"The Rig Veda projects before us the Truth of the Supreme Void." - S.K. Ramachandra Rao
Over the past few years I have read many books on the Rig Veda, [see updated list]. It may be that I needed to read extensively so that I could appreciate the writings of S.K. Ramachandra Rao [1927-2006], who speaks clearly into my Heart, intuitively, his words resonating with what I feel to be true. S.K.R. as he was called, was [from the Rigveda-Darshana book jacket] “a well-known scholar who combines traditional learning with modern research. Well versed in Sanskrit, Pali, Ardhamagadhi and several modern Indian languages, and acquainted with Tibetan and some European languages, he has written extensively on Vedanta, Buddhism, Jainism, Indian Culture, Art and Literature.”
In his ‘Rigveda-Darshana, Vol. Thirteen, The First Hymn to Agni’ S.K.R. writes that in the first cycle of time, the Satya or Krita Yuga, the Veda was only one undivided spontaneous and “totally bereft of human intervention. Mortal intelligence and reasoning had no role to play.” The tradition of Hinduism is that the Veda is eternal and exists in the aether.
In 2006 while intensely studying the Bhagavad Gita and before I began to teach myself Sanskrit, I had a vision of flaming golden burning lightning-like letters in the aether. I knew this vision represented the existence of the eternal Truth, but the letters themselves were more akin to the language that preceded Sanskrit, the ancient Brahmi script rather than Sanskrit. So I have wondered if the knowledge and revelations revealed in the Rig Veda were originally conceived in Sanskrit at all, or if in its state of origin there is even a need for words as letters. Perhaps pictograms or logographic symbols are sufficient, and the verses in the Rig Veda emerged from a highly compacted and layered form of language familiar to the Rishis who composed them in the early Vedic Sanskrit, which is said to be very different from the classical Sanskrit that followed.
S.K.R.: In the Satya or Krita Yuga, the one being ‘many’ is always implied and thus there is no need or requirement to spell out the many, which were “merged all in one, without interruption or discrimination.” We knew.
S.K.R.: The Rishis who ‘saw’ the mantras had purified their being through austerities known in Sanskrit as TAPAS, which means heat. The Veda will not reveal itself to one who has not “engaged in austerities. Tapas purifies, thereby making everything lucid, evident and meaningful. It projects before us the truth of the supreme void.” Tapas comes from the Sanskrit verb-root ‘tap’ to burn — heat in the sense of a fervour of focused concentrated intensity that elevates our consciousness and allows us to perceive what is Real. Tapas “transforms a person into an extraordinary being.”
The divine intrusion of Grace is also involved and for some wisdom insight may be revealed even to those who have not studied, but who through Grace also perceive. Grace happens along the way as we seek, so shall we find. The sweet mystery of God revealing Itself to us on our way Home is one of the greatest sources of Joy known to all human beings. That moment when we just know, when at long last we understand deeply profoundly what alluded us for so long a time and cannot be put into words. The Greeks used the term 'epiphany' to describe insight through the divine. For those who seek to Return to the One, this Grace is the elixir that quenches our thirst for wisdom as nothing else will. Grace is a sign of acknowledgment from the Heart, the God-within that we are moving ever closer to our goal.
I have come to believe that to truly deeply understand and absorb the Rig Veda, we must elevate our consciousness ever closer to the frequency of the Rishis who ‘saw’ the mantras. Perhaps with time the few sincere ones can merge with the sublime energies of the Rishis, these wonderful beings who in the treasure of the Rig Veda left for us the memory of who we really are. Surely Dirghatamas, Vishvamitra and others are residing, waiting in the beyond as holographic energies for the courageous ones who will inundate their consciousness with the wisdom knowledge of ancient days.
Just as it was revealed in the Hearts of the Rishis, so is the Wisdom-Knowledge of the creation, support, and destruction of the universe ever residing, written in the Heart of every man, woman and child. We may Become the One as they did. Truly there are many ways Home, but for a few the way may be through the Rig Veda. This is why I feel that the verses in the Rig Veda are far more than bedside inspirational reading. These praise hymns mantras are to be deeply studied with an intense dedication. The rewards are unknown — a mystery for those with courage, perseverance and Will.
