The Rig Veda

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They saw the One in the many and the many in the One. To them, the Absolute was not their sole monopoly. Lead me from the unreal to the Real. Lead me from darkness to Light. Unreality is untruth, and Reality is Truth. Satya is invoked by the pure heart. Rita is invoked by the brave vital. Love of Truth takes us from darkness.

Love of divine Order takes us from the human body to the divine life.

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Why do we appreciate the teachings of the Vedas? We appreciate the teachings of the Vedas because they inspire us to rise and go beyond the body-consciousness.

The Rig Veda inspires us to make the world great and perfect. The Sama Veda inspires us to become one with the divine Melody and cosmic Rhythm.

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May our life-breath thrive through self-sacrifice. It tells us that Brihaspati, Guru of the cosmic gods, is leading and guiding us. The Vedic seers saw fear in the outer world. They felt freedom in the inner world. They wanted to bring to the fore the freedom of the inner world through aspiration.

Fear of darkness is fear of the unknown. Fear of Light is fear of the known. Freedom for our home. Freedom for our life. The Vedic way of life cannot be separated from ritual. In Vedic times, rituals were an integral part of life. In performing rituals seekers in the Vedic era made remarkable progress. In the Rig Veda, however, we see more emphasis on mental and inner philosophy than on ritual.

This combination of ritual and philosophical wisdom is the wealth of the Vedic culture. Devotion and dedication loom large in ritual. Aspiration and meditation loom large in philosophical wisdom. In those days ritual disciplined and regulated life. Inner philosophy illumined and liberated life. In the heart of philosophy the Light was discovered. In the body of ritual the Light was manifested. The Vedas specifically speak of three worlds: Prithivi , the earth; Antariksha , the sky; Dyaus , the celestial region.

On earth, matter is all. In the sky, divine activity is lil. In Heaven, sentience is all. Poetry and philosophy run abreast in the Vedas. Philosophy illumined the minds of the Vedic seers. Poetry immortalised their hearts. The philosopher is a poet in the mind. The poet is a philosopher in the heart.

The philosopher likes outer religion and inner science. The poet likes outer art and inner literature. Many seers have seen the Truth, but when they reveal the Truth, quite often their revelations are not identical. What is really deplorable is that on different occasions, under different circumstances, their own revelations of the same Truth are found to be anything but identical. Here we must know that the differences exist only in the realisation and revelation of the Truth.

There can be no difference in the Truth itself. Why do the differences occur?

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  7. The differences occur because human individuality and personality do not see the Truth the way it has to be seen. When the human personality and individuality are dissolved, the Truth remains one in realisation and one in revelation. There are people who think that the Vedas deal only with spirituality, and not with science. They are mistaken. Advanced seekers and spiritual Masters are of the opinion that in the Yajur Veda there are many scientific truths which modern science has not yet discovered or acknowledged. The scientific knowledge of the Atharva Veda cannot be looked down upon either.

    The Vedic seers were aware of the process of cloud formation. They were fully aware of the different seasons. They knew the science of arithmetic, and worked with figures in the millions, billions and trillions. In the Yajur Veda there is something even more striking. There we see evidence of the existence of airplanes. The Vedic seers used to make actual non-stop flights for hundreds of miles. They also knew the secrets of geology, medicine and other sciences. All this, four thousand years ago! The Vedas have been translated into many languages and admired and appreciated by many foreigners.

    The great German philosopher Schopenhauer considered the Upanishads to be the consolation and illumination of his life. We know that the Upanishads are the most powerful and most illumining children of the Vedas. But there is much truth in the saying that a translation cannot do full justice to the original. In the case of the Vedas this is certainly true. Many people have translated the Vedas, but no matter how sincerely or devotedly they worked, a considerable amount of the Vedic beauty was lost. The Rig Veda deals mainly with the forms of prayer. The Yajur Veda deals with sacrificial formulas.

    The Sama Veda deals with music. The Atharva Veda deals with medicine, science and magic formulas. In the Rig Veda the message of human evolution begins. The Yajur Veda teaches us how to perform the sacrifices correctly, and how to control the universe. This Veda gives more importance to the mechanical side of sacrifices than to their spiritual aspect. The Sama Veda teaches us how divine music can elevate our aspiring consciousness into the highest realm of Bliss and make us conscious channels of God the Supreme Musician for the transformation of human darkness into divine Light, human imperfection into divine Perfection, human impossibilities into divine Inevitabilities and human dreams into divine Realities.

    The Atharva Veda teaches us how to control the spirits and lesser deities, and how to protect ourselves from evil spirits and destructive beings. The Rig Veda is the oldest of all the Vedas. Most students of the Vedas are of the opinion that the Rig Veda is the most inspiring, most soulful and most fruitful Veda. When it is a matter of choice between quality and quantity, the wise long for quality and the ignorant cry for quantity. The highest quality and the greatest quantity almost never go together. But to our great joy, the Rig Veda surpasses most strikingly the other three Vedas both in quantity and in quality.

