RigVeda and The Indian Systems of Approach to the One

H.B.Dave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Fri Jul 21 00:56:28 CDT 2000

Here is sixth posting.
Best wishes from
-- Himanshu
-------------- next part --------------
RigVeda and Indian Systems of Approach to the One :
(notes from selfstudy - svaadhyaaya)

VI : Mantras Having Seeds of Advaita - I
------------------------------------- Himanshu B. Dave

ahamasmi prathamajaa .rtaa.a.asya |
puurva.m devebhyo.am.rtasya naa.a.abhaayi |
yo maa dadaati sa ideva maa.a.avaa.h |
[taittiriiya upani.sat 3-10 bhaagena]

{I am the first born before this [world governed by] Rita.
 [I am] the centre of Amrita and Virat which came before the gods.
 One who gives to me, he that way protects me. ...}
{Taittiriya Upanishad, part of 3-10]

We continue with the utter surprise expressed by the Rishi of Tattiriya
Upanishad. I am the Hiranyagarbha, the origin in form of Knowledge out of
which this world -- having gross and subtle objects -- seems to have been
generated. I came to be before the "gods" -- entities which deal with
knowledge. I am also the origin of immortality, i.e. I provide immortality
to beings. One who gives me -- in form of Anna (various information inputs)
to those who expect Anna (i.e. "gods"), he protects me, i.e. he gets
protected himself in form of me. We have already explained the meaning of Anna
("food") in a previous posting.

Rishi says that one who understands that when he is absorbing knowledge in
any form, at any level of reality, it is I, i.e. his true form, is finally
accepting that knowledge, he "protects" himself, his true Self. He does not
reject it. He becomes immortal.
Here I am at a little bit of loss. Such mantras are expected, by our
tradition, to be explained by a teacher in person, to a student who has done
certain preparations. One of the preparations is that the student should have
direct experience of his Self through meditation. I am trying to create that
situation through these opening mantras. Over the Internet that seems to be
the best we can do. Please read this mantra slowly and contemplate over its
meaning. Do not worry if you do not understand it fully. (If you do, well,
you are released!) As Shri Ramana said, this search itself is Tapa. If you
feel at one moment that you understand and next moment do not, you are
progressing well.

This mantra is related to the suktas of Knowledge [X-71],  Purusha [X-90],
Giving [X-117], Who-the Unknown God (Prajapati) [X-121] and  Creation
(Nasadiya) [X-129]. This is perhaps one of the most difficult mantras to
explain in Taittiriya Upanishad.

 In due course, we shall take up a few mantras from these famous
suktas and try to explain the mantra further. The difficulty arises due to
extremely wide range of meaning ascribed to concept of "Creation" in RigVeda.

In this posting, we start with the following triplet (t.rcaa) from .r.si
vaamadeva, the main Rishi of RigVeda Mandala IV :

aha.m manur abhava.m suurya"s caaha.m kak.siivaa~m .r.sir asmi vipra.h |
aha.m kutsam aarjuneya.m ny .r~nje aha.m kavir u"sanaa pa"syataa maa || (1)

aha.m bhuumim adadaam aaryaayaaha.m v.r.s.ti.m daa"su.se martyaaya |
aha.m apo anaya.m vaava"saanaa mama devaaso anu ketam aayan ||          (2)

aha.m puro mandasaano vy aira.m nava saaka.m navatii.h "sambarasya |
"satatama.m ve"sya.m sarvataataa divodaasam atithigva.m yad aavam ||    (3)

[RV IV - 26 - 1 to 3] [vaamadeva.h  indro vaa, indra aatmaa vaa, tri.s.tup]

{I have been Manu and Surya. I am the wise Rishi Kakshivat. I have
befriended Kutsa, the son of Arjuni. I am the far seeing Ushanas; so see
me [closely]. (1)}

{I gave the earth to venerable [Manu]. I have given rain upon the mortal who
presents [oblations]. I have let forth the sound making waters. The gods
obey my will.(2)}

{I have destroyed the ninetynine cities of Shambara, being exhilarated [by
Soma]. The hundredth I gave to be occupied by Divodasa when I protected him,
the atithigva,  at his sacrifice.(3)}

Rishi of these mantras is Vamadeva (or Indra) and devata is Indra or Atma.
Chhanda is Trishtup (44 syllables). Added words in [ ] as per Sayanacharya.
English *translation* similar to 19th century European scholars.

