A commentary on the First Six Suktas Of Rigveda
Nolini Kanta Gupta
The first Sukta
Cosmic creation is a great and sublime sacrifice. Sarvagatam Bramha..(The all-pervading Brahman is established in the sacrifice), says the Gita. Each and every object offers itself into this sacrificial fire. Why? Sacrifice indicates movement, that is to say, an ever-proceeding course towards the greater and still greater fulfillment of evolution. Sacrifice is being performed; creation has become dynamic and presses forward with the self-sacrifice of the objects inherent in it. By self-sacrifice one creates another form and gets in it one's larger self. The plant has evolved from Matter; the animal after the plant; man from the animal, and God wants now to manifest Himself through man by virtue of this process of self-sacrifice. Sacrificing itself, the cloud comes down as rain. Parents sacrifice flesh and blood to give birth to their offspring. All these are but different forms of this sublime sacrifice. We may quote the Gita again: sahayajnah prajah... (With sacrifice the Lord of creatures of old created creatures and said: By this shall you bring forth (fruits or offspring), let this be your milker of desires.)
It is the gods who are the primal powers holding and controlling this sacrifice and the cosmic creation. By his self-offering man fulfils the nature of the gods.
What is externally the sacrifice of physical elements represents a Yoga of union in the inner-consciousness. The discipline of human life is also a sacrifice. What is the aim of such a sacrifice? Evolution, ascension, from the little to the vast, from suffering, weakness and ignorance to delight, strength and knowledge. How is it possible? By the same self-sacrifice, self-offering dedication and prostration. The lower levels and the lower dharmas in us have to be quietened and surrendered to the higher and higher levels and dharmas. The Katha Upanishade declares:
"Let the wise man restrain speech in his mind and mind in Self, and knowledge in the Great-Self, and that again let him restrain in the Self that is at peace." (Translated by Sri Aurobindo)
The Gita too says:
"And others offer all the actions of the sense and all the actions of the vital force into the fire of Yoga of self-control kindled by knowledge."
The innermost and the uppermost "commune" of the divine energies is known as the gods. The aspirants will offer heart and soul and carry their prostration to the "Commune" of the gods. Then alone will the gods descend in human with all their divine plenitude. The truth-seeker gives birth to the gods in his being. Likewise the gods draw him towards them. With regard to the mystery of this sacrifice Lord Sri Krishna proclaims:
"Foster by this the gods and let the gods foster you; fostering each other, you shall attain to the supreme good."
This mutual exchange of sacrifice between man and the divine forces leading to progression, to evolution of life, is guarded by Fire, the light and heat that signify the power born of spiritual discipline. It is this energy that enables the practicant to go forward on his way of sacrifice. The aspirant offers as an oblation every limb of his being into this energy of spiritual practice which in its turn carries the self-offering of the aspirant to his divinity, and continues to work for its establishment; that is why Fire is the offerer. Fire is also called the carrier, for he brings down the divine powers into the aspirant and carries him up into their region. This work Fire has undertaken to perform without the least violation of the rhythm of Truth day after day through the evolutionary process. Hence he is called the priest. The priest is he who knows the proper time for the performance of the seasonal sacrifices. The energy born of spiritual practice too has the spontaneous tendency to determine the spiritual course of the practicant. The Fire of spiritual discipline burns up all the dross contained in the receptacle of the aspirant making him more capable and bringing down into him the divine power, knowledge and bliss - complete success. The power of Fire is no other than the dynamis of the Divine vision, the activity born of direct realization (kavi-kratu); therefore Fire is called the protecting power of Truth (gopam rtasya). That which is the foundation of truth, the Right, the Vast, the fourth world, is indeed svarloka, the own home (sva dama) of Agni and all the other gods. It is here that the gods reign supreme in their own real form, in their true nature. But, then, every god has his assigned field of activity here on earth through some suitable subtle embodiment. The seat of Fire, his field of action, is the earth, the gross sheath. The Energy of spiritual discipline first possesses the practicant in his body, the body-consciousness; and gradually with the help of the other gods this Fire-god leads him to the vital region and then to the sphere of the mind, thence to the supermind, the fourth heaven. Each god represents the divine embodiment of the special virtue of a particular region or level. But Fire is the foremost God, and the aspirant who wants to have an access to the secrets of spiritual practice and is eager to progress must become a worshipper of Fire (angiras).
