Vedā: Ṛṣi Bharadvāja

Ṛṣi Bharadvāja’s enlightenment in the Ṛgveda

The Ṛgveda Samhitā is the fount of all religious, spiritual and philosophical systems that originated in India. It contains the seeds of all subsequent developments. And yet, it is misunderstood even by people who claim to be Vedic scholars or experts in Hinduism.

I have seen two categories of views on the Veda Samhitās. The first view is that of western Indologists and academics who, since the time of Max Muller, see the mantras as nothing but primitive and childish prayers to gods asking for material benefits, without any higher spiritual content. This category sees a gradual “development” or “progress” in maturity from the Samhitās to the Upaniṣads, which are the sole containers of philosophy, metaphysics and higher subtle thought. In fact, this category is of the opinion that the Upaniṣads represent a revolt against the prevalent Vedic religion represented by the so-called ritualistic Samhitās and Brāhmaṇas and the institution of yajña. Many, and probably the vast majority of, modern-day thinkers, scholars and laypeople are of the same view.

The second view is that of some Indian scholars such as Aurobindo, Dayanand Sarasvati, and their followers and admirers. According to this category, the Samhitās contain knowledge encrypted in symbols that has been ignored by tradition. And this category goes to extreme lengths trying to attribute strange new-age psychological interpretations to the deities. In effect, this category tries to force-fit their ideas into the Samhitā texts, and the result is a strange, highly concocted, artificial and unusable meaning of the mantras. According to this category, the Samhitās alone contain the original, uncorrupted philosophy of the Vedas, and the Upaniṣads are deviations and corruptions.

I find that both the above categories are equally incorrect, simplistic and inadequate explanations of the complex Vedic corpus. Even a cursory glance at the Samhitās, Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇyakas and Upaniṣads shows the common thread running through all of them. That is why tradition has grouped these together under the term Veda. The above two categories of incorrect views result from the arrogance and presumption that they themselves have better knowledge of the Vedas than the tradition of thousands of years, whose adherents solely dedicated their entire lives to the study and analysis of the Vedas. I shall write a future article on the concordance between the Samhitās and Upaniṣads.

I had previously shown the deep spiritual and metaphysical meanings of Agni in the Ṛgveda (herehere and here). I had also shown (here) that the traditional commentary of Sāyaṇācārya recognizes appropriately the spiritual symbolism present in the mantras. 

Here, I shall provide another example of the spiritual knowledge present in the Ṛgveda Samhitā, and its recognition in the traditional commentary of Sāyaṇācārya.

The present sūktam is Ṛgveda 6.9, whose ṛṣi is Bharadvāja Bārhaspatya and devatā is Agni Vaiśvānara. 

To me, this hymn is quintessentially Vedāntic in its vocabulary and expression. It is surprisingly “modern” in its candid expression of the internal process of self-realization, and yet, it is undoubtedly one of the most ancient Vedic hymns, as also its author is a very ancient seer in the Vedic lineage. This again proves to me that the entire Vedic corpus contains the same metaphysics throughout. I shall present Sāyaṇa’s commentary where the mantra appears to be cryptic or where it has multiple meanings, and hence his commentary shows the traditional understanding of the spiritual meaning of the mantra.

अहश्च कृष्णमहरर्जुनं च वि वर्तेते रजसी वेद्याभिः । 
वैश्वानरो जायमानो न राजावातिरज्ज्योतिषाग्निस्तमांसि ॥१॥

ahaśca kṛṣṇamahararjunaṃ ca vi vartete rajasī vedyābhiḥ |
vaiśvānaro jāyamāno na rājāvātirajjyotiṣāgnistamāṃsi ||

“The dark day (i.e. night) and the bright day (i.e. day) which enliven all creatures keep turning around by means of well-known signs. Vaiśvānara, being born like a king, dispells darkness with his light.”