Names of almost all Rishis of RigVeda are very interesting. We had already
discussed the possible meanings of the name diirghatamas. Similarly the name
Vamadeva has also significance. If time/space permits ... ... ...

Sayanacharya says : "By this triplet, Rishi Vamadeva, still in his mother's
womb ($), having already Knowledge, expresses his own experience of oneness
with everything, using terms like Manu, etc. If you take this triplet being
uttered by Vamadeva then he is Rishi and Indra is Devata (#). If you consider
Indra (@) as Rishi then Paramatma is Devata."

$ -- womb : explained in some detail below.
# --  that would be aadhidaivika level interpretation, considering the
      "god", here Indra, as a separate entity from Self.
@ -- that would be aadhyaatmika level interpretation, Indra (Ego of Rishi)
     represents Atma. Ego before realization of Advaita, Atmaa after that.

Now, first a few difficult words : (some of these words are taken to be
names of persons by Sayanacharya and European scholars, which does not seem
to be correct. That would be simplifying and meaningless. Sayanacharya had his
reasons for doing so.)
Manu   -- the Prajapati, creator of all; but here awarer of the gross world;
Surya  -- already explained in a previous posting; here awarer of the most
          abstract level of perceptions; anandamaya kosha.h;
Kutsa  -- Nigha.ntu (2-20) vajranaamaani; vajra denotes Soma, the bliss or
          total synchronization of the mind, achieved by various possible
          means, one being Yoga; thus the perception or memory of turiya
          mentioned in Mandukya Upanishad is Kutsa; in the mantra he is
          called son of arjunii, very aptly;
Arjuni -- Nighantu (1-8) Usha.h naamaani; usha.h is the intelligence arising
          when the saadhaka is near his goal;
Kakshivat -- kak.syaa Nighantu (2-5) angulinaamaani (rays);
             one having many rays; i.e. kaak.sivat = the jeeva, having many
             There was a son of Rishi diirghatamas with this name, according
             to Sayanacharya. Note that both the names match if we remember
             the meaning of diirghatamas.
Ushanas -- name of Shukracharya, preceptor of Asuras; but here u"sanaa =
          joyful, willingly and u"saanaa = plant from which Soma is produced;
          the property of human mind, a kind of "slope", by which if left
          alone, it gravitates towards turiya;
ny.r~nje -- [I] try to approach;
kavi.h -- one who sees far; who knows and uses the abstract meanings of
vipra.h -- intelligent;
aaryaaya -- for or to a noble or faithful man;
vaava"saanaa.h -- making sound;
ketam -- decision;
mandasaana.h -- being exhilarated [by Soma];
pura.h -- cities; but it really means dehaatmabhaava, the perception that
          this body (i.e., various koshas like annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya,
          etc.) consitute my Self.
vyairam -- [I] destroyed;

divodasa.h -- name of a noble King (according to Sayana); but here a
          saadhaka, a person who has achieved higher spiritual levels;
          etymology : diva.h daasa.h daanapaatra.h = a worthy recipient of
          knowledge about the innermost Self; one who Knows;
          (In this compound word, the vibhaktipratyaya does not vanish.)
"sambara.h -- Name of an Asura; but here a person's ego having wrong notions,
              ignorant; etymology : "samb + arac = one who collects;
              Nighantu (1-10) meghanaamaani -- concept equivalent to
              "clouds" which hide suurya;
sarvataataa -- in a Yajna which protects in all different ways;
atithigva   -- atithi is the agni, the thought process; but here it means
          Soma, the bliss perceived in deep meditation, i.e.thoughts related
          to turiya; gva suffix denotes tendency, liking, moving towards;

nigha.n.tu is a very old text (cir. 2000 BC?) which is a mini-thesaurus of
Vedic terms. It gives concept-clustering (concept codes and code words which
stand for the same concept in RigVeda) and other important or difficult words
by categories. It is supported and explained by nirukta -- a book of etymology
-- by Yaskacharya (cir. 1000 BC ?)

For example, Nighantu (2-20) gives vajranaamaani -- words or concepts having
equivalence to the concept vajra (the weapon of Indra.) There are 18 words
listed. These are further explained in Nirukta at (3-11).

European scholar are found generally looking askance at these texts and do
not give much importance to them, which I feel, is a mistake. If nothing
else, these authors were nearer in time and contact, and better prepared in
background, than us in 19th, 20th or 21st century.