S.K.R. often reminds the reader that all the deities in the Vedas are the “many expressions of the great might of the One.” When the Rishis envisioned the mantras, these energies that symbolize various aspects of the Oneness appeared in their Heart. The Heart of the Sage-Seer is indeed the location and Source for all Wisdom-Knowledge, as the Heart is also our Source, holding the Key that opens the Door to universal Truth, which is our God-given right as expressions of the One.
The word for the ‘gods’ in Sanskrit is DEVA, and according to S.K.R. its root meanings are many: luminosity, enlightenment and residence within the heavenly realms. The devas are therefore the lights within the Sage-Seer that illumine Truth. This experience of ‘seeing’ inner light, or even dancing colours as lights, perhaps fountains or the lotus flowering, happens to many who meditate. However such experiences may not be understood and made useful without guidance, just as in the west Kundalini experiences often are seen as an end in themselves and not used to move deeper into more subtle states of consciousness.
In his discussion of the use of the mantras in ritual, S.K.R. makes a point that has often occurred to me. The Rishis, Seer-Sages were already enlightened and would not have needed rituals. He states, “If rituals are what the Veda is supposed to teach, then the Veda is not worth its while. The Veda is sacred, holy and ultimate because it can become the effective means of the ultimate object of human existence, viz. MOKSHA [liberation].”
The mystic, spiritual leader, political activist and poet Sri Aurobindo sheds light on ritualism in his ‘Secret of the Veda’ in pointing out the many erroneous conceptions that have been held about the Rig Veda: “These errors arise inevitably as part of the total misunderstanding of Vedic thought for which the old Brahmanic ritualism is responsible and to which European scholarship by the exaggeration of a minor and external element in the Vedic mythology has only given a new and yet more misleading form.”
The Sanskrit words in the Rig Veda are not used in any conventional sense, but rather are meant to rouse an inquiry into their “possible but hidden meaning.” The verses in the Rig Veda were composed by brilliant poets, Seer-Sages, visionaries possessing mastery over many fields, both wisdom and cosmology. In the west when we study the great poets such as William Blake, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Coleridge, T.S. Elliot, etc., we do not expect or even want to understand the poem fully on first reading. The great poems are full of subtle nuances, hidden meanings, references to history, myth, and art. Therefore we learn from them over time, and as we grow older our understanding of these poems often changes and we feel them in new ways relative to our life experiences.
As S.K.R. says, and in complete agreement with many other Indian scholars, “It is impossible owning to more reasons than one to give an adequate or valid English translation for the Vedic passages. The words in [the older] Vedic Sanskrit do not have their perfect correspondences even in classical [later] Sanskrit, much less in a language that is distantly removed from Indian culture.”
My feeling is that we may approach the praise hymns in the Rig Veda in the spirit of deep reverence and wait for them to reveal their meaning. The journey to wisdom is never easy, and often fraught with perils and wrong-turns. Somerset Maugham’s novel ‘The Razor’s Edge’ depicts the inspiring journey of a young man seeking wisdom to the high Himalayas and many have followed the same path. The journey into the meaning of the Rig Veda will not be easy or without difficulty — but I assure you it is worth every effort on our part.
The verses hold a vibration of the higher dimensions, the frequency of Truth [Rta in Sanskrit], the Real and Right — and all that is so terribly lacking in our chaotic disintegrating modern world. Diving into the Rig Veda is like immersing your being in a pool of clear fresh water. The words contain a spring of cleansing consciousness, sparks of light sprinkling breathing their awakening powers into our encoded memory. For we are the One and the words of the ancient Rishis have graciously remained in the old Sanskrit to remind us, to Remember who we are and always will be.
Thank you, Professor S.K. Ramachandra Rao. I touch your feet in sincere respect and gratitude. You have generously opened the way for me to understand.
Rigveda-Darshana, Volume Thirteen, The First Hymn to Agni, by S.K. Ramachandra Rao; Kalpatharu Research Academy, Shanarapuram, Bangalore, 2004.
[available at Exotic India & Amazon]
SECRET OF THE VEDA, (written 1914-20) by Sri Aurobindo; Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, 1995.
The official website of the Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao Memorial Trust
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