This sukta (the word literally means "well spoken", the faultless speech, the infallible words of the seasoned seer of Truth) can be divided into three parts each containing three riks in accordance with the special differences in the current of thoughts. The first three riks deal with the theme. Who is Fire, what are his particulars, name and form? The second three deal with the subject: What is Fire, what his virtues, nature and innate tendencies? The third group describes the relationship between Fire and the aspirant in the matter of spiritual practice, the holy sacrifice. The mantras are composed in the meter called Gayatri, which too has three feet. Thus every rik too has three metrical divisions.
The Second Sukta
The upward spirit, the conscious energizing power, the aspiration-fire that resides at the root of all spiritual disciplines as their fount and prima inspiration has been invoked in the first sukta. The present sukta throws light upon the different steps and rungs of that upward spiritual discipline.
The Vedic spiritual discipline aims at Truth, the Right and the Vast. The ordinary life consists of body, life and mind. The trivial work, the insignificant inspiration and enjoyment of life, the limited knowledge of the mind - man is aware of nothing beyond. But there is something above the body, life and mind. When one reaches that higher plane, one becomes full of truth-consciousness, that is to say, one owns the nature and the law of conduct of the Gods. Body, life and mind stand in the way of the aspirant to the realm of the Gods. However, for that we are not to deny the existence of or do away with body, life and mind. What is actually needed is the purification and transformation of these three instruments. There are three stages of purification and transformation; accordingly the present sukta has been divided into three parts each containing three riks.
The first three riks deal with the purification and transformation of life-energy. Vayu is the presiding Deity of life-energy. Vayuh pranah (Vayu is life), says the Mundaka Upanishad. In the Rigveda too there is a clear indication of it. It says, pranat vayurajayata (Vayu came into existence from the Supreme as Life). This Vayu or life-energy is the raison d'etre of all the activities of the ordinary human life. Life abounds with desires and enjoyments of earthly objects. The ordinary life is blind and ignorant. It hankers after the satisfaction of desires. It gets satisfaction even in fleeting pleasures. But what an aspirant needs in life is to taste the pure and unalloyed nectar which is the perpetual divine delight inherent in each object.
The Somarasa is the transcendental Delight, and this Delight is nothing other than Immortality. It is also an immensely conscious and luminous exhilaration of the divine existence of the Gods. Truth must be revealed with the rhythm and words of direct knowledge, and the delight of the realized truth must be made manifest in life. Those who have done it are called "Aharvida": It means they have now the light of the day. No more do they crave for trivial enjoyments. All the parts of their being are vibrant, conscious and filled with the immortal delight.
Luminous delight in profusion must be established in life. And for that the mind must first be purified and made perfect. Indra is the presiding Deity of pure and perfect mind. Indra gives pure intelligence and with that pure intelligence the aspirant establishes a pure enjoyment of the quintessence of truth, rich delight and fulfillment in life. Therefore in the second three riks Indra and Vayu are invoked together.
The last three riks deal with the full realization and the goal of the aspirant. When life is purified, when mind is purified, the aspirant will be established in that vast and luminous Heaven. Varuna is the presiding Deity of vastness. The harmony and the union that came into existence from the infinite expanse of Varuna are the gifts of Mitra. Lord Varuna removes the limitation, isolation and disunion of our ordinary knowledge. He tears away the hostile force that compels us to remain narrow and small. Hence he is called Risadasam. And Mitra is our divine Guide. With his clear vision he unites all the objects together in perfect harmony. When an aspirant attains to the level of indivisible harmony in the infinite, in the limitless, he arrives at the fundamental Truth and his action then becomes the infallible manifestation of that Truth. Indra possesses pure intelligence. Behind him stand the two powers of the Infinite, Varuna and Mitra. It is they who have made intelligence full of Knowledge and Energy. They are also called poets, i.e., the seers of Truth. It is because of their infinite expanse, eternal rhythm, and inborn power of truth that the aspirant is able to draw the stupendous inspiration of energizing power and an unobstructed pure genuine capacity to carry on all his activities in life.
The Third Sukta
Life needs pure, calm and effectuating delight. It is through delight that knowledge, work and truth are revealed. The more the inspiration of life-energy becomes divinely blissful and lasting, the more the aspirant is endowed with the pure intelligence, divine power and fulfillment, and at last he manifests in the waking consciousness the streams of the Vast, of direct sight and creation beyond mind and intelligence.
In the present sukta there are four groups of three riks each, graded according to the spiritual progression.