    In the Rig Veda, the gods are seen as personifications of nature-power. These gods were supposed to have been thirty-three in number. Each god had his own origin; all of them did not come into being at the same time. It is said that at first they accepted human incarnation and were mortals, as we are now. But by drinking Soma , nectar, immortal they became. In the subtle physical plane, they are retaining the quintessence of their physical forms and earthly appearances. Some are warriors, while others are priests. Indra is the champion leader of the warriors, and Agni is the champion leader of the priests.

    Power they have. Power they are. Some have the power of Silence and Peace, while others have the power of Light and Delight. Ceaselessly they fought against the formidable forces of evil, and eventually they did win the victory. The Rig Vedic gods are kind and compassionate. With their boundless kindness and compassion, they fulfil the desires of the matter-loving world and the aspirations of the spirit-invoking life. They live in different homes: Heaven, air and earth. Heaven is the home of Vishnu, Varuna, Surya, Mitra and a few others.

    The atmospheric region is for Indra, Rudra, the Maruts and others. Agni and Brihaspati are well known among those who are considered to be terrestrial gods. In the Rig Veda we see the pure presence of devotion and the sure presence of knowledge. Devotion tells us how sweet and compassionate God is. Knowledge tells us how high and great God is. Devotion and knowledge find their complete satisfaction only in service.

    Service is concentration. Devotion is prayer. Knowledge is meditation. Only concentrated service, devoted prayer and illumined meditation can make us divinely great and supremely perfect. According to the Vedas, action is a most essential part of life. Action is the conscious acceptance of our earthly existence. Action needs the body, which is its temple and fortress. Action needs life, which is its inspiration and aspiration. A man of action is an ideal hero in the battlefield of life. Action is outer sacrifice and inner oneness. The Rig Veda offers us a supreme secret as to what kind of sacrifice we can make on the strength of our oneness.

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    In action we see the universal presence of God. In action we embody the spirit and reveal the form. In the spirit is God the Absolute. In the form is God the infinite. The Rig Veda speaks of God the Power:. O God, the existence rests on strength, valour and energy. O Mighty One, You are Strength itself. O cosmic gods, may we hear with our ears what is good and auspicious. They also feel that God is their Beloved. God has many aspects, but a devoted seer prefers the aspect of God as Lord.

    He prays to his Lord for compassion and benediction. The Rig Vedic seers are the teachers of mankind. The Rig Vedic gods are the saviours of mankind. The teachers are teaching the world the message of Light and Truth. The saviours are healing the unaspiring, blind and deaf world, and championing the genuine seekers. The Rig Vedic seers are the builders of Hindu culture and Hindu civilisation.

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    They represent the dawn of Hindu inspiration and the noon of Hindu aspiration. They offer to the world at large the ultimate meaning of religion. According to them, religion is the code of inner life. In each religion is the love-branch of the Truth-Tree. The Rig Vedic gods tell us to accept life with love, enjoy life with renunciation and fulfil life with surrender to the Will of the Absolute.

    The Vedas tell us that we are cattle of the gods. Unfortunately, we are now compelled to feel that we are slaves of the machine. Let us aspire. Our aspiration will once more make us cattle of the gods. Later, our realisation will make us lambs of the gods.

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    Finally, our manifestation will make us lions of the Absolute Supreme. With loving gratitude I offer this talk to my eldest brother, Hriday Ranjan Chose, who is a great lover ofthe Rig Vedic lore, and an erudite exponent of the four Vedas. The Vedas are the most ancient scriptures in the library of consciously evolving humanity. The Vedas embody intuitive visions, divine experiences and life-illumining Realities. From the ignorance-sea we have to enter into the Knowledge-Sea. Presentday human life is nothing but an endless despondency. To come out of the trap of despondency is almost impossible.

    The Vedas are universal; hence, the West can claim them as well as the East. The Vedas contain a sensible account of God. The Vedic commandment for the human physical is Shaucham. Shaucham means purity—purity in the body and purity of the body. The Vedic commandment for the human vital is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence—non-violence in the vital and non-violence of the vital. It is from non-violence that man gets his greatest opportunity to feel that he does not belong to a small family, but to the largest family of all: the universe.

    The Vedic commandment for the human mind is Satyam.

    The Rig Veda

    Satyam means truth or truthfulness. Truthfulness in the mind and truthfulness of the mind alone can lead us to a higher life, a life of illumining Divinity and fulfilling Immortality. The Vedic commandment for the human heart is Ishwarapranidhan. In the Vedas the concept of sacrifice looms very large. We sacrifice to God what we have: ignorance. God sacrifices to us what He is: Perfection. Our sacrifice at times is conditional and at times is unconditional. In conditional sacrifice we fight and win the battle. In unconditional sacrifice we do not have to fight at all, for the Victory is already won.

    Victory is our birthright; it is forever ours. Sacrifice is self-offering. Self-offering is self-fulfilment. Self-fulfilment is Love-manifestation and Truth-perfection. Through our outer sacrifice we become a divine part of Mother-Earth. Through our inner sacrifice we become an immortal part of Father-Heaven.

    We make the outer sacrifice when we come out of the domain of binding desires and enter into the domain of liberating aspiration. We make the inner sacrifice when we try to manifest God in the world of ignorance after having achieved God-realisation. The outer sacrifice demands the strength of a hero.