Sāyaṇa: “… रजसी स्वस्वभासा सर्वं जगद्रञ्जयन्तौ …. यद्वा रजसी द्यावापृथिव्यौ । … एतच्च वैश्वानराग्नेराज्ञया … । ”  — “rajasī means the pair which illuminate or enliven everything by their brilliance. The other meaning of rajasī is the earth and heaven. … All this comes from the will of Agni Vaiśvānara.”

नाहं तन्तुं न विजानाम्योतुं न यं वयन्ति समरेऽतमानाः ।
कस्य स्वित्पुत्र इह वक्त्वानि परो वदात्यवरेण पित्रा ॥२॥

nāhaṃ tantuṃ na vijānāmyotuṃ na yaṃ vayanti samare’tamānāḥ |
kasya svitputra iha vaktvāni paro vadātyavareṇa pitrā ||

“I do not know the warp (tantu) nor do I know the woof (otu) nor that which they weave in the gathering. Whose son shall here talk about the subject, through his father who was recent?”

Sāyaṇa: “वैश्वानरस्य महत्त्वमाख्यास्यन्नृषिस्तदर्थं यज्ञं वस्त्रात्मकतया रूपयन् तस्य दुर्ज्ञानत्वमनया प्रतिपादयतीति यज्ञवादिनो मन्यन्ते । पटं यज्ञलक्षणं देवयजने सततं चेष्टमानाः ऋत्विजः तन्तूनोतूंश्च संतन्वन्ति । वस्त्ररूपेण निष्पादयन्तीत्यर्थः । इह अस्मिन् लोके कस्य स्वित् कस्य खलु पुत्रः मनुष्यः वक्तव्यानि परस्तादमुष्मिन् लोके वर्तमानो यः सुर्यः तस्य पित्रा अवस्तादस्मिन् लोके वर्तमानेन वैश्वानराग्निनानुशिष्टः सन् वदेत्? न कश्चिदपि प्रवदितुं शक्नोतीत्यर्थः । रूपकतया जगत्सृष्टेर्दुर्ज्ञानत्वमनया प्रतिपादयतीत्यात्मविदो मन्यन्ते । तन्तून् तन्तुस्थानानि वियदादीन्यपञ्चीकृतानि भूतानि न विजानामि । ओतून् पञ्चीकृतानि स्थूलान्योतुस्थानीयान्यपि वियदादीनि न विजानामि । न च तत्कार्यं पटस्थानीयं प्रपञ्चं विजानामि यं प्रपञ्चं सततं चेष्टमानाः संसारिणो वयन्ति उत्पादयन्ति । तेषां भोगार्थमीश्वरः सृजतीति कर्तृत्वमुपचर्यते । इहास्मिन्विषये परस्ताद्बुद्धेरविषये वक्तव्यानीमान्यवरेण अर्वाचीनेन सृष्ट्युत्तरकालमुत्पन्नेन पित्रा स्वजनकेनानुशिष्टः सन् कस्य खलु पुत्रः वदेत् । स्वोत्पत्तेः प्राचीनं वृत्तान्तमजानानः कश्चिदपि न वदेदित्यर्थः ।”

“According to the school ofritualistic interpretation, the ṛṣi is trying to describe the greatness of Vaiśvānara through the symbolism of the yajña as a fabric, and expresses the difficulty of knowing it. The ever-active priests weave the warp and woof of this fabric. The ṛṣi is giving an analogy of the sun in heaven as the son, and Agni Vaiśvānara on earth as the father, and asks, which human can talk about these deep topics having been instructed by his father? The meaning is that nobody can. According to the school of metaphysics or spiritual interpretation, this is a symbolism for the universe whose creation is a mystery and cannot be known. The warp symbolizes the undifferentiated subtle elements, and the woof symbolizes the differentiated gross elements. The creatures living in the universe are constantly weaving this fabric by their activities. Or this fabric has been woven by the creator for the enjoyment of the creatures. So being here (in this universe), to talk about things that are beyond the intellect, nobody who has been instructed by their human father (whose birth is recent compared to the universe), can talk about these things. Having not understood the ancient source of their origin, nobody can talk about these mysteries.”

