Rig Veda: The Heart of the Rishis
In my search for the real meaning of the Rig Veda, I feel I have at last come upon a scholar and artist, S.K. Ramachandra Rao (1927-2006), who possessed a deeper consciousness and has opened what I feel to be truest evaluation of the hymns and how we may approach them. I have several of the books in this series, but within Rigveda-Darshana, Volume Thirteen, The First Hymn to Agni [see below], he has articulated everything I had come to feel after reading many of the other of the available texts on the Rig Veda [see list]. Therefore I will here paraphrase what Professor S.K. Ramachandra Rao has to say, and include my own thoughts and comments.
Over the years I have come to feel that because Indian writers are born into it, they have an easier grasp of these subtle ideas. Thus I have preferred to read Indian authors — thanks to the Exotic India website which ships many books worldwide not available elsewhere. I offer my research on the Rig Veda not as a scholar or as an authority, but only as a sincere seeker of truth who hopes to share her heartfelt efforts.
My synthesis of what Professor S.K. Ramachandra Rao reveals is that the poet Seers who composed the Rig Veda never meant their verses to be read, translated or interpreted in a linear or scholarly way. The Rig Veda has multiple layers of meanings which will only be revealed to those who have earned higher consciousness and who have allowed the Oneness within to expand to a greater Fullness, which is the literal meaning of the Sanskrit word brahman. The Rig Veda is meant for those who have offered themselves on the crucible of the path Home, who have purified the mind and endured a thousand thorns in the Heart.
I remain sincerely grateful to all those scholars east & west whose research I have read, whose heroic efforts to translate have made invaluable contributions to my understanding. However the Rig Veda is not a puzzle for clever, albeit brilliant university professors who may be seeking a means to win accolades and tenure. The Rig Veda will only be fully understood by the true seeker. In ancient times adepts would have been the true scholars, the guardians of eternal wisdom knowledge.
I have concluded that perhaps there never will be an accurate translation of the Rig Veda in this cycle of time, the Kali Yuga. Who in our frantic disconnected era possesses the consciousness of Dirghatamas, Vishvamitra, Angiras, Vashistha, and other Rishis? However for those who dive deeply into their verses, there is an endlessly expanding treasure of knowledge and wisdom that has the power to change and lift up the now fragmented human consciousness back into our original state. It may be that these verses serve as mirrors of the One and each will find their own meaning in these gems of early Vedic Sanskrit. The Satya Yuga and Liberation from Samsara (Moksha) awaits those who have the dedicated Will to persevere the unfathomable mysteries nested hidden in the Rig Veda.
In the general introduction, Professor S.K. Ramachandra Rao [known as S.K.R] asserts that from ancient days through modern times all the efforts to lift the veil of mystery from the word Veda only “served to thicken the mist.” As many other scholars have agreed, there is no agreement. The English translations I have been able to acquire are all remarkably, astonishingly, and sometimes quite humorously different.
S.K.R. says that Indian tradition considers Veda to be “unoriginated” and therefore eternal. Veda is “not the product of human reason or intelligence.” The idea here is that beneath all temporal ephemeral ‘appearances’ there exists one primordial foundational metaphysical truth and this can be approached through Veda. As S.K.R. says, “…the Veda is always there, has always been there, and always will be there, because it was not produced at any point in time or anywhere specifically.”
According to S.K.R. the word Veda can mean to know and to understand, to be or become, to obtain or achieve, to inquire into or investigate. The Veda teaches a technique that is beyond “the transactional world” and that this technique is beyond differentiated five-sense perception contradicting observation or sensory apprehension and reasoning. It is verbal testimony that succeeds “where either observation or reasoning cannot provide correct knowledge.”
Not a language in the usual sense of the term...
Veda is eternal “in the sense that its origin is coeval with creation, and that it will last as long as creation lasts.” The Sanskrit language of the Rig Veda is not the Sanskrit language of other later texts. Even in the era of the grammarian Panini, who lived perhaps some time in the 6th century BCE, Panini himself pointed out that the early Vedic language is quite different from the Sanskrit that followed. According to S.K.R., Panini makes the point that the language of the Rig Veda was “in fact not a language in the usual sense of the term. It was not designed for communication or transaction.”
The Sanskrit word CHHANDAS expresses Vedic usage. S.K.R.:
“Chhandas has a double meaning: it means something that causes delight and what is concealed or hidden. Words used are delightful, but they hide real intention. The latter is frequently referred to in the Rig Veda as ‘secret’. The language of the Veda is highly symbolic. Words do not mean what they mean in common transaction. The hidden meaning becomes evident or known only after reflection, after spiritual practice or tapas, and after one becomes himself the truth behind the meaning. Hence it is called Veda.”
The above quoted paragraph by S.K.R. eloquently expresses why the Rig Veda continues to bewilder university scholars who have not Become, who have yet to reach the consciousness of the great ancient Rishis. Their scholarly translations, no matter how erudite and grammatically perfect, are mired in linear thinking that serves to obfuscate and obscure the deeper inner meaning. Perhaps the Rishis knew and foresaw our pitiable future in the Kali Yuga, floundering in miasmas of amnesia.
S.K.R. explains the more profound implications of the tradition that the Rig Veda verses are not man made, but rather revealed by God. The Sanskrit word used to describe this is APAURUSHEYA, meaning impersonal, not human or divine, not Purusha, thus not composed by anyone, human or divine: ‘The Vedas are said to be impersonal as they were revealed to sages (Rishis) and not composed by them. They are held eternal and authorless.’ [A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy, by John Grimes, Indica.]
