Vedic Lore Age of the Vedas Upanishads Brahma Devas I Devas II Rta and Satya Yajña RIGVEDA Mandala I Mandala III Mandala V Mandala X Author e-mail me

Vedic Lore

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Vedic Lore

Site launched: 12 Dec 2011

The Vedas are timeless, eternal oral lore. Recite it daily and promote it.

For the Vedas in Sanskrit text, Visit Sanskrit Web or Maharishi University of Management .

We introduce on this page what forms Vedic life and its secret doctrine.

Currently I am translating the Sama Veda and may complete it this year. I appreciate your patience.




Prayer of the Taittiriya Upanishad

Om, kind to us be (gods) Mitra; kind be Varuna; kind to us be lord Aryaman!

Kind to us be Indra and Brihaspati; kind to us be Vishnu with mighty strides!

Reverence to boundless Brahma. Reverence to you, O Vayu (Wind)!

You alone are manifest Brahma. To you alone I will call Brahma,

Will call Rta (Right, destiny and rain cycle), will call Satya (Truth, the Vedas).

That (Brahma) may protect me, protect the one professing this (mystic Holy Speech)!

Protect me, protect the professor. Om Peace, Peace, Peace!

 

Many are made to believe, and even find it trendy to call, the Upanishads as original and primary source of secret doctrine. But the above benedictory mantras (hymns) recited at the beginning of the Taittiriya Upanishad reveal a different story. In fact, all the principal Upanishads repeatedly reproduce and paraphrase text from the Vedas. The Isha Upanishad is the fortieth chapter of the Yajur Veda. The Upanishads quote the Vedas to reinforce their point.

We call Upanishads monistic, but still they invoke Vedic gods in their prayers! That signifies deep unity in multiplicity on the surface.

Moreover, the utmost faith in the Vedas is evident in the text of the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, the Upanishads, the epics, social codes (smritis) and the Bhagavad Gita. The Vedas are called eternal, uncreated knowledge (nitya and sanātana). Of course, they should not be interpreted historically and geographically (knowledge being beyond space and time). To the tradition, the Vedas are ‘absolute authority revealing fundamental and unassailable truth.’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica) Tradition maintains their sanctity in such a way that even grammatical mistakes apparent in the mantra are not rectified, though commentators explain what the mantra intends.

Meaning

The Vedic vocabulary is intimidating. I take this opportunity to introduce Vedic terms in bits.

First two lines appear as mantra I.90.9 of the Rig Veda (or RV). This can be used as Pranayama mantra too.

Mitra is the friendly lord of day, fire and life-breath (or inbreath). Varuna (Varuna) rules fate and fortunes. He is lord of night, water and waste-ejective wind (or outbreath). He grants wishes and is destroyer of enemy and evil. The two Mitra-Varuna together as day-night, fire-water, or Prāna-Apāna breaths promote Rta. [Rta will be explained below] Aryaman vouchsafes and upholds honour, dignity and justice.

These three are oft referred to as Adityas (or the sons of Aditi (Holy Speech). What they vouchsafe is as follows:

O gods (learned men), to that mortal, no sin, no trouble attaches

Whom Aryaman, Mitra and Varuna lead/guide, beyond foes. (The Rig Veda X.126.1)

 

Supreme lord Indra (rain god), Brihaspati (lord of the Vedas) and Vishnu (the all encompassing Yajña) collectively vouchsafe cosmic wellbeing. There is a mystic connexion between Holy Speech, Yajña and rains. Recall the mantra I.164.41 of the Rig Veda, namely: Gauri (cow i.e. Holy Speech) moos and creates waters (and worlds).

Why Vayu (vāyu) is praised as Brahma because with Vayu alone, creation, motion and manifestation is possible. In creation hierarchy, after space (which is impalpable) next comes Vayu (air) [others being Agni (fire), Waters and Earth]. ... Vayu is life (being vital breath). It instantly unleashes life and magnificent health through practice of Pranayama (breath control). Vayu is speech (rather Holy Speech, the Vedas) stirring creations and waters and engendering rich intuition of sages (Rishis). Vayu being closely related to touch sensation becomes source of pleasure. Moreover, Vayu is chief god of mid-region (antariksha) and is instrumental in bringing rains. That is why Vayu is praised as Rta and Satya (= the Vedas).

In the Nirukta (Vedic etymology), Rta and Satya serve as synonyms and at the same time refer to water in the physical plane. Satya literally means truth and reality. It is therefore Holy Speech (the Vedas). It is the Law to be observed. Rta literally is right. It is truth or cosmic order/principle, of karma justice and rain cycle (or Yajña [cosmic weal]). We must faithfully accept whatever befalls us. Satya is what should happen whereas Rta is what actually happens.

However, Rta is also called in the Nirukta as Yajña (cosmic weal or upkeep). We shall discuss it on other pages.

Invocation of triple peace is peace at personal, social and natural levels. We suffer from own negligence or failures (e.g. laziness), others’ acts (e.g. dog and thief) and from nature’s furies (e.g. earthquake, flood and failure of rains).

Now to the Upanishad excerpt ...

 

The Taittiriya Upanishad (I.11)

After teaching the Veda, teacher (āchārya) exhorts the passing out student:

Speak the truth (satya).  

CAUTION: Most of us say ‘yoga is beneficial’ without either practising it or knowing what yoga is! That is, we say something else and practise someting else. Recall the story of Yudhishthira learning lesson on anger where he tests himself in practice alone (this appears in my book Yoga: An Analytical Release.]

Observe/practise the Divine Law (dharma).

Law is mandatory and not your choice. The Vedas form the Eternal Law. In terms of Avidya of the Yoga Sutras (ibid.), understand the nature of the world as impermanent, impure (indeterminate), pain and non-self (or unpossessable).

