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Re: Vedas/Upanishads

From: raghunath govindachari (raghu_at_turing.scs.carleton.ca)
Date: Fri Aug 25 1995 - 09:25:09 PDT

> Personally, I find the dryness of the Upanishadic / Vedantic pompous
> intellectualism and denial of things earthy quite pallid in comparison to
> the Vedas that are pretty much chock full of verve =) I encourage people to
> give them a second look. As a suggestion, avoid common Indian authors and
> commentators, they seem to hidebound by tradition and a denial of what
> the Vedas express, in light of the aforementioned straitlaced and straight
> faced tradition to publish the "interesting" parts or even consider them
> *griN!* It's kind of like reading the Song of Solomon in a Catholic Bible -
> with repeated admonitions to " wake not love before its time".. *griN!*
> Which is a little different, you must admit from the sensual import of 
> " O cluster of Henna blossoms! Thy satchel of myrrh! "
> 
> Oh well =) Maybe I *am* an anachronist at heart...
> 
> - SUndar
> 
Sundar,
	I am glad you put forward your opinion boldly. For an un-common
  *Indian* interpretation of the Vedas, read Sri Aurobindo's exciting
 work "The Secret of the Vedas", Sri Aurobindo Centenary Library Vol. 10.

I was completely gripped by the brilliant originality  of his method.
His hypothesis is that Vedas used its language with dual meanings -
an external ritualistic and an internal psychological one. 

Sri Aurobindo first rejects Sayana's commentary on the basis of its fluctuating
and gross interpretation of important words. 

"Sayana gives to the words dhI, rtam, etc., very variable significances. Rtam
 which is almost the key-word of any psuchological or spiritual interpretation
 is rendered by him sometimes as "truth", more often "sacrifice", occassionally
 in the sense of Water. DhI is rendered by Sayana variously "thought", "prayer"
 "action", "food" etc... Moreover Sayana's tendency is to obliterate all fine
shades and distinctions between words and to give them their vaguest general
 significance. All epithets conveying ideas of mental activity mean for him
simply "intelligent", all words suggesting various ideas of force, and the
vedas overflow with them, are reduced to the broad idea of strength. I found 
myself, on the contrary, impressed by the great importance of fixing and 
preserving the right shade of meaning and precise association to be given to 
different words, however close they may be to each other in their general
sense...."

As a clue to his own interpretations, Sri Aurobindo points:

"The vedic sacrifice consists of three features, - omitting for the moment the
god and the mantra, - the persons who offer, the offering and the fruits of 
the offering. .., Yajna is works, internal or external, the yajaman must
be the soul or the personality as the doer. But there were also the officiating priests, hota, rtvij, purohita, brahma, ashvaryu etc.What was their part
in the symbolism? ... the use of the word purohita in its separated form
 with the sense of the representative "put in front" and a frequent reference
 to the god Agni who symbolises the divine Will or Force in humanity that
takes up the action in all consecration of works. ...
But I found that ghrta was constantly used in connection with thought
 or the mind, that heaven in Veda was a symbol of the mind, that Indra
 represented mentality and his two horses double energies of that mentality
and even that the Veda sometimes speaks plainly of offering the intellect
(dhisaNA) as purified ghrta, to the gods, ghrtam na pUtam dhisaNAm.
The word ghrta counts also among its philological significance the sense of a rich or warm brightness....
The fruits of the offering were in appearance purely material - cows, horses
gold, offspring, men, physical strength, victory in battle. ... The word gO
means both cow and light and in a number of passages evidently meant light
even while putting forward the image of the cow... The cow and horse, gO and
asva are constantly associated. Usha, the Dawn, is described as goMatI and
asvavatI; Dawn gives to the sacrificer horses and Cows. As applied to the
physical dawn, gOmatI means accompanied by or bringing the  rays of light
and is an image of the dawn of illumination in the human mind...
A study of the Vedic horse led me to the conclusion that go and asva represent
 the two companion ideas of Light and Energy, Consciousness and Force, which to
 the Vedic and Cedantic mind were the double or twin aspect of all the activties
  of existence."

 I strongly recommend reading the full work. But, be warned that it is a massive
 albeit lucid work.

Raghu