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Musings on Sita's "agni-pravEsam" #12

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Sun Dec 13 1998 - 10:07:51 PST

Dear members and beloved friends who are following this thread,

In the last post we focussed upon two Valmiki expressions heavily laden
with Vedic timbre.The two expressions are indeed our keys to the kingdom of
inner understanding of the episode of "sita-pirAttiyAr's agni-pravEsam".

One is the expression Valmiki uses in ""nEtrAturasyEva.....". We will not
be wrong in describing the phrase as a faint, rebounding echo of the Vedic
word, "pratyaksha-pramANam"....i.e. "the evidence of seeing which
strengthens believing".

The other one is the expression from the "sundara-kAnda" verse we quoted
viz. "vAkya-vAriNa...." (V.66.8). We noted that "vAkyA", in a larger Vedic
sense, means "the Word of the VedAs" or, in other words, "the evidence of
truth ingrained in the sonorous strains of Vedic cadence....." or, as it
commonly is referred to: "vEda-vAkya".... "sabda-pramANam" etc.

Many of you may be already aware of this but, nevertheless, I think it is
appropriate to remind you here at this point in our discussions, that in
the Vedic tradition, it is said, the real purpose of human life... the
'summum-bonum', so to say.... lies in arriving, within the quietitude of
our inner being, at an intuitive knowledge of "para-brahm-Ic" Truth. It is
the knowledge which once grasped renders all other kinds of worldly wisdom
utterly redundant. It is the knowledge which results in unitive experience,
at once first-hand, real, total..... and awesome .... an experience of the
Supreme One that rules all Creation. It is that rare, but by no means
unique, experience which liberates us forthwith ("mOkshAm") from the chains
of temporal imprisonment binding us all our lives to self-negating,
self-defeating "kArmic" self-perpetuation.

Now, "para-brahm-ic" Truth is, the Vedas themselves tell us, quite real. In
fact, it is the only Reality. It is not fiction. It is not the
philosopher's chimera; nor the sophist's wool-over-the-eyes. The Vedic
texts state categorically and boldly that they have themselves "beheld" the
Truth and "experienced" the Reality. 

"vEdAha-mEtam purusham mahAntam I aaditya-varnam tamasas-parastAt I tamEvam
vidvAnamruta iha Bhavati I nAnyaf-panThA vidyatEya-nAya II"

(---- from the hymn of the "purusha-suktam" of the Rk-Veda in the passages
of the "dvitiya-anu-vAka")

meaning :

"I know this for certain, for I have witnessed that Supreme Person, that
Great Truth, whose solar blaze and dazzle are incomparable ! Knowing Him,
the Truth, is verily knowing the true end of life and of this existence!
Knowing Him thus is to transcend Death. There is no other path, save that
of knowing Him, that leads unto liberation!" 

Such are the emphatic, if oracular, words of the Vedas.  

"... nAnyaf-panThA vidyatEya-nAya..." is a very, very significant
expression here.

The Veda stresses here that the transcending of death and the attainment of
liberation are both well nigh impossible without travelling down the
pathway ( "nAnyaf-panThA") to full Knowledge of Him, the Supreme One, the
Supreme Truth..... There is simply no other alternate way....

Now when we read this particular line from the "purusha-suktam", and take a
moment to dwell on its meaning, we are first tempted to ask ourselves the
question:

"What are the "alternate ways and means" the Vedas seem to imply we could
possibly employ to apprehend the Truth but which, they hasten to remind us,
ought to be rejected as utterly futile for the purpose...
("nAnyaf-panThA")?".

What are these possible "other ways" ?

The Vedic, more specifically Vedantic, tradition recognizes the following
"alternate ways" which one can resort to in one's pursuit or apprehension
of "para-brahmi-c" Truth :

(1) "pratyaksham"  ----- the evidence of the eyes; the Truth as it appears
to the naked eye; "seeing is believing", so to say.

(2) "anumAnam"  ----- the Truth as may be derived from rational inference

(3) "sabda-pramANam" --- the Truth as ingrained in the Vedic word, acoustic
or "vAkya"

(4) "yag~nyam"   ---- the Truth attained through the Vedic deed of
sacrifice
 
***************             ****************       ***************

We will in the next post explain each of the the above and seek to
establish how altogether they constitute the complete and essential
elements of the Vedic allegory which really is at the heart of the whole
"agni-pravEsam" episode....!

For let it not be forgotten that in the story of the Ramayana, the quest
for Sita is really a quest for Truth; the effort to establish Her
pristinity amidst the climactic events of the "yuddha-kAndam" is merely the
dramatic garb the poet Valmiki skillfully uses to drape the far greater
effort and
energy the human spirit must expend if it must discover the chastity of
vEdic Truth ...... the same Truth described in the "purusha-suktam" as 
"aaditya-varnam tamasas-parastAt" ..... the dazzle of Light, the dazzle of
Truth.... yes, the dazzle of Sita Herself !

More in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
sudarshan