In Defence of the Veda — Part 2
Editorial Note: While speaking of a certain transition from the Vedic cycle into different forms and systems of knowledge and self-enquiry, I have purposely omitted any discussion on the Vedantic cycle in order to take it up in a separate series. Should the transition feel abrupt or too sudden, it was only due to the reason already stated above.
A supracosmic Reality, according to the vedic Rishis, is the foundation of all Life here on the earth and elsewhere. The world is a manifestation of Ritam, not Illusion. That is the fundamental basis, the tenor and the very foundation of all Vedic thought and symbolism. The Rishis themselves saw the world as an extension of a highest Truth; illusion was to them an eclipse covering the face of the Truth, not an essential experience of the their indwelling Spirit. It is not an essential experience of our lower nature either, but that is the problem of existence that the Veda had intended to solve and attempted by a collective labour, but much of their efforts were confined to the ascension into a higher Spirit than to its subsequent descent into the physical. It was not a parody of a greater Light in the physical that was aimed at, but the very body of the Truth itself, “the Sun in the womb of the earth”.
A Vedic Rishi, by definition, was a truth-seeker. He had no use of abstraction for himself or for the purposes of his communications through marked symbols and meaningful rituals, which often point heavenward towards the luminous godheads, their psychological functions and their arrival in the midst of his seeking. An invocation of his gods by means of Yoga and their spiritual or occult reign upon life and existence was his method, and not by vain self-hankering of the ego to possess for itself the glory and the kingdom of the higher deities.
A Vedic ritual is a procedure of the Gods, entrusted to the chosen, firstly to weave around the world a perfect material system of divine Knowledge and secondly, to bring into the very fabric of external life a complex structure of the Spirit to weave into it — and not just around — the very sense of the Spirit and the Divine. Each procedure there is a marker, a signpost, a quintessential symbol necessary to create a map of a greater spiritual experience, and not without due regard to its necessary secrecy.
The western mind, enamoured of the confusing symbols and lengthy rituals, seeks by intellectual apathy and moral disregard the denial of all Vedic thought and symbolism as mere dreams of a set of impractical ruffians! It seeks to master the Veda by creating an edifice of mental intelligence and inscribing on it own inferences and illogical rambling.
The secrecy of the Symbol was paramount to the tradition of Vedic philosophy, without which the evolving or the self-establishing Truth might not have survived the natural resistance of human intelligence or the selfish nature of man to exploit that Truth for its own ulterior purpose in the course of time. It was a problem which was foreseen by the Seers, and therefore, every precaution was taken to protect the secret Knowledge from falling into the wrong hands.
The etymology of the Veda is Sruthi but the western mind unable to fathom the esoteric often takes the wordplay as the final truth of the scripture. To hear through the soul and inner silence the word of the Spirit and to put it into a figure of speech or a symbol the human mind can hardly understand — and the sense, significance and power of the word can only be invoked by an inner ritual or Yagna — are the objectives to which the untrained mind has no access. A ritual performed without invoking within oneself the secret sense and method of the ritual itself is bound to be a mere exercise in futility, a barren pursuit of the habitual mind forever rotating in its fixed grooves.
A seminal half-knowledge arising out of a well-reasoned approach to the ritual, largely by pursuit of logic and historical inference rather than reference, may serve the half-enlightened minds to satiate their intellectual urge, but the secret of the Veda cannot be known by the external methods of knowledge, neither it is possible to profit from such scholarly pursuits. Indology lays stress on the structure and syntax of the verses and attempts to read into them a sense of meaning and interpretation not original in substance or thinking but intellectually manufactured by the necessities of external enquiry; one can see there an implied distortion of the original sense, and as a result, a mass of intellectual distortions painted with a dab of half-mythical colours on a mental canvas, instead of the esoteric sense captured in its native light and inner symbolism.
Indology is more of a sham than a method, an ostracised sense dealing with the language of the Veda without due regard to the native methods and mystic traditions of the Vedic period, and it arrives at nothing more than a meagre derivation of a crude sense of the ritualistic practises.
Ritualistic symbolism of the Veda gave way for more easy or less complex forms and systems, in which an essential approach to God or some higher Truth was based largely on the realisation of a Guru, a standing symbol of perfection, a god-knower in his own right, a representative symbol of a higher knowledge. But it was rather the survival of the system than the symbol of the Guru which was given credence or due importance in the descending ages subsequent to the age of reason and intellectual knowledge, when the much of the West was still in its infancy of growth as a civilisation, save alone Greece or the Roman empire, but already established a robust scientific temper and rigour of mental knowledge more suited to the sense of the visible and cognisable and the apparent phenomena of existence.
It must be noted that even an assiduous study of the secret tradition of the Veda by the Eastern scholars had yielded no desired result or precise formula as to its structure of language, its flowing rhythm and diction, its esoteric sense and symbolism, its truth-idea in the language of divine Sruthi. The attempts by the later Indian philosophers digressed into different systems of self-enquiry and spiritual knowledge and tumbled slowly into rigid doctrines, each insisting its own supremacy over the others, while also admitting a certain inclusion of other approaches without a rigid barrier of spiritual ownership. There was, as a result, a proliferation of faiths and systems of knowledge, each insisting on or moving towards a certain higher spiritual experience with a certain emphasis on form and method unique to its approach, while appending the rest in a larger spirit of equality and acceptance.
But much of the sense of the Sruthi was lost by then; there was barely any sense of the Vedic philosophy left or traces of it found in them. Even the timeless idea of Advaita had to suffer the effects of a rigid monotheistic insistence on an impersonal, featureless Brahman as the sole Reality, while terming the whole creation as unreal and therefore, spiritually untenable. There was never in the Vedic tradition, even in small reference or by inadvertence, any statement amounting directly or indirectly to affirm that the creation was unreal or the terrestrial existence a lie.
The true sense of the Veda can come only by an inner realisation of the occult and the symbolic, by trudging into the sense of its secret word by inner Yagna or sacrifice of the gods. The sense of the Veda is integral, not exclusive. It does not move by a fragile consolidation of the contraries or by a mere patchwork, but largely by insisting on a spiritual oneness of the world with a greater Truth; it seeks to build in this world a vast mansion for the Spirit. It was a spiritual marriage of contraries which was aimed at, a divine harmonisation of the numberless threads of existence into a plenary whole of the Spirit and the Divine.
The Vedic Rishis had come more close to the realisation of this possibility than what had been attempted in the later traditions, which was not much, and it is only in the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo that this realisation of the world as an infinite expression of the Supracosmic Divine has been made possible and supremely realisable.
We shall discuss in the concluding part of the essay the sense and symbol of the Vedic period from a utilitarian viewpoint and what we can derive out of them for the present age, stepped in self-ignorance and governed by laws, not of the Spirit, but a falsehood masquerading as a dominant impulse of existence.
End of part two.