SOUL, MAGIC, GAMBLING & POLYGAMY
Author : Pt Dharmadev Vidyamartand
Besides discussing the notions of transmigration of soul and theory of action, we will discuss in this chapter, whether there was magic, drinking, gambling, and polygamy during the Vedic Age.
TRANSMIGRATION OF SOUL
An impression is sought to have been created by the authors of the Vedic Age that the Vedic Aryas had neither deﬁnite knowledge of the transmigration of soul nor were they interested in its theoretical aspects.
For instance it is written in this book:-
“ As the Rigvedic Aryas were full of the “Joíe de viver” (joy of life), they were not particularly interested in the life after death, much less had they any special doctrines about it. We can, therefore , glean only a few notices of life beyond, that are scattered throughout the Rigveda. In our search for any reference implicit or explicit, to rebirth or transmigration, we come across only a few doubtful passages. According to R.V.1.164.30, the soul (Jivah) of the dead one moves in its own power; the immortal one having a common origin with the mortal one (the body). But this transmigration is not certain.”
“So we may conclude that only the germs of the conception of rebirth were there, and those developed either naturally or through the inﬂuence of ideas current among the original tribes with whom the Aryans came into contact”
But careful perusal of the text will show that there are clear references to soul and its transmigration in the Vedas.
In Rigvedas it is clearly stated that the soul which inhabits this ephemeral body, is eternal, permanent and true:
(“Behold this (individual spirit) the first being which enjoys (consequence of his actions) as it is the immortal light placed within the mortal frame. That has manifested itself. This immortal soul is staying (in the body) while it seems growing with the growth of its body.”
The theory of rebirth also ﬁnds expression in the following mantra from the Rigveda:-
(May I have glance at the indestructible Lord of the sense organs (i.e. the individual soul) which ever walk, through the pathways of coming (birth) and departure (death); it traverses its path with its body and even without it and having covered itself with its actions (i.e. in accordance with its good and evil actions), it comes (takes birth) again and again in the various worlds.”
GOD AND SOUL
The relation of soul with God and difference between the two have been clearly enunciated in the following mantra:-
(Like two birds, there are two spirits i.e. the ﬁnite and the Supreme which, knit with the bonds of friendship, reside on the same tree (of the material universe). One of the twain (i.e. the ﬁnite spirit)
enjoys the sweet ripe fruit (and also the bitter one) produced by his good or bad actions, whereas the other (i.e. the Supreme Spirit) simply looks all around without enjoying its fruitage.”
THE SOUL THROUGH THE AGES
There is clear description of the soul incarnating itself in different bodies according to one’s own actions:-
“O individual soul! in accordance with thine actions, thou assumes the form of a woman and that of a man, sometimes thou becomes a virgin, thou walkest with the help of 21 staff when thy body becomes old and frail, thou takest birth again and again as thy face is turned towards all directions (in accordance with thy actions).
(This individual soul, sometimes it becomes their father and sometimes their son too, and sometimes becomes their elder brother and sometimes it even becomes their younger brother. Verily, the one self of luminous soul dwelling within the mind, has taken birth before and verily it again enters the womb of the mother.)
(O God of life, please give us eyes again in our future life and give us breath, in this world and confer on us all necessary objects of enjoyment; O most Gracious Being! May we see the rising sun for a long time, be kind upon us and give us blessings,)
In the following mantra from Yajurveda (4. 1 5), a devotee plays to God for a good life in the birth to come:
(May I receive, through the grace of God, my mind again in future life, may I have life again, may I get breathe again, may my soul return again and may I be the possessor of eyes and ears again