The first group begins with the invocation of the twin Riders. Who are these Riders? according to the narration of the Puranas, the Aswinikumaras are generally known as the twin heavenly physicians. It means, they drive away disease, decay and incapacity from the being and make the life-energy pure, sound and indomitable. In other words, they are the gods of immortality. Their work is to found immortality and an eternal youth of divinity in life. Pranavayu, which is the conveyance of the divine power, has been symbolically expressed as the horses. It may be asked why they have the twin forms. Perhaps it is because the one gives knowledge, the other the energy for work. Both are the presiding deities of immortality and both of them embody the most benevolent delight. Hence they are called Subhaspati. Also they are called Purubhuja, for they bring into life the divine enjoyment in profusion. However, the one gives much importance to the energy of work, the other to the powerful pure intelligence. Whatever may be the difference in their outlook, they are the twin faces of one and the same God. The two horsemen open the fount of that very divine exhilaration in life by which there awakes and ascends an upward flame in the being of the aspirant. As the aspirant has been the possessor of an intense diversified delight, he is now able to proceed farther and farther, higher and higher by sacrificing his lower aspiration to the higher one. It is an immortalized life-energy that makes all the realization effective, real and beautiful. It infuses spirit and power into the intelligence. The aspirant is endowed with an occult power of hearing and is initiated with the power of mantras which expresses and manifests the Truth. That is why the twin gods are called Nasatya (the Guides on the path). They are the leaders in our spiritual adventure. They lead us speedily through the different levers of consciousness to the vast ocean of the higher truth.
The second group of riks: The spiritual delight and the immortal power of life will found themselves in a calm, pure and firmly rooted basis of the entire being. And this immortal delight will lead the spiritual practicant to the Divine Mind, to the pure Intelligence, to the realm of Indra. An ordinary man is unable to have a glimpse of the higher mind, the pure Intelligence because he is confined to the narrow limits of the lower material world and his life abounds with restless, impure and hurtful desires. It is not by a gross inert inspiration but by a subtle inward power that the enjoyment of life must be purified and divinised. Then only the sloth of the mind will be replaced by the divine Intelligence. With the divine Intelligence of Indra the aspirant enjoys a pure delight in life. It is Indra who fills the different aspects of each object with a luminous truth. The inspiration surcharged with the effulgent knowledge of Indra will bring down and manifest in the aspirant the delightful truth of the Self which is the main support of the divine in the aspirant.
The third group: After this the aspirant rises into the realm of truth, the Right and the Vast where his being will embody all the gods. The universal Godhead is the collective power of all the gods. Each god has a different aspect and a particular truth to stress. They at once carry out their own work and help one another in performing their work. Thus in their combined efforts they give shape to diversified expressions of the one great and vast Truth. When the power of these gods is established in the aspirant, his aspiration rises higher and higher unfalteringly and infallibly. The body, life and mind which are the different levels of the being are each a stream of truth and these are imagined as river or water.
The fourth group: Saraswati, the wealth of the fullest inspiration of the complete Truth, signifies speedy and rhythmic truth. She is the divine hearing. No doubt, we see and meet the Truth with our divine vision, but to make the Truth active and dynamic and fill the creation with the power of Truth we needs must take the help of divine hearing. As the truth possesses a form, even so it has a name. It is precisely because of form and name that the truth becomes concrete. The form of truth is visible in the divine vision, the name of truth in the divine hearing. Saraswati gives the divine name and Ila gives the divine form to the truth. Under the inspiration of Saraswati the truth casts aside all untruths. Hence she is called Pavaka (the Purifier). Above the mind there abides the vast ocean of Truth. We have neither any knowledge nor any experience of it. In a sense, we are quite unconscious of it. Saraswati raises the intelligence into the vast ocean of Truth and purifies it. Afterwards she brings it down to our understanding. She manifests the complete knowledge in all its facets and makes them living.
In the Vedic literature, very often we get the reference to vak (Word). So it will be no exaggeration on our part to hold that the aim of the Vedic spiritual discipline is to get the significant sound aspect of the truth. And for this the Vedic seers of truth are called the seers of mantras or the creators of mantras. Vak is the living image of truth. There lies a rhythm in the being of truth and the movement of this rhythm produces a note which was after on called nada (the unsound sound) or Shabda Brahman (the Brahman manifested as Sound). When the rhythm of this note is found in our intelligence and mind, it takes the form of a sentence and this very thing is called a true mantra. The more a language can express intimately and directly the primal form and rhythm of truth, the more the mantra becomes living. Therefore the aspirant who has acquired this mantra has also acquired truth and the power of truth. The Vedic seers have placed the name of truth in different categories, e.g., Rk, Stoma, Uktha, Brahman, etc. At the beginning of the present sukta too, in the spiritual practice of truth gih, the vak or name that reveals the truth clearly in the consciousness of the aspirant has been invoked with the help of the twin equestrians. Then with Indra's help the Brahman, that is to say, the true message of the inner Self was invoked. When man gets a purified mind and purified intelligence, he discovers the real Being within and another name of this Being is Brahmanaspati (the Lord of the inner Self). Finally comes in Saraswati who is the power of the Infinite Truth in which the multiple aspects of the truth of the universal God are manifest.
