[Advaita-l] meaning for certain mantras

subhanu saxena subhanu at hotmail.com
Thu Oct 16 18:57:38 CDT 2008

Ashwamedha purification mantras
“subhaanave mahodayaaya namah! Sir,  It is very interesting that you point out that the maarjana mantra starting with "dadhikraavuNNo akaarisham.." refers to a horse, as it no doubt does (the mantra continues as .. jishnOh aSvasya vaajinah...). I am sure that this mantra, followed by "aapo hishThaa mayo bhuvah..." (which is a prayer to the waters to be good for the saadhaka) is a part of the sandhyaa vidhi followed by many. There, the purpose is only purification, and no curds are involved as in abhishechanam. I wonder, then, how the use of the mantra starting with "dadhikraavuNNo..." for maarjana with water is explained.”
Namaste! Apologies for the delay in responding by I have been travelling. I suspect this topic is out of scope for the advaita-l list, so I shall keep my response brief. Please feel free if you wish to contact me directly for more details. I have hit reply to all, but am not sure whether this is going just to you or to the list also.
You have asked a question regarding the use of “dadhikraavaNNo..” and “ Apo hiSTHA..” and their relation. Well, it is because they were considered to be extremely powerful purifiers. To understand the reason, one must study the ashwamedha , and you may find the details a little distasteful: These mantras, though originally from RV (RV 4.39.6 and RV 10.9.1-3), they are found together in Taittiriya Samhita VIII.4.19, beginning with “ambe ambAlambike..”This has become one of the most controversial sections of the veda, because of its highly explicit nature. In fact, Keith left this section untranslated.  R.L. Kashyap has tried ever so hard to read a more benign translation and meaning into these mantras, but he is going against the contents of both Bodhayana and Apastamba Srauta Sutras. The mantras in this section relate to the ritual performed by the queens after the horse is killed (Apastamba Srauta Sutram XX.17.9 tells us this was through suffocation with a woollen or linen cloth-shyAmulena kshaumeNa vAshvam samjnapayanti). Various explicit acts are performed whilst reciting TS VII.4.19.1-12 (I will not give their translation here. Please email me privately for this if you really want to know these)
These acts are deemed to have made the queens impure, such that their very life energy  has left them. Extremely powerful verses are required to purify them after such acts. Bodhayana tells us in the Srauta Sutram at XV.30 :
“sarva eva surabhimateem richam japanti, ye yajne apUtam vadanti”, “ Those who utter impure speech during the yajna utter the surabhimatee verse (dadhikrAvaNNo...)”
The full meaning of the surabhimatee verse is:
I have sung the praise of dadhikravan, the swift strong horse. May it make our mouths fragrant (surabhi) , may it lengthen our lives
TB 3.9.7 tells us (I cannot show the swara markings easily):
“apa vA etAbhyah prANAh krAmanti. Ye yajne’pUtam vadanti. dahikrAvaNNo akAriSam iti surabhimatIm richam vadanti. prANA vai surabhayah. prANAnevAtmandadhate. Naibhyah prANA apakrAmanti”
“The very life energy leaves those who utter impurities in the yajna. They recite “I have sung the praise of dadhikravan...” For Life Energy is fragrance, and this establishes itself in the Self. The Life Energy never leaves one (who recites this verse)
Having recited this verse to to purify her words (note the queen is reciting these mantras) she sprinkles herself with water to purify her body , reciting “Apo hiSTHA..” Again, in TB 3.9.7, we have 
“ApO hi STHA mayobhuva ityadbhirmArjayante. ApO vai sarvA devatAh. devatAbhir Atmanam pavayante”
They sprinkle themselves reciting “Oh waters you are healing..”. For the waters are verily all the devas. They purify the Self through the devatAs”
[A side note: Bodhayana reverses the order of these mantras, whilst Apastamba follows the Brahmanam order. When used in sandhya, the Brahmanam order is followed]
It is not hard to extrapolate that, if these mantras were seen as such extremely powerful purifiers after such explicit acts, then they must have benefit in every day life. We can see how they made it into the sandhyavandanam accordingly.
This is not the time, and probably not the list to get into more details.  All I would say is that the Taittiriya Brahmana mantras of ashwamedha prasna require careful study to understand the deeper significance of what is going on.  I recommend all followers of Taittiriya Sakha to obviously study the meaning of these mantras with a sampradAyavit, but also together with Shanti Parva which provides the context for the statecraft described therein. TB states rASTram vA aswamedhah, the state is ashwamedha, as well as in TB 3.9.21 vaishwadevo vA ashwah, the horse is all-deity in form. Also something that may be of interest, the last anuvaka of TS 7th Kanda is largely the same as the opening anuvaka as brihadaranyaka Upanishad. A pet peeve of mine is how these days there is the fashion to separate karma kanda and jnana kanda as if they were two separate traditions. Both form part of one unified tradition, all the way to Shankara’s writings and beyond. We find many deeply philosophical passages in Samhita and Brahmana portions of the veda (eg brahma suktam, kathaka  brahmana mantras, pravargya mantras, hotAra mantra’s etc etc , all showing how external yanja becomes internal yanja, culminating in knowledge of the Self) Unfortunately these days they seem to be only known to veda scholars who have studied them in the traditional manner.
I hope the above is useful. If you have further detailed questions, I would suggest you email me directly so as not to divert attention from the advaita-list
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