Some thoughts on the Vedic gods
Last Activity: May 13, 2011
The hymns of the Rig Veda are mainly dedicated to the gods, devatas, or universal forces, which are to be invoked by men in their spiritual journey. There are many gods and godheads in the Veda and it is not immediately clear how they relate to one another and what their major functions are. Some gods are often invoked and have many hymns in the Rigveda, such as Indra, Agni, Maruts, Ashvins, etc. Others have less number of hymns, or even sometimes only a few, but nevertheless are considered to be important and are often mentioned throughout the text of the Rigveda, these are Adityas, Vishnu, Brihaspati, Surya, Savitar, Rudra, Usha, Dyauh, Prithivi etc.
Among all of them Indra has the biggest number of hymns. He is the Lord of the Divine Mind, who is striking and destroying the forces of darkness with his thunderbolt, vajra, which is essentially of the substance of the Supramental light, adjusted to the needs and aspirations of men calling from the lower hemisphere. It is known to us as the action of the Intuitive Mind, or Intuition, by Sri Aurobindo, which is nothing else but the ‘individualization’ of the Universal Action of the Overmental realms of Vishnu, where the Overmind itself is the result of the cosmic outburst of the Supramental Creative Force of Surya-Savitri.
So among these three higher deities, or the godheads acting from above, Indra is most frequently invoked, because of his immediate action upon our lower being, and because of its effectiveness in the destruction of the resisting forces of darkness, which obstruct our evolutionary progress. So, whenever we meet Indra in his action in the Veda the other godheads are automatically implied: Surya (the Supramental Sun) and Vishnu (the Overmental realms), for without them there can be no action of Indra as such. So, whenever Rishi invokes Indra, these two are understood, for it is ultimately the light of the Divine Surya that is acting and transforming our lower and unrefined Nature through the universal application of Vishnu. Indra is therefore only an individualized application of the ongoing Action of the Supermind into more concrete events in time and space; He is the one godhead who breaks through and enters the Darkness and destroys their formations and resistance against the Truth with His Intuitive Light of the Supreme Knowledge and Force. It is this Intuitive Light, most effective in knowing and acting, which was constantly invoked by the Rishis. Therefore there is a lesser need in invoking and addressing Vishnu and Surya in their separate domains, for their action in the world will be addressed and dealt with as that of Indra. In other words if Surya is to reach out to our manifestation with his Supreme Light of the Truth it can be done most effectively for us, who dwell in the lower hemisphere, through the action of Indra.
Nevertheless there are several hymns dedicated to Vishnu and Surya-Savitri in the Veda which are the invocations and experiences of the highest kind and therefore of the utmost importance for the Vedic system of Knowledge. These invocations create a vision of the Overmental and Supramental experience Rishis had in their ascent. These are rather rare experiences which leave behind the lower hemisphere with which Rishis are most concerned in the Veda. That’s why, perhaps, they are not many in number.
The Godhead who is constantly invoked in the Veda is therefore Agni. In fact He is the first to be invoked, for without him summoning the higher light the action of Surya itself would be impossible. So the Divine Flame is to be kindled first to bring all other universal forces into play here. Agni is not only a summoner of the higher forces but also the gate through which they enter and act upon our lower being, - the altar or the place of transformation. This transformative action was called Yajna, the Sacrifice. It is in Agni and through Agni alone that the transformation of our lower nature can take place. It is through him alone that the offering can be done, and the higher cosmic forces can descend and effectuate the transformation. In the Rig Veda all is centered on and around this Godhead. Agni is seen as the very action of the Divine amid and upon its own unregenerate being. If Indra is entering from above with the original light of the Supreme (vajra), Agni is already in the midst of Darkness, rising from below, the Immortal among mortals, always aspiring towards the higher truth, invoking all higher godheads to act upon the parts of the lower being which are offered to him for transformation.
These two Indra and Agni are invoked most in the Veda. There are more than 260 hymns to Indra alone and more than 220 to Agni. If in the case of Indra Vishnu and Surya are implied, in the case of Agni all the godheads are implied, who are involved in the transformative action upon the lower being and consciousness. All of them can be activated (invoked) by Agni.