स इत्तन्तुं स विजानात्योतुं स वक्त्वान्यृतुथा वदाति । 
य ईं चिकेतदमृतस्य गोपा अवश्चरन्परो अन्येन पश्यन् ॥३॥

sa ittantuṃ sa vijānātyotuṃ sa vaktvānyṛtuthā vadāti |
ya īṃ ciketadamṛtasya gopā avaścaranparo anyena paśyan ||

“He knows the warp and the woof, and he speaks the truths from time to time. He who sees all this, is the protector of immortality, and he roams below, while seeing through another above.”

Sāyaṇa: “यद्यपि उक्तेन प्रकारेण दुर्ज्ञानानि तथाप्येतानि वैश्वानरोऽग्निः जानाति वदति चेत्यनया प्रतिपादयति । स एव वैश्वानरोऽग्निः तन्तुस्थानीयानि गायत्र्यादीनि छन्दांसि स्तुतशस्त्राणि तथा ओतुस्थानीयानि यजूंष्याध्वर्यवाणि च कर्माणि वि जानाति । ऋतुथा काले काले तत्तदनुष्ठानसमये वक्तव्यानि वदेत् । अवस्तात् भूलोके पार्थिवाग्निरूपेण संचरन् परस्ताद्दिवि सूर्यात्मना सर्वं जगत् प्रकाशयन् इमानि परिदृश्यमानानि सर्वाणि भूतानि जानाति । यद्वा । स एव तन्तुं तन्तुस्थानीयानि सूक्ष्मभूतानि विजानाति नान्यः कश्चित् । तथौतुमोतुस्थानीयानि स्थूलभूतानि च स एव विजानाति । स एव वक्तव्यान्युपदेष्टव्यानि काले काले यदा यदा विद्यासंप्रदायोच्छेदस्तदा तदा वदेत् । कोऽसौ यो विजानीयाद्वदेच्चेत्यत आह । यो वैश्वानरो विश्वनरात्मकः परमात्मामृतत्वस्य विमोक्षणस्य गोपा रक्षिता अवस्तात् संसारदशायां चरन् अन्तःकरणोपेतः जीवात्मभावेन संचरन् परस्तादविद्याया ऊर्ध्वं वर्तमानेनान्येनोक्तविलक्षणेन निरुपाधिकेन सच्चिदादिलक्षणेन रूपेण पश्यन् सर्वं जगत्प्रकाशयन् इमानि जानाति । तथा च परमात्मानं प्रकृत्य श्रूयते — ’तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति’ (श्वेउ ६।१४)”

“(Ritualistic interpretation): These mysteries are known to Agni Vaiśvānara. He alone, Agni Vaiśvānara, knows the warp symbolizing the various chandases and the woof symbolizing the ritualistic works of the Yajus. He speaks from time to time as in during the regular times of performance of the rituals. He moves on the earth in the form of the terrestrial fire while seeing all creatures in the form of the sun giving light to the entire universe. Or else:
(Spiritual/metaphysical interpretation): He alone, Agni Vaiśvānara, knows the warp symbolizing the subtle elements and the woof symbolizing the gross elements. He alone speaks the secret teaching from time to time when the lineage of knowledge is broken among humans. Who is this who knows and shall speak? He who is known as Vaiśvānara, who is present in all living creatures, the Paramātman, the protector of immortality, i.e. Mokṣa. He moves in the world as the Jīvātman conjoined with the mind, and sees the universe through the higher form, beyond Avidyā, and defined as Saccidānanda without attributes. This form illuminates the entire universe. Hence it is said in the Śruti: “Everything shines because He shines, by His light everything is lit up” (Śvet. Up. 6.14)”

अयं होता प्रथमः पश्यतेममिदं ज्योतिरमृतं मर्त्येषु ।
अयं स जज्ञे ध्रुव आ निषत्तोऽमर्त्यस्तन्वा३ वर्धमानः ॥४॥

ayaṃ hotā prathamaḥ paśyatemamidaṃ jyotiramṛtaṃ martyeṣu |
ayaṃ sa jajñe dhruva ā niṣatto’martyastanvā3 vardhamānaḥ ||

“He is the first invoker, see Him, this immortal light within mortals. He is born firm and he is omnipresent (i.e. present everywhere), and being immortal he grows through a body.”

