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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Correspondence and connections in the Vedas


Meditation is a mental activity trying to imagine, intuit and experience the links between the visible and the invisible, the immanent and the transcendent, the mundane and the divine and also between different levels of reality.

It appears that the Vedic rituals were designed to make connections between items of correspondence, between counterparts in the celestial world and the human world. Also between the mental and physical worlds, and between thoughts and actions. The counterparts are defined by similarities and resemblances.

The links can be made and are indeed made during rituals with postures and gestures. For example, in preparation for the sacrifice, the sacrificer had to retreat to a lonely hut and lie in a fetal position. He wore a white cloth over his head to “resemble” being hidden in amnion.

Since the sacrificer wants to be like the devas (gods), he has to remain awake for several hours before the sacrifice, because Gods are always awake and vigilant. He has to remain awake during the rituals lest errors creep in and the oblations are taken away by evil spirits.

Another example of correspondence lists Dawn, Sun, Wind and Fire in the earth (prithvi) and the corresponding deities in the celestial world namely Ushas, Aditya, Vayu and Agni.  

The links may even be based on words which sound similar. For example,  Ka is sukha for bliss and/or dukka or shoka for suffering. Ka is also Prajapati.

Since Prajapati is Time, seasons are Prajapati. So is mrtyu or death. So are the gods and the creatures that came out of Prajapati. Since the human who came out of Prajapati performs the sacrifice and sacrifices himself, he is himself Prajapati.

Prajapati and Death are like twins. Prajapati eats mrtyu and makes death part of himself. Satapata Brahmana: 10.5.2.23 says: “Now, that man in yonder orb (of the sun), and this man in the right eye, are no other than Death; and he becomes the body (self) of him who knows this: whenever he who knows departs this world he passes into that body, and becomes immortal, for Death is his own self.”  (purusho mrityur├╗pah)

In the process of performing the rituals, the Rishis saw the incongruities of killing of life. They gradually replaced the killing with chanting of mantras with sticks, clarified butter and grains and with rituals requiring internalization and mental activity. As they moved from the sacrifices of the Brahmanas with the meditations of the aranyakas and Upanishads, they internalized the external fire with internal ardor, tapas, intense mental activity. Satapata Brahmana says (11.2.6):  “He again draws in his breath: thereby he establishes that (fire) in his innermost soul; and that fire thus becomes established in his innermost soul.”

The connections made between corresponding domains are clear in the following description of Asvamedha sacrifice. This section is in the beginning of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (1.1.1). “The head of the sacrificial horse is the dawn. The eye is the sun. Its vital force is the air. The open mouth is the internal heat (vaisvanara)…. The back is the heaven and the belly is the sky. The hoof is the earth…….The vessels (guda) are the rivers. … the hairs are the herbs…… Its yawning is lightning. Its shaking the boy is the thunder. Its making water is rain. Its neighing is the speech…”.   How much clearer can the connections be established?

We must remember that this is the transition period between the age of sacrifices and the age of metaphysics. The sages were interested in convincing the people that rituals are not as important as an inward journey. They were trying to stop the killings and rituals and move towards meditative practices to see the Brahman inside. In the process they were developing this concept of correspondence between the celestial world and the mental world.










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