Wherever required, I have in my interpretation utilized services of Nighantu
and Nirukta. Again, Nirukta has its own way of explaining, which requires
interpretation and that is the rub.

"Womb" mentioned by Sayanacharya means just when Rishi Vamadeva had
Self-realization and he started interpreting that condition. This is one
interpretation of "Creation", a person who has achieved unity with the
universe starts interpreting his state, that is a creation, the birth of a
new person. That moment (just the "downfall from the peak") is "being in the
Many people say Sayanacharya's commentary is Karmakanda oriented. I would
like to think that he hide many things of what he knew.
Summarizing, our interpretation is :
1. I am the cognizer of the gross world and also Atmaa. I am the jeeva
having many activities. I make possible generation of Bliss (Soma) which is
due to noble intelligence. I am the basic property of human mind which
generates Soma, which gives ability to the man for abstract thinking.
Know me well. (pa"syata maa)
2. I gave the cognition of the gross world to the thinking man. I give bliss
to the man who do meditation. I establish the lively consciousness. Various
functios of the human logical brain work under my direction.
3. When exilarated by Soma, I destroy many instances of wrong notions of a
person and give him, who has affinity to Soma, a permanent Knowledge, during
a Yajna.

Let us take a couple of more mantras. Consider the following by .r.si
praska.nva addressed to suurya, in Mandala I, sukta 50 :

tara.nir vi"svadar"sato jyoti.sk.rd asi suurya |
vi"svam aa bhaasi rocanam ||                             (4)
[RV I - 50 -4] [gaayatrii chanda.h]

{Suurya, you surpass all in movement. You are worth being seen by all. You
are the source of light. You shine throughout the sky.}

ud vaya.m tamasas pari jyoti.s pa"syanta uttaram |
deva.m devatraa suuryam aganma jyotir uttamam ||      (10)
[RV I - 50 -10] [anu.s.tup chanda.h]

{Observing the upcoming Light above the darkness, we approach the divine
Surya amongst the gods, the best Light.}

Some of the most beautiful mantras in RigVeda -- simple words but profound
meaning. Only a few words require separate explanation :

tara.ni.h -- one who goes or moves on a path (or in space) impossible to
             traverse by any one else (taritaa); or, one who remove
             diseases (taarayitaa);
vi"svadar"sata.h -- worth being seen by all beings; or one which shows all
             the beings;
jyoti.sk.rt -- illuminator of all; Sayanacharya comments : "Even at night we
             get the light from Moon, which only reflects the light of Sun."
             Moon - mind; Sun - aatmaa; even when a person is engrossed in
             worldly affairs (night) the mind seems to be active due to
             the reflection of Knowledge provided by aatmmaa.
rocanam --   the illuminated, shining, i.e. sky, antarik.sa.h
aa bhasi --  totally illuminate;

vayam  --    the worshippers;
tamasaspari -- above or beyond the darkness of ignorance and sins generated
             due to ignorance;
uttaram --   arising or the best;
devam devatraa -- devatraa amongst gods devam the god;
aganma  --   we obtained; we reached unity, saayujyam;

Rest of the words are simple enough. Our interpretations are :

4. Parmatma pervades everything, even regions beyond our imagination.
   (atyati.s.that da"saa"ngulam)
   He is worth being seen by all. He is the source of Light of knowledge
   at every level of knowledge gathering. He shines throughout the thinking
   process of a person. (Here is the seed of Advaita.)

10.(a) As we meditate, we observe the Light of Knowledge replacing the
       darkness of ignorance, and thus we approach the divine aatmaa,
       the highest level of our mental faculty, the best Light.

   (b) As we progress on the spiritual path, we observe the darkness of
       ignorance is being suppressed and replaced by the Light of Knowledge,
       and thus we approach the "goal", Atma that is Paramatma, the highest
       development of a man, the best of Light. (suurya is already
       identified as Paramaatmaa in -4- above.)

In this posting two kinds of mantras have been illustrated,
(i) in which the words used required going back to etymology to arrive at
    reasonable meaning (the mantras by vaamadeva);
(ii) those in which the words used are quite simple, but they are used in a
    special way and thus the meaning is profound (praska.nva).

Let us close this posting with :

.o bhadra.m no apivataya mana.h |
.o "saanti.h "saanti.h "saanti.h |

-- Himanshu

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