(This is pretty straightforward, and it is quite clear from Sāyaṇa’s commentary).

ध्रुवं ज्योतिर्निहितं दृशये कं मनो जविष्ठं पतयत्स्वन्तः । 
विश्वे देवाः समनसः सकेताः एकं क्रतुमभि वि यन्ति साधु ॥५॥

dhruvaṃ jyotirnihitaṃ dṛśaye kaṃ mano javiṣṭhaṃ patayatsvantaḥ |
viśve devāḥ samanasaḥ saketāḥ ekaṃ kratumabhi vi yanti sādhu ||

“This firm light, that is bliss, that is subtler than the mind, is hidden within the senses (or creatures). All the deities, with one intention and one intelligence, surround Him, the doer of deeds.”

Sāyaṇa: “ध्रुवं निश्चलं मनसः तस्मादपि जविष्ठं अतिशयेन वेगवत् ईदृशं वैश्वानराख्यं ज्योतिः पतयत्सु गच्छत्सु जङ्गमेषु प्राणिषु अन्तः मध्ये निहितं प्रजापतिना स्थापितम् । किमर्थम् । दर्शनार्थम् । किं च सर्वे देवाः समानमनस्काः समानप्रज्ञाश्च सन्तः एकं मुख्यं गन्तारं वा क्रतुं कर्मणां कर्तारं सम्यक् आभिमुख्येन विविधं प्राप्नुवन्ति सेवन्त इत्यर्थः । यद्वा । पतयत्सु गच्छत्सु प्राणिष्वन्तर्मध्ये हृदये मनो जविष्ठं मनसोऽप्यतिशयेन वेगयुक्तं ध्रुवं निश्चलं निर्विकल्पम् । तथा च वाजसनेयकं — “अनेजदेकं मनसो जवीयः” (वा सं ४०।४) इति । ज्योतिर्ब्रह्म चैतन्यं निहितम् । न केनचित् स्थापितम् । “यो वेद निहितं गुहायां परमे व्योमन्” (तै आ ८।१) इति हि श्रूयते । किमर्थम् । दृशये दर्शनार्थम् । ज्ञानेन हि सर्वं जानन्ति । दीव्यन्तीति देवा इन्द्रियाणि । विश्वे सर्वे देवाः सर्वाणीन्द्रियाणि चक्षुराद्याः समनसो मनसा सह वर्तमानाः सकेताः सतेजस्काः सन्त एकमद्वितीयं क्रतुं सृष्ट्यादीनां कर्मणां कर्तारं विश्वनरात्मकं परमात्मानमभिलक्ष्य साधु सम्यक् वि यन्ति विविधं गच्छन्ति । देवा एव वेममभि वि यन्ति । आभिमुख्येन विविधमुपयन्ति । उपासत इत्यर्थः । तथा च श्रूयते — “तद्देवा ज्योतिषां ज्योतिरायुर्होपासतेऽमृतम्” (बृ उ ४/४/१६) इति ।”

“(Adhibhūtam/adhidaivatam) The firm light called Vaiśvānara, which is subtler than the mind, is placed within the creatures by Prajāpati for the sake of the vision. And all the gods with common mind and common consciousness serve this one doer of actions. Or else:
(Adhyātmam) Within the creatures, i.e. in the heart, there is hidden a firm and independent light that is subtler than the mind. As the Vājasaneyi text says: “The unmoving one that is faster than the mind” (Iśa. Up. 4). The light is Brahman consciousness. It is not established by anyone, i.e. it is there by its own nature. As the Śruti says: “Whoever knows this that is hidden in the heart in the highest space” (Tai. Up. 2.1). The purpose of this light is to have the vision, because by this vision one knows everything. The senses are called Devas because they shine or because they go forth. So the senses along with the mind approach this One Doer from various directions. This Doer is the Vaiśvānara, the omnipresent Paramātman, who does various deeds such as creation, etc. Or the Devas worship Vaiśvānara. As it is said in the Śruti: “The Devas worship the Light of lights, the Immortal.” (Br. Up. 4.4.16).”