The Fourth Sukta
The gradual progression of the spiritual discipline takes place by virtue of the bliss-power in the pure mind. It is with that power that a spiritual seeker overcomes all the obstacles and the downward pull of ignorance symbolized by Vritra and creates beautiful forms full of knowledge in the fullness of the Vast.
In the first three riks the nectar-emitting light and pure thought-power of Indra have been invoked. Indra is a milk cow, that is to say, the inexhaustible source from which a seeker draws the nectar of immortality.
But why? Because it is thus that a spiritual seeker can see the manifestation of the All-blissful in the Vast. In our normal life-activities we have a partial consciousness and our mind remains narrow, degraded and twisted. So whatever we do turns out to be imperfect. and if we want to make our creations beautiful, blissful and perfect, we must break the barriers of this division, pettiness and poverty and rise into the everlasting pose and pure existence of the Vast. We are satisfied with a little, for our happiness and delight and enjoyment are confined to this material world alone. And from this sense-pleasure which is the outer form of the somarasa we shall have to squeeze out true delight and immortality. This is possible only after one has invoked Indra, the Lord of the senses and the presiding deity of the pure intellect. When the mind has become pure, when the Divine Being within it has awakened, the aspirant's delight gets satisfaction no longer in the little imperfect pleasures of the material world. The ecstasy of the divinised mind is surcharged with the divine light. One who has achieved this delight has also achieved all the well-ordained rhythmic play of Truth inherent in the pure mind. It is there that an aspirant must pay particular attention to one thing. If all on a sudden truth and power descend from above into the aspirant's mind in an excessive manner, then there is every possibility of his losing his mental balance; even if it is not so, the manifestation of this truth and power takes place in a very distorted way. That is why the aspirant has been asked to pray in this fashion:
"O Indra, do Thou manifest thyself before me to the extent of my receptivity and, I pray, exceed not the limit."
The aspirant has to purify first his lower nature before invoking the truth and power in a large measure. Otherwise a reaction may at once take place. The subsequent riks deal with this matter. The second group of three riks indicates the process of the gradual ascension of the aspirant. Spirituality is, as it were, a long upward march and the aspirant has to fight and toil faithfully all the way in order to go ahead. It will not do for an aspirant to make an effort to pull the power from above, himself remaining below. He has to raise himself. He has to look upon the Divine Being that resides in Indra, the deity of knowledge, in the pure mind, and according to the inspiration and guidance of the Being the aspirant has to proceed. When we shall be fully prepared for the realization of the Godhead of Indra, the obscure and impure forces of ignorance cannot keep us enchained in the lower regions. They themselves will then open the new vistas for a higher journey and declare, "You have conquered us. Now go up, march onward, conquer all the forces that are challenging you from the higher regions." Even obstacles are necessary and useful. We become stronger when we meet with oppositions in our life. The foundation gets firm only after it has weathered some storms. When we are established in the quiet foundation of Indra, the powers that help the aspirant -the vigour behind his spiritual endeavour and power of action - will be able to make us the possessors of the highest good and perfect bliss.
In the three successive riks of the third group the forces by which all obstacles in our journey are removed have been described. Vritra is only a name for the obstacles in one's spiritual practice. Vritra means the coverer (derived from the root vr) who keeps an aspirant in darkness. These blind forces of the lower plane do not allow the light of knowledge to dawn on the aspirant. Drinking the nectar of soma (delight) Indra kills Vritra, i.e., the forces of pure intelligence become fiery, as well as acute and sharp, with the pure and intense Ananda by which is expelled the darkness of ignorance. The aspirant gets strength to fight against the attraction of the unregenerated nature and to climb up and move in the higher regions. His conscious being gets intoxicated with the nectar of delight, armoured with a hundred powers. He surmounts all the obstacles of the spiritual adventure and makes the aspirant firmly established in all the accomplishments of perfection.
