Please visit Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation by Athreya and Mouza at Springer.com

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Vedic Gods as Symbols - Part 2


(Now back to Vedic Gods as Symbols from 2/23/2019)

The following comments on the Vedic gods and how they relate to the physical, mental and “supramental” realms are based on my understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s writing.

Word is the expression of thought in mind. Mantra is the power of the word in its expression.

In the tenth chapter of Rg veda (10-72), it is mentioned that  Aditi, the Divine Mother had eight sons. They are called the Adityas. The first seven are Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Dhatru and Amsha. Martanda was the eighth and it is said Aditi shunned him and set him aside for death.  He is mentioned as a form of Surya. Later  Martanda was equated with Vivaswat. Later still, Adityas included 12 members including Vishnu and Rudra.

One system lists 10 Adityas. They are: Dhatru, Mitra, Aryama, Rudra, Varuna, Surya, Bhaga, Vivaswan, Pusha and Savita. Later additions of Thvastru and Vishnu made the total of Adityas to twelve.

Indra represents the power of Pure Intelligence. Indra is also denoted by the word, vrushaba or Bull, and Indra is the Lord of Thoughts, the bull of the herds leading the mind towards Bliss. He is the Lord of the Swar loka or the realm of luminous intelligence and the male power presiding over the energies of Nature. In later systems of philosophy, he metamorphosed to Purusha of the Samkhya Philosophy (the female power is known as gna, to know)

Varuna, the soul of vastness and purity (sat of sat chit Ananda). He is the Lord of all the Waters, of the Ocean, the rivers and the rain, vast and pure. “The rivers journey to the Truth of Varuna” according to Sri Aurobindo. As water, he is the purifier. He is the guardian of Truth.

Mitra is the soul of love and harmony; light and knowledge (Ananda). He is the builder, sustainer and harmonizer of Truth. He is the Divine friend of the humans, the most beloved of the gods. Often interchanged with Surya.

Sri Aurobindo quotes a prayer to the twin-gods of Mitra and Varuna by Madhucchandas from Rg Veda as follows: “Mitra I call, the pure in judgment, and Varuna, devourer of the foe. By Truth, Mitra and Varuna, Truth-increasers who get to the touch of Truth………….”  (page 509)

Aryaman is the force behind the light of Divine Consciousness, the aspirer for Divine Knowledge. No hymn is specifically dedicated to him. He is always mentioned in conjunction with Mitra and Varuna. Aurobindo points out that in the Puranic tradition, there are two kinds of Fathers – one Divine and one human. The human ancestors are the manes. The first of the Divine Fathers who attained immortality is Aryaman. Like Mitra and Varuna, Aryaman makes men follow the path of Truth and Light.

Sri Aurobindo quotes the following Rk in support of this interpretation: “Aryaman of the unbroken path, of the many chariots, who dwells as the seven-fold offerer of sacrifice in births of diverse forms.”

Bhaga is Ananda as creative enjoyment.  Bhaga is Surya, as the Lord of Enjoyment. He is the divine enjoyer in man. Sri Aurobindo quotes the following Rk in support of this interpretation: “Let it be the divine Enjoyer who possesses the enjoyment and by him let us be its possessors; to thee every man calls, O Bhaga; do thou become, O Enjoyer, the leader of our journey.”

The four Kings, namely Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga together with their mother Aditi find themselves fulfilled in the minds of the human beings with the help of the vastness of Varuna, guided by Mitra, achieved by Aryaman and enjoyed by Bhaga.

In another interpretation, Varuna stands for Sat; Mitra stands for all-uniting light of Chit; Aryaman for the force of Tapas (or penance, ardor); Bhaga for Ananda. They emanate from the One and each possesses the essential quality of the other three. All of them exist in every one of us. We are both divine and human at once.

Agni is the mediator between the human and the gods. The Rg Veda starts with the word Agni. He carries our oblations to the gods and returns with light and knowledge. He is more a Force of the gods than a god. He is the “heat of life and the sap of things.”   He is the force behind both Light and Heat (denoted by the word bhama).

Other gods mentioned are: Maruts who represent the power or force of Thought. The power of thought is different from the thought itself. (They are also the Lords of wind, storm and rain)

Sarama is the name of a female hound and she represents the power of Intuition. Like a hound she sniffs out true knowledge hidden inside a rock or a cave in the form of light.

Cow is the symbol of Light from above. The Sanskrit word goh means “cow” and also dawn, cattle, and word. By connotation it stands for “rays of light” particularly when referred to as a group of cows, a  kine.

Vayu is Wind-god. He is the Master of life and Breath-Energy or Prana. Vayu is the Lord of Life. (the word vatapramiya is used) and Prana is the universal breath of life, responsible for all the vital and nervous activities of humans.

Savit (ta, ru),  Divine  Creator whose creation is the Truth, whose outpouring of His Ananda into the human soul during sacrifice helps the human elevate himself to the Divine Bliss.

Savitri: “Creator, especially in the sense of producing, emitting from the unmanifest and bringing out into the manifest.”  (Aurobindo page 302/314)

Surya is the illuminator, Master of Truth; also called Savitri, the creator; also called Pushan, the increaser.

Usha(s) is the Dawn, daughter of Heaven, the medium of awakening preceding Surya Savitri – the Illuminator of the Truth and Creator energy. When we wake up from the darkness of sleep and ignorance, the first step in seeing the world and the universe is being awakened. Without that state of awakening, there is no awareness and no new knowledge. Surya symbolizes this concept as the light of the Truth arising in the human consciousness at Dawn.

The finite, impermanent individual can reach the Infinite Universal. As individuals, we hold both Aditi, the Eternal Light and her sons, devas and also darkness in the form of Diti and her sons, danavas or asuras.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What is meant by Letting go of the Mind




Soon after I wrote the piece last week, more ideas on this topic flooded my mind. Let me share them with you before I forget.

The word Kavi has come to mean a poet in common usage. But it has several other meanings including wise, intelligent, prophet, thinker, seer and enlightened. It is in the latter sense our ancient rishis who wrote the mantras of the Vedas are denoted by the word kavi. In addition, they expressed their visions in a poetic form with words full of imagery and hidden meanings.

It is with awe I was thinking about the words of our rishis such as “How can you know that by which you know?”, “Let go of that by which you are trying to let go” and “Cut off the mind with the mind.” What do they mean? How can I be a human without the mind? The essence of being a human will be gone? How can I reflect on such noble and mysterious things without the mind? What were they saying?

Here is what these statements mean to me at my current level of understanding.

 1. Desires are of the mind. Let go of unreasonable and unending desires. This will help get over frustration, anxiety and attachment.

2. Let go of unreasonable and imaginary fears. This will get rid of fear of death since it is an unreasonable one. Imaginary fears are what Buddha refers to as the “second arrow.”

3. Let go of dogmas and bias.

By letting go of these aspects of the mind, we are letting go of the hindrances of the mind. That is as good as letting go of the mind.

Finally, if possible, imagine a subject to which my mind itself becomes an object.  This was probably   what was meant when the rishi said in Kena Upanishad “He who does not think but by whose power mind thinks is Brahman.”