वि मे कर्णा पतयतो वि चक्षुर्वी३दं ज्योतिर्हृदय आहितं यत् ।
वि मे मनश्चरति दूरआधीः किं स्विद् वक्ष्यामि किमु नू मनिष्ये ॥६॥

vi me karṇā patayato vi cakṣurvī3daṃ jyotirhṛdaya āhitaṃ yat |
vi me manaścarati dūraādhīḥ kiṃ svid vakṣyāmi kimu nū maniṣye ||

“My ears fly forth, and my eyes fly forth striving to see this Light hidden within the heart. My mind wanders far in search of it, what shall I speak of, and what shall I think?”

(This verse almost appears modern in its candid description of the internal processes when the sage is in rapture of his vision of the Light, when he has lost himself in the One Consciousness, such that he is beyond speech and thought. The last phrase “किं स्विद् वक्ष्यामि किमु नू मनिष्ये – kim svid vakṣyāmi kimu nū maniṣye” is an exact paraphrase of “यतो वाचो निवर्तन्ते अप्राप्य मनसा सह – yato vāco nivartante aprāpya manasā saha“, “From which speech and mind turn back, not having reached” of Taittirīya Upaniṣad.)

Sāyaṇa: “वैश्वानरं श्रोतुकामस्य मम कर्णौ वि पतयतः विविधं गच्छतः । श्रोतव्यानां तदीयगुणानां बहुत्वात् । तथा वैश्वानरं दिदृक्षमाणस्य मम चक्षुः इन्द्रियं वि पतयति विविधं गच्छति । द्रष्टव्यानां तदीयरूपाणां बहुत्वात् । तथा ज्योतिः प्रकाशकं हृदये हृदयपुण्डरीके आहितं निहितं यत् बुद्ध्याख्यं तत्त्वं इदमपि वि पतयति विविधं गच्छति वैश्वानरात्मानं ज्ञातुम् । अपि च दूरआधीः । दूरे विप्रकृष्टे विषय आधीराध्यानं यस्य तादृशम् । मे मदीयं मनः च वि चरति विविधं प्रवर्तते । एवमहमहमिकया सर्वेष्विन्द्रियेषु प्रवृत्तेषु किं स्वित् अहं वैश्वानरस्य रूपमिति वक्ष्यामि । किमु नु किमु खलु संप्रति मनिष्ये मनसा प्रपत्स्ये । वैश्वानरस्य गुणानामनन्तत्वात् मन्दप्रज्ञेन मया ज्ञातुं न शक्यत इत्यर्थः ।”

“Desirous of hearing Vaiśvānara, my ears go forth in different directions due to His infinite qualities to be heard. Desirous of seeing Him, my sight goes forth due to the infinite forms to be seen. The light established in the heart also strives to know the Vaiśvānara Ātman. Thus with all the senses striving to know Him, and since they fail, what can I say and what can I think about it? (i.e. He is beyond the senses, but I have already found Him as the immortal light within my heart).”

विश्वे देवा अनमस्यन् भियानास्त्वामग्ने तमसि तस्थिवांसम् ।
वैश्वानरोऽवतूतये नोऽमर्त्योऽवतूतये नः ॥७॥

viśve devā anamasyan bhiyānāstvāmagne tamasi tasthivāṃsam |
vaiśvānaro’vatūtaye no’martyo’vatūtaye naḥ ||

“All the gods bowed down in fear in front of you, Agni, when you were hidden in the darkness. May Vaiśvānara protect us, may the Immortal One protect us.”

This verse is quite clear and needs no explanation. However, there is a deep metaphysics associated with the “Agni hidden in the darkness”, which I have discussed in detail in my Agni article. 

Author: Ram Abloh
April 18th, 2020
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