only the lower "level"
meanings are in some sense limited, they give a narrower picture.

Also, note that the same sentence may convey different meanings to different
persons, depending upon his adhikara (preparation).

As mentioned previously, the purpose of the Rigvedic suktas/mantras is to
convey knowledge. Some mantras use  special methods to do this. To
illustrate what do I mean by "method to convey some knowledge", consider the
following example (not from RigVeda!) (please follow the example carefully):

In some dictionary, there are two entries :
        ... ... ...
        Endless-loop : see Loop,Endless.
        ... ... ...
        Loop,Endless : see Endless-loop.
        ... ... ...

Suppose you, not knowing the meaning of "endless-loop" look-up this
dictionary. Does the dictionary give you the knowledge sought? Neither of
the entries in the disctionary tell you the actual meaning. Suppose trusting
the honesty of the dictionary (aptajana !), you follow the instructions
and look-up repeatedly the two entries several times. Suddenly you say "Aha!
I understand what is the meaning of endless-loop." How this knowledge was
conveyed to you? It *arises* in *your* mind as a result of an injunction (do
this - look up that entry), but nowhere in the text of the dictionary that
knowledge is evident. How will Linguists and Philologists analyse this
situation? Possibly they have a name for this phenomenon. It is not what
is called "experiential knowledge."

The above is an example of what is called upade"sa the meaning of which is
totally misunderstood by most scholars trained by Western methods.
We shall again use this example later on  to make a proposition : "the
purpose of all Vedic injunctions is to convey knowledge."

I request the reader to pause for a few moments and analyse how will he know
what is the meaning of "endless-loop" from the dictionary (svaadhyaaya !).

Now we come to the last example of this l..o..n..g posting.  Again please
read and understand carefully (you are going to have a surprise.)
Consider the following English sentence :

        "they are flying aeroplanes."
A little bit of thought will show that this sentence has at least two
meanings :
(i) they (i.e. pilots) are flying (verb) aeroplanes;
(ii) they (those shining spots in the sky) are flying (adjective)
So we have an ambiguous sentence here.  Its meaning can be possibly
established by the context, or not even by that.

Suppose this were a sentence (may be a part of a mantra) in RigVeda (god
forbid!) How would you interprete it? (You are in trouble here, Mr.
Linguist.) Now, wait.

Suppose the aeroplanes being talked about are controlled by autopilots (i.e.
they are pilotless aircrafts.) Note that the auto-pilot is an integral part
of the aeroplane itself. Does it now matter very much which of the two
meanings you take? Think about it. Both ways you are talking about the same
basic phenomenon. The seeming ambiguity of the sentence is of no more a

We thus propose : "there may be seeming ambiguity when normal or traditional
meanings are attached to referents (words), but under the special
conditions obtained in texts like RigVeda, all properly derived meanings
are equivalent."

With that, dear List Members, I close this posting. I am ready for the first
-- Himanshu

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