Some schools consider the Veda as the breath of God, while others hold it as the revealed word of God, made by God. More often these sacred verses are understood to have eternally been ‘there’ and only perceived by the Rishis. S.K.R.: “Their [the Rishis] especial eligibility for this remarkable prowess comes from austerity and penance (tapas), which render them more than merely human (apaurusheya). They are able to reveal to others what has been revealed to themselves.”
The verses in the Rig Veda are also termed hymns or mantras. A mantra is ‘a sacred word or phrase of spiritual significance and power and comes from the verb-root MAN = to think; thus a mantra is that which saves the one who reflects’ [John Grimes]. One sage-seer speaks of the mantras being ‘chiselled’ in the heart. A modern version of this process has been elucidated in the very famous and well worth reading book ‘The White Goddess’ by Robert Graves.
S.K.R. enumerates three classes: (1) those who carve out (chisel) the mantras within themselves; (2) those who articulate them and thus communicate them to others; and (3) those who understand their right meaning, importance, and “significance of the true spirit underlying the creation and articulation of the mantras.”
The mantras, the verses of the hymns are formed in the hearts of the sages and “such formation is totally free from the limitations of the human mind.” There is a Sanskrit term for this process which means that the mantras “appeared in the human heart on their own, as if by divine impulsion. They are expressions of truth (ritasya). The sages only saw them in their own hearts.”
The Heart in Sanskrit is HRIDAYA and it is not the physical heart, but rather the core essence of that Oneness dwelling within all living beings and is simultaneously ubiquitous. The symbol of the Heart is a cave, or in Sanskrit GUHA. In an excellent and wonderful study of the Rishi Dirghatamas by Professor Satya Prakash Singh, the idea of the Rig Veda mantras forming in the Heart of the Rishis is revealed.
Professor Singh quotes the Katha Upanishad and the Chhandogya Upanishad as both texts speak of the cave in the heart, which is a tiny space ‘the most secret and sacred place in the whole of existence.’ The Katha Upanishad [II.1.1] gives an account of ‘a cave in the higher half of the highest region where the liberated soul is said to remain drinking RITA (a word of multi-layered meanings such as Truth, right, luminous) in the company of the Supreme Being.’ The Chhandogya Upanishad [VII.1.1-4] talks of the Heart as containing the Sun & Moon, the Heavens & Earth. In other words, the Oneness, the entirety of creation and all eternal Wisdom Knowledge can be reached within our Heart.
The sage Dirghatamas in his Rig Veda hymn I.164.39 observes that the mantras ‘lie originally in the immortal and highest heaven in which rest all gods, that he who does not know the source of the mantras, can gain nothing from them and that those who know this truth, rest there.’
Dirghatamas’ hymn I.164, known as the ASYA VAMIYA SUKTAM, is said to contain great hidden knowledge and is very difficult to translate. Only the enlightened may understand. In verse 45 the sage offers this very profound understanding: The Sanskrit words used in the Rig Veda have four levels of meaning. Only the first level of meaning is accessible to most, the other three levels of the word (VAK) are ‘hidden in the cave’.
Professor Singh: “Obviously, the mantra directs our attention to the essence of the word beyond its spoken form, the latter being only its exterior. In fact, the root of a word goes as deep as the human awareness of the reality. Man’s linguistic capability runs parallel to his awareness… Beyond the vocal form, observes Dirghatamas, there are three grades of it which only deep thinkers can understand. …If the roots of a tree lie underground, the hidden phases of the word (VAK) rest in the cave…" [in the Heart].
Thus again we understand why mere scholarship is not enough, and can never be enough to understand, much less translate into English the Rig Veda. Another insightful comment from Professor Singh is that the Heart is the "seat of the psyche…the source of spiritual visions." Here VAK as the word is understood as that which is also "observing, or self-luminous…VAK here is not spoken but seen, and not only what is seen but the seeing as well. Obviously VAK at this stage is not only pre-vocal, but also pre-ideational…the self-luminous vision of Reality itself."
Descriptions begin to fail us as we move closer and deeper into the meaning of the Rig Veda mantras. However, there is a great joy in the journey and the sublime proximity of these energies which seeping flowing merging into us reveal something higher, something that changes us, elevates us into the eternal Lost Realms of the ancient Rishis and the previous Cycles of Time. I invite you to come along on this journey of Self-discovery, to find your own meanings in the mystery of the Rig Veda. Let us awaken with the Rishis and merge our consciousness with theirs, for they live inside each and every one of us.
Remember that the Rig Veda is the first of Sanskrit texts and the source of all that followed.
The Rig Veda is subtle, an elusive enigma, the unending mystery. The Rig Veda is the Howling Luminescence [X.125.1], nuclear plasma spanda prakasha within the layers of Life and Beyond, pearls of gold strung in the Hearts of the Seers, echoes of the Cosmic Fire eternally pulsating through galaxies, the Myriad Worlds. God's Love.
Rigveda-Darshana, Volume Thirteen, The First Hymn to Agni, by S.K. Ramachandra Rao; Kalpatharu Research Academy, Shanarapuram, Bangalore, 2004.
Life and Vision of Vedic Seers, 2, DIRGHATAMAS, by Professor Satya Prakash Singh, Senior Fellow and In-charge, Vedic research Center, New Delhi; Standard Publishers, New Delhi, 2006.
Both these books are available at Exotic India.com
My sincere humble gratitude to S.K.R.
S.K. Ramachandra Rao with his wife from the website www.profskr.com/
The Kashmir Shaivite Swami Lakshmanjoo:
"In the beginning of the Kali Yuga...the secret of Shaivism was residing in their heart. ...they would explain it without writing it, they didn't write the theory of Shaivism at all. It was in their brain. They would explain it...! And it would penetrate those to whom it was explained. And they were the same, meaning they became the same..."
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