    The inner sacrifice demands the power of an army. With our outer sacrifice we see the Truth. With our inner sacrifice we become the Truth. Scholars as well as students disagree over the origin of the Vedas. I find this controversy foolish. The Vedas are as old as the conscious aspiration of the universe. But the universe is consciously or unconsciously evolving into Perfection, whereas the Vedas contain the beginning of inspiring Perfection and the end of illumining Realisation. When we say that the Vedas are eternal, we do not mean that the four scriptures have no beginning and no end.

    What we mean is that the real meaning of the Vedas, which is the Knowledge of God, has neither beginning nor end. The Vedas are the direct experiences and revelations of the Rishis of the hoary past. These experiences may be had by any sincere seeker of the Truth, at any time and in any place. Unlike other scriptures, the Vedas have the sincere and brave heart to say that they are not indispensable; nay, not even important. They say that what is really important and supremely indispensable is the realisation of Brahman, the One without a second. Nevertheless, if we want to study the Vedas, we have to study with the help of an illumined teacher.

    The Vedas themselves instruct the seeker to approach a teacher. They also say that the teacher has to be approached with a heart of humility and a life of dedicated service. Karma , which means work or service, and Jnana , or knowledge, are the principal teachings of the Vedas. Through Jnana we realise the absolute Truth, and through Karma we manifest our realisation. According to the Vedas there are four important stages in life: student-life, marriage-life, retirement-life and renunciation-life.

    Student-life is self-discipline. Marriage-life is self-control and self-regulation.

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    Retirement-life is peace and tranquility. Renunciation-life is the offering of what one has and what one is to the absolute Supreme. This Truth-existence is experienced and realised in different ways by each seeker of the infinite Truth according to his own inner development. Each path is right and indispensable for its own followers. In order to realise the highest Truth we need three things: Inspiration, aspiration and intuition. Inspiration asks us to run toward the Goal. Aspiration asks us to fly toward the Goal.

    Intuition asks us to see and feel the Truth directly, and to grow into the very essence of Truth. The word Sarama symbolises intuition. Sarama is the hound of Heaven who enters into the world of inconscience and discovers its concealed treasures: Light and Delight. Sarama is the dawn of Truth in a dedicated body, dynamic vital and aspiring heart.

    Hermann Kulke Emeritus Kiel University, Germany "It has always been a temptation to view ancient documents and social configurations through lenses provided by later texts and social mores. When the ancient document is a sacred text, like the Rig Veda, this propensity is magnified by theological imperatives. In the case of ancient India in particular, the historical view has been clouded by the fog of nationalist discourse. Prasad clear and comprehensive book on the political structures of the Rig-Vedic and Post Rig-Vedic times lifts that fog and presents with clarity the changing and vibrant landscape of ancient Indian society and political formations.

    This will be fruitful reading especially for those who want an accessible yet accurate and comprehensive introduction to ancient Indian society. An important study that enhances our understanding of early Indian polity. Prasad has made an excellent grid to show the relation of many Vedic tribes with particular places and periods by his laborious examination of various Vedic texts. A welcome addition to research in ancient state formation. Prasad concerned the research he conducted as a visiting scholar at the Stanford Center for International Development on the resolution of disputes in the telecommunications sector.

    At that time, I would never have guessed that his true scholarly passion, as revealed in his most recent manuscript, involved an era of much greater antiquity. His investigation of the changes in the Vedic polity that occurred during the many stages from the early Rig-Vedic to the post Rig-Vedic period BCE BCE displays a breadth of scholarship as astonishing as it is impressive. Hope, Stanford University. The book critically examines and assesses the literary evidence available through Vedic and allied literature portraying the nature of Vedic polity, the functionalities of its various institutions, and the various social and religious practices.

    It outlines in historical perspective the various stages involved in the development of Vedic polity and Vedic canon and how the two processes have gone along together. It contains extensive discussions on political system and institutions, religious and social practices as they obtained during the Rig-Vedic and post Rig-Vedic periods. It provides a fresh approach to the cult of sacrifice and fire rituals practiced by Vedic Aryans along with an in-depth analysis of the Vedic view of Nationalism, Sovereignty and State as discernible from Vedic texts.

    The book also features an extensive discussion on the institution of kingship, administrative machinery, role of various entities in the polity including the Purohita, the Sabha and the Samiti, position of women, Varna system and features of tribal kingdoms, such as the Kuru-Panchalas and Kosala-Videhas. Isolating political and social aspects from the essentially religious character of Vedic literature, an attempt has been made to show with due corroboration that the tribal polity was not deficient in political content contrary to the stance of some scholars to depict Vedic Aryans as apolitical and inward looking.

    The present book partakes both the current and previous scholarship on the subject but breaks a new path with its exclusive focus on the Rig-Vedic and Post Rig-Vedic polity, together with a balanced and objective assessment of their features. It brings all the relevant and connected issues on to one platform, and deals with them in a holistic manner. It explains how towards the end of the later Vedic period, the polity underwent a change in political, social and economic spheres which blossomed later during the period of Mauryas.

    Bibliography List of Tables List of Maps.