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Friday, March 13, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 9

Mantra 19: This is addressed to Indra and Soma.

 “They say that things that are coming down are going up and vice versa. Indra and Soma, what you made are being born as if yoked to a single pole.”

“They” probably refers to the elders, the ancestors. Are the references to things going up and down refer to the cycles of time, or to the sun going up and down, or to lives appearing and disappearing? Since Indra is also called Aditya in some places and Soma is directly related to the moon, may be the rishi is referring to Indra and Soma as the father and mother and comparing them to steeds or oxen pulling a car. If so, the rishi is wondering about life on this earth (microcosm) and its counterpart in the other upper half (macrocosm). 

This interpretation will go well with the next well-known poem.

Mantra 20:  Three hymns starting with mantra 20 which refer to two birds sitting on the same tree, of which one is eating the fruits and the other is a mere witness, are famous. This metaphor is repeated in both Mundaka Upanishad (3:1:1) and Svetasvatara Upanishad (4:6). Several commentaries have been written about these  two birds by several scholars including Adi Sankara. The birds have been compared to the immortal and the mortal, paramatman and jivatman and to individual soul and transcendent Brahman. My preference is to imagine Rishi Dirghatamas living before philosophical elaborations. Therefore, comparing the birds to the immortal (contemplating) and the mortal (experiencing) makes sense to me.

Mantra 20 says: “Two birds bound by companionship take refuge on the same tree. One eats the fruits and the other does not eat, just looks on.”

Does the bird with fair wings refer to a person (human) with a body and a mind (two wings)? Is the tree the tree of life? Does the bird that eats stand for the individual living in this world bound by the needs of the body and the desires and therefore bound? And, if so, the other bird is the Universal Life Principle which is not bound by the needs and desires of this world and therefore free. One is the ego; the other is the Self. (You may wish to look at a video at )

Mantra 21: In this continuation, the rishi says: “ Where the fair-winged birds and the sages ceaselessly pray (in praise) for portion of the amritam (eternal), there are the mighty guardians of the Universe. He, the wise, has entered into me, of the immature mind.”

Now the rishi speaks of birds in  plural, possibly referring to the humans (the multiple coming out of the One) sitting on the tree of life. They are singing hymns of praise. And the One enters the many as mentioned in the final part of the hymn.

Mantra 22: The rishi says that "the birds living on this tree eating its fruit, roosting and raising a family do not realize that there are luscious sweet fruits at the top of the tree. He who does not know the Father does not get it."

It appears to me that the sage says that most of us live in this world like the bird who is eating the unripe fruits of this world mentioned in mantra 20, attached to worldly needs and cares and not realizing that it is possible to taste the amritam of immortality if only we reach out to the top.

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