Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

The secret of the veda - a first attempt

The Vedic Tradition

In the March issue of this Newsletter, the aim and topics for our study relating to ‘The Secret of the Veda’ were outlined. Invoking the blessings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, let us make a humble start and approach the subject with an attitude that is best described by the Master himself as follows:

“A new view of the Rigveda is being published in the ‘Ārya’ under the caption of ‘The Secret of the Veda’. The translations here have been done according to that view which maintains that the real meaning of the Veda is spiritual and, being extremely profound and secret, is wrapped in symbolic words, various images, and expressions used in the performance of sacrifice. Though impenetrable to the ordinary person, this covering was, to the initiate in the Veda, only a transparent object which revealed all the limbs of the Truth. We have to look for the spiritual significance behind the images. If we can discover the ‘secret name’ of the gods and their respective functions, the sense of the code words, gau, aṣva, sōmarasa etc., the works of the daityās the demons, and their inner meaning, the import of the Vedic metaphors and legends, then the significance of the Veda will become more or less clear. Of course, the true and subtle comprehension of its meaning comes only by a special knowledge and as the result of sādhana, and not by mere study of the Veda without any sādhana.”

For a start, it will be beneficial to familiarize ourselves with some of the commonly used terms and definitions, a brief history and codification /classification of the Vedās.

What is the Veda and its tradition?

The term ‘Veda’ comes from the Sanskrit verb root ‘vid’ –meaning ‘to know’. Hence Veda means knowledge. Here knowledge does not mean facts about the external world but those of the eternal, sacred, spiritual wisdom. It is about the nature of man himself and tells him who he really is. It is the knowledge of the changeless and Supreme Reality behind the ever changing objective world of men and matter. When it is applied to a scripture, it signifies a book of knowledge. Vedās are the fundamental scriptures of the Hindus.

The Vedās are the eternal truths revealed by God to the great ancient ‘Riṣhīs’ of India. The word ‘Riṣhi’ means a ‘Seer’. He is the ‘Mantra Dṛṣhta’, seer of Mantra or thought. The thought was not his own, but he saw the truths or heard them. Since Vedās are what are heard, they are also called as ‘Ṣruti’. He was not an inventor, but a spiritual discoverer of thought which was already existing.

Vedās are also called ‘Apauruṣhēya’ – meaning that they are not authored by any puruṣha or human mind. They were revealed to the Riṣhis in the depths of their meditation. The sages were merely the instruments of God. The Vedās are actually the breath of God. That is, after each deluge (pralaya) when the world is manifested again, Lord Nārayana remembers the Vedās and teaches them to Brahma and then it comes down the line through Rishis, Gurūs and students.

Vedās are also called ‘Nigama’ and ‘Amnaya’. Nigama means a settled text or work, which is handed down from the Guru to the student from time immemorial. Amnaya means what is learnt by the student, by frequent repetition of the text; and also by frequently thinking over the same.

The Veda is sometimes called as ‘BRAHMA’ (Masculine Sanskrit word) - different from Brahma the creator. By Veda we imply the eternal knowledge of the Omnipresent and Omniscient God, which is provided to humans at beginning of human creation. They are the eternal knowledge and if we have to represent them as per the senses that humans can perceive, they turn into four ‘Veda Samhitās’.

Quotes from Sri Aurobindo - ‘The Secret of the Veda’ – 1st para Ch.II

“Veda, then is the creation of an age anterior to our intellectual philosophies. In that original epoch thought proceeded by other methods than those of our logical reasoning and speech accepted modes of expression which in our modern habits would be inadmissible. The wisest then depended on inner experience and the suggestions of the intuitive mind for all knowledge that ranged beyond mankind’s ordinary perceptions and daily activities. Their aim was illumination, not logical conviction, their ideal the inspired seer, not the accurate reasoned. Indian tradition has faithfully preserved this account of the origin of the Vedas. The Riṣhi was not the individual composer of the hymn, but the seer (dṛṣhṭā) of an eternal truth and an impersonal knowledge. The language of Veda itself is Ṣhruti, a rhythm not composed by the intellect but heard, a divine Word that came vibrating out of the Infinite to the inner audience of the man who had previously made himself fit for the impersonal knowledge. The words themselves, dṛṣṭi and ṣhruti, sight and hearing, are Vedic expressions; these and cognate words signify, in the esoteric terminology of the hymns, revelatory knowledge and the contents of inspiration.”

Specifically, the word ‘vedāḥ’ refers not only to the books of that name but also to the tradition which they embody and exemplify. In the popular saying ‘anantō vai vedāḥ’ (the Vedās are indeed infinite), Veda clearly refers to the tradition and not to the books. No other book in India or elsewhere can claim greater antiquity than the Veda or a more far-reaching influence.

to be continued……
Krishnamurthi (

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