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Some thoughts on the Vedic gods

Author: vladimir

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. 



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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
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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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