In the last rik the nature of the divine mental being is described. In this divine mental being the vast delight of the Infinite has descended and with the help of its inspiration the aspirant goes on safely and securely from one level to another, from one shore to another and climbs up from the unregenerated lower nature to the divine status.
In the present hymn we can notice one speciality of Vedic discipline. Vedic discipline was not something personal and individual. It was essentially collective, i.e., for the community as a whole. That is why we often hear an aspirant of the Vedas calling his friends to assemble in spiritual practice and bring down the divine force with a collective effort. The collective life flourished in those days with the help of companions and helpers in sadhana. The gods too were companions and helpers in the spiritual endeavour. Hence they were addressed as friends.
The present sukta also tells us that we are to conquer all the terrestrial powers with the help of pure delight and establish in pure mind the foundation of truth, the concrete manifestation of Force, Knowledge and the Good, the manifold fullness and perfection of Indra.
The diversity in the creation is a profound and sublime Truth. So the sadhaka also has to manifest in his being and nature this immensely diverse play. The manifoldness of Form is revealed consciously through the mind. When the true mental being awakes, all the formations lose their divided and mortal nature and appear as immortal, cadences and expressions of the Truth. That is why the mental Purusha or Indra is called Purutaman Purunam. No other god has also many diversified forms as Indra. It is because he is at the root of all manifold diversities. Indra comes with plenitudes; he conquers for the sadhaka shasrinam vajam (a thousandfold plenitude). Vajam is the fullness which is indivisible; it is the vessel of a thousandfold movement of creation. Indra is the eldest of all, because the primal form of the external manifestation appears first in the heart of the mental being. Later on it becomes manifest in the outward nature. After his very birth Indra wants to be the eldest of all, i.e., as soon as the pure mental being awakes in the aspirant, it becomes the master and guide of his sadhana and his new spiritual creation. For this reason Indra is called Isana (Lord) and Sukratu (the all-accomplishing Power of action ). It is in him that all the masculine powers of God are manifest. In accordance with the Will of the Purusha all the forms of Prakriti take shape. The vessel and foundation which Indra is shaping anew in the aspirant is firmly established on Truth and Knowledge.
Pure mental being is endowed with knowledge which makes an object stand revealed to the knower. This knowledge of Indra is many-sided. The real function of Indra is to harmonize the hidden truth of all objects and movements. Hence he is called Puramdhih or Purudhi, i.e., a city made of comprehensive intelligence as it were. Indra does not want dissolution in the One Existent, but he wants a diverse and many-sided manifestation. In unfolding or blossoming alone is his joy. He seeks for a vibrant cadence of the Truth. The Bliss of Indra is founded on Truth. That is why this Bliss is pure and tranquil and yet dynamic. The joy of sensuous pleasure of an ordinary man is emotional and fleeting. Man cannot hold it and an aspirant cannot build anything on it. That joy flows out and man spills it away in trying to hold it. That is the reason why this joy of the senses has to be purified and made noble with the light of pure mind, intelligence and knowledge. Then alone that joy will be beneficial, capable of doing works and yielding fruit. When the pure mental being, immortal in this Bliss and supported by the pure vital energy, marches forward driving his two luminous horses of knowledge and power to the battlefield to advance in spirituality, the dumb material forces of Ignorance fail to oppose them. Cutting asunder all limitations of the earthly consciousness and the powers of Death, Indra founds a full-fledged bliss of immortality in the aspirant. He enables the creative genius of the aspirant to blossom in the untrammeled expanse of the infinite consciousness.
The Sixth Sukta
The theme of this sukta is to awaken the power of Indra with the help of his followers, the Maruts. Who are the Maruts? We find in the Puranas that Vayu (the Wind-God) in the womb of Diti (the consciousness of duality) had been divided into forty-nine parts by the Lord Indra. As a result, the Maruts, sub-divisions or various forms of Wind, came into existence. We also know that Vayu is the life-energy and Indra is the divine mental being. Diti is the divided consciousness, the source of multiplicity. Aditi means the undivided, indivisible and infinite consciousness. When the wave of life-energy rises into the mind and expresses itself as multiple thoughts, it turns into Maruts. In the Rigveda the God Marut has always been invoked and worshipped along with Indra. That is to say, without Indra, the mental being, the Maruts, the mental faculties, have no separate existence.
All extracts and quotations from the written works of Nolini kant gupta are copyright Sri Aurobindo Trust, Pondicherry -605002 India