The ascent of Agni is supported by Maruts, spreading all over the mental and vital plane, known also as the forces of invocation, the energies of the mind, the singers of the Hymn. These two, Agni and Maruts, are mentioned as the powers of the Great Lord Rudra. Maruts are known also as his sons in the Veda. Rudra is thus seen as the Godhead rising from below, the involved and evolving Godhead by the means of Agni and Maruts.
All other gods and godhead are seen as intermediaries and helpers of these two great movements of the Divine involved and evolving from one side (Rudra, Agni, Maruts), and from the other side of the uninvolved, but who is getting involved by invocation and descending from above, the Divine Knowledge-Power of Surya, Vishnu and Indra to support the growth of the Divine rising from below.
Other gods are there to help this interaction of the involved and yet uninvolved divine forces. The greatest among them are Adityas, the sons of Aditi, Infinite Consciousness. They are seen as the faculties and actions of the Divine Mother, representing the whole hierarchy of the divine Being, Consciousness, Power, Bliss, and Truth of the triple Supermind in the lower hemisphere and the transcendental realms. These are the higher principles and therefore they are rarely invoked separately in the hymns but mentioned throughout the Veda. The seven Adityas are represented by Surya-Savitri, the Supramental Godhead. And when it is projected into manifestation and sacrificed for its sake it is known as the eighth Aditya, which is the image of the involved or fallen Sun, known in the Rigveda as Vivasvat. Agni according to the Veda is rising from Vivasvat. Therefore Rudra (whose son is Agni) is also identified with Surya, as well as Vishnu who descends directly from the yet unfallen Surya, and thus they both approach manifestation from different ends of the same Surya-Savitri, as it were. So, manifestation is seen as a gap within the divine being, where all things of the infinite existence are spelled out, as it were, in time and space. This vision is later confirmed by Sri Krishna in the Gita, saying that the universe is within him and not he is in the universe. Therefore though the Sun is one it can be viewed from two different ends: fallen and unfallen, involved and uninvolved or evolving and involving. All the gods in the Rigveda are intermediaries of these two movements of the Supramental Godhead. They must get involved into manifestation if they are to get to the supreme perception of things, in the words of the Rigveda, they must rise to the highest Throne from which they shall see both Aditi and Diti, the Infinite and the Finite. Thus through man they get involved into the Sacrifice: the ascent to the supreme perception, and being thus involved they bring back the supreme consciousness to the fallen being and transform the Nature.
Among these intermediaries the most remarkable are Ashvins. These twin godheads assist man in his journey to go beyond by uniting within him the transcendental knowledge from above and the power from below on the level of the vital realms of his existence, providing thus access for the light of Indra to reach out into the depth of his vital being. In the later Puranic and Tantric literature they are known as two powers of Ida and Pingala whereas Indra is associated with Sushumna.
There is one more essential representative of the Divine to be mentioned here. It is Brihaspati, the Lord of the Divine Word rising from the Heart; he brings into motion the Intention of the Divine to manifest certain aspects of creation. He is connected with the action of the Divine Rivers: Ila, Saraswati and Mahi as the currents of the Divine Word acting upon the creation from above. In the later synthesis of the Gita these three movements of Rudra, Brihaspati, and Vishnu become the three major yogas: Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yoga, and in the Puranas are viewed as trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra.
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|commented by R.P.Gayatri on May 13, 2011|
Could we look at the Vedic gods as representative manifestation of the different states of the being? Am wondering if the hymns
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replied by Vladimir on May 13, 2011 (in reply to R.P.Gayatri's comment)
In a way one can say that. Otherwise hymns would not be needed.
|commented by mari l stitt on May 10, 2011|
Our Spiritual Venturing group is mostly Christian but we'd like to study Sri Aurobindo's Savriti -- taught
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replied by Vladimir on May 11, 2011 (in reply to mari l stitt's comment)
I guess these are not just gods. God in Sanskrit means 'luminous being'; 'deva' is from root div, 'to shine'. We can say that these are 'shining universal entities' who sustain the cosmos and its
|commented by Keka Chakraborty on May 10, 2011|
|Beautiful Vladimir! What an organized material! You know this really gave me the experience of - how a complexity can lead to beauty and/or bliss - the unfathomable paradox of the infinitude of the|
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|commented by Arul Dev on May 10, 2011|
|Thanks Vladimir. Enjoyed reading this.|
Personally felt the importance of invoking Agni in my life
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