Never be careless in study of the Veda (Svādhyāya or svadhyaya) [in discharging debt of Rishis].

After bringing acceptable sum for teacher, never break clan succession (i.e. do marry and procreate).

Do not neglect satya. Do not neglect dharma. Do not neglect svadhyaya.

Do not neglect personal welfare (kusala = safety).

Do not neglect prosperity (bhūti).

Do not neglect study and teaching of the Veda [Brahma Yajña, or Tapas]. [1]

Do not neglect your duties to gods (keepers of universe) and ancestors (or guardians).

Humans have solemn obligations/debts to Rishis, gods and ancestors.

Treat mother as god. Treat father as god.

Treat teacher (āchārya, or role model) as god.

Treat unanticipated guest (atithi) as god.

Whatever blameless deeds there are, those ought to be performed.

Not others.

Whatever right conduct of ours, that ought to be heeded. [2]

Not other.

Make the superior Brahmins (versed in the Veda and ever mindful of Brahman, the supreme reality), comfortable with seat [support].

Give with faith (sraddhā). Do not give without faith.

Give according to your status or prosperity (srī).

Give with courtesy (modesty).

Give fearfully (because tomorrow situation may change).

Give empathatically (or conscientiously).

Now, in case you face doubt about some act or conduct. [3]

Brahmins who are: competent to counsel; reasonable or mentally settled (or committed in yoga); voluntarily committed (āyukta); not severe [they should not be right alone but also should look right]; seekers of dharma. The way they conduct there. So you conduct there.

Now, in instances involving criticism or accusation.

Brahmins who are: competent to counsel; reasonable or mentally settled (or committed in yoga); voluntarily committed (āyukta); not severe [they should not be right alone but also should look right]; seekers of dharma. The way they conduct in them. So you conduct in them.

 

This is mandate [and not your choice]. This is counsel.

This is the secret doctrine (upanishad) of the Veda.

This is ruling. Thus it should be adhered.

Like this indeed it should be adhered. [4]

 

 

The Secret Doctrine of the Veda

Works bind; duties assigned by Sruti (Veda) deliver

This is the secret doctrine (upanishad) of the Veda referred to above. We enumerated the Nitya Karmas (solemn daily duties), but we need to discuss their significance.

Generally, we say karma is of two kinds: good and bad, or pious and profane. The world is the result of these two. We do good and bad karma and then per force take births in different life forms to experience their fruits/deserts. We thus remain stuck in the birth-death cycle. From countless past lives, each individual has as if a vast reservior or giant tree of good and bad deeds (and their impressions). According to the Yoga Sutras, at root of the tree or reservoir lies Avidya (ignorance of reality). As long as the root is there, the fruits unceasingly sue us in the form of births, life spans and experiences of pleasure and pain (bhoga). (Quarter II passim.) ... Then how to escape this birth-death cylce!

Here is the way:

The act (karma) of Yogi is neither pious nor profane, whereas of others’ is of three kinds (pious, profane and pious-profane mix). (IV.7 ibid.)

The acts of Yogi, Rishi or Brahma-knower fall ouside the category of good and bad. Though they look to be working like common people, they in reality are not. A simile given for them is that of lotus leaf in the water (untouched, unaffected and undecaying). Let us understand like this:

A sepoy in service of king killed someone with the sword. Spies of the king happened to witness that. They caught him red handed, but sepoy pleaded innocent. They were amused because that meant sword killed and not the sepoy. They took him to the king and reported to king his cruel act that had been witnessed by them. However, on finding the details of murder, king smiled and said, ‘Well done. You carried out my orders well.’ ... Now onus shifted dramatically. ...

Order, duty and mandate in the form of dharmas and nitya karmas prescribed by the Vedas, when faithfully carried out, without personal motive crossing one’s mind, escape the  classification of good and bad, enabling the escape from birth-death cyle. The Gita endorses this and refers to duties as assigned by the Vedas and concludes:

Yajña, gift and Tapas (austerity) are not to be given up. These are rather mandatory. These indeed purify mind of the wise. (xviii.5)

According to philosopher Shankara, nitya karmas are even antidote to past bad karma. ...The Gita upholds and celebrates their practice, howsoever small, because that incurs no loss of effort and setback and even saves from horrors of birth-death cycle (ii.40 ibid.).

The Vedic dharmas encompass human life so comprehensively that there is no room to seek or pursue on one’s own. You need not even pray for something in your own words. The Vedic hymns take care of all your needs. The Vedas totally constrict ego and personal will out of you ... in favour of total surrender or let-go. Manu calls Karma Yoga as Vedic in concept and in assigning duties.

If you suffer wavering or hesitation from compliance with Vedic instructions, you simply need to do at least Pranayama (and Yoga exercises) and recite Gayatri Mantra to change the chemistry of your mind.

Gayatri Mantra

ॐ भूर्भुवः॒ स्वः । 
तत्स॑वितुर्वरे॑ण्यं भ॒र्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि । 
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥

Om bhoor bhuvah svah

 

~ ~ Earth, Mid-Region and Heaven (Stellar) planes [three worlds]

~ ~ Agni, Vayu/Indra and Surya (Sun) [their respective chief gods]

~ ~ Fire, lightning/electricity and solar (atomic) lights

~ ~ Rik, Sama (sāma) and Yajus (mantras or Vedas), the whole knowledge

~ ~ Prāna, Apāna and Vyāna (diffused breath energising muscles, tissues and joints)

 

tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dheemahi;

dhiyo yo nah prachodayāt. (RV III.62.10)

 

We meditate god Savitri’s (Creator’s) lovely, bedazzling splendour

[That takes the speech form of the three Vedas and the physical form of three worlds

and is capable of scorching karma seeds from sprouting].