Guiding Light of The Month

O LORD, Thou art my refuge and my blessing, my strength, my health, my hope, and my courage. Thou art supreme Peace, unalloyed Joy, perfect Serenity. My whole being prostrates before Thee in a gratitude beyond measure and a ceaseless worship; and that worship goes up from my heart and my mind towards Thee like the pure smoke of incense of the perfumes of India. - The Mother

Secrets of the veda - a first attempt



Through the Looking Glass….


"Is there at all or is there still a secret of the Veda?" Sri Aurobindo asks in the opening sentence of this book and continues,
“According to current conceptions the heart of that ancient mystery has been plucked out and revealed to the gaze of all, or rather no real secret ever existed. The hymns of the Veda are the sacrificial compositions of a primitive and still barbarous race written around a system of ceremonial and propitiatory rites, addressed to personified Powers of Nature and replete with a confused mass of half-formed myth and crude astronomical allegories yet in the making. Only in the later hymns do we perceive the first appearance of deeper psychological and moral ideas - borrowed, some think, from the hostile Dravidians, the “robbers” and “Veda-haters” freely cursed in the hymns themselves, - and, however acquired, the first seed of the later Vedantic speculations. This modern theory is in accord with the received idea of a rapid human evolution from the quite recent savage; it is supported by an imposing apparatus of critical research and upheld by a number of Sciences, unhappily still young and still largely conjectural in their methods and shifting in their results, - Comparative Philology, Comparative Mythology and the Science of Comparative Religion.


It is my object in these chapters to suggest a new view of the ancient problem. I do not propose to use a negative and destructive method, directed against the received solutions, but simply to present, positively and constructively, a larger and, in some sort, a complementary hypothesis built upon broader foundations, - a hypothesis which, in addition, may shed light on one or two important problems in the history of ancient thought and cult left very insufficiently solved by the ordinary theories…”.


Sri Aurobindo had the conviction that the Vedic hymns were repositories of deep psychological insights and books of wisdom for all times. His own discovery that the Veda had a hidden meaning came not from his scholarly study of Vedic mantrās, but by an inner vision; it was only later that his studies confirmed his direct perception. He was himself a ‘Rishi’ and therefore had the equipment in common with the sages who visualized the mantrās. He fully knew that they are not products of superior scholarly exercises, or of clever construction of thought, diction and speech but that they had powers within, which opened up and blossomed into charming poetic articulations.

Sri Aurobindo was greatly concerned about the impact of the modern theories and became the first person in the last 2000 years to raise his voice against the injustice, impropriety and outrage to the true spirit of the Vedic lore. He even opened up his mind to give a statement in 1912 thus:

“If Indians hardly understand the Vedas at all, the Europeans have systematized a radical misunderstanding. Their materialist interpretations, now dominant in cultivated minds, translated into modern tongue and taught in our universities has been more fatal to Vedic Truth than our reverential ignorance”.

Sri Aurobindo has also stated elsewhere that “The foreign translators and their Indian followers, seek to bring out the intellectual sense without feeling the life of thought vision and the ecstasy of spiritual experience” and also that his method is “To enter passively into the thoughts of the old Rishis, allow their words to sink into our souls, mould them and create their own reverberations in a sympathetic and responsive material in submissiveness, in short, to the Shruti”.

It will be of interest here to read a quote from Sri Satprem:

“When Sri Aurobindo first read the Vedic scriptures in translation, they appeared to him as an important historical document but seemed of scant value for a living spiritual experience. Fifteen years later, he read them in the original Sanskrit and found there “a constant vein of the richest gold of thought and spiritual experience.” Meanwhile, he had had experiences for which he had found “no sufficient explanation either in European psychology or in the teachings of Yōga or of Vedānta,” but which “the mantrās of the Veda illuminated with a clear and exact light.” It was through these experiences that Sri Aurobindo came to re-discover the true meaning of the Vedās.”

Sri Aurobindo declared that the four Veda mantra Samhitās, Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda and Atharva Veda are not books of ritual but books of wisdom valid for all times, particularly modern times and framed in exquisite poetry. He also declared that the Vedic hymns are repositories of deep psychological insights; the gods like Indra and Agni are not to be confused with their namesakes in the Purānās and epics like Rāmāyana. These Gods represent cosmic powers like the ‘Power of Will’(Agni), the ‘Divine Mind’ (Indra), ‘Inspiration’ (Saraswati), and the ‘Power of Delight’ in all aspects of existence (Soma), to name a few. By appropriate contemplation on these deities and chanting of the associated Vedic mantrās, the corresponding powers like willpower take birth in us and grow like a child in the womb. He translated roughly 2000 mantrās of Rig Veda addressed to God Agni showing the complex powers of this deity alone; thus Agni should not be regarded merely as fire or as a fire-god.

He authored over 1000 pages of translations and essays indicating the presence of the secret in the Veda and how to realize the secret and make it a part of our lives.

Sri Aurobindo's theory of the inner spiritual significance of the Vedas originally appeared serially in the philosophical journal ‘Arya’ between 1914 and 1920. Most of the material appeared under three headings and gives the spiritual/psychological and esoteric interpretation of the Veda.
1. The Secret of the Veda, Aug 1914 – July 1916
2. Selected Hymns, Aug 1914 – July 1915
3. Hymns of the Atris, Aug 1915 – Dec 1917

These series form the first three parts of the present volume of the book ‘The Secret of the Veda’. Other translations of Vedic hymns that came out in the ‘Arya’ but not under any of the above headings, make up Part IV. Sri Aurobindo’s Vedic writings and translations that did not appear in the ‘Arya’ are published in ‘Vedic Studies with Writings on Philology and Hymns to the Mystic Fire’, volumes 14 and 16 of ‘The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo’.

Sri Aurobindo never revised the monthly publications, except for minor alterations in Chapter 17. The last installment of this work in the ‘Arya’ ended with the following footnote - “We propose for the present to discontinue the ‘Secret of the Veda’ so as to make room in the third year of the ‘Arya’ for other matter, but we shall subsequently resume and complete the series.” He never found time to resume the series and left ‘The Secret of the Veda’ incomplete.

However the book contains several topics with detailed explanations, needing careful study for deeper understanding. Examples of some of the topics are:

• Analysis of Vedic and Modern theories
• Foundations of the Psychological theory and Philological methods
• Symbolic interpretations of several gods such as Agni, Varuna, Indra, Ashwins, Saraswati etc.,
• Selected hymns related to Agni, Indra, Vayu, Vishnu, Soma, Savitri etc.,
• Vedic hymns, Hymn of the Thought-Gods etc.,
• Interpretation of the Veda.

Towards the coverage in our newsletter for the forthcoming months, the following topics will be taken up for our initial study. However the main focus will be maintained on the message conveyed by Sri Aurobindo in his book ‘The Secret of the Veda’.

• Veda in Indian Tradition
• Commentaries or Bhāṣhyās on ‘ Rig Veda Samhitā ’
• Symbolism and the esoteric interpretation of the Veda Mantras
• Two-Fold Meaning of Mantra
• Spiritual Interpretation of the Riks
• Symbolism of Riks conveyed by double meaning
• The Four key ideas in the Secret of the Veda
• The Outer Ritual, Yajna and its Inner or Subtle counterparts
• Symbolism of Priest, Offerings, Worlds
• Essence of Spiritual Interpretation
• Overview and message of the Rig Veda

Reference will also be made to the following books by other authors affiliated to Aurobindonian thought and philosophy:

1. ‘ The Light of Veda – A Practical Approach ’ – by Sri T.V.Kapāli Sastry
2. ‘ A New Light on the Veda ’ – by Sri T.V.Kapāli Sastry
(Originally written in Sanskrit under the name ‘Siddhānjana – Bhūmika’, translated into English by Sri M.P.Pandit and thoroughly revised by the author himself, in 1952. Published by Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore. (SAKSI) )
3. ‘ Agni in the Rig Veda ’ - by Dr R.L.Kashyap
4. ‘ Why read the Rig Veda ’ – by Dr R.L.Kashyap
(Dr K.L.Kashyap is an Honarary Director & Trustee of SAKSI. He has to his credit 6 major books on the Veda and has undertaken a mission of writing a commentary on all the Veda mantras.)

- Krishnamurthi (chamathu2003@yahoo.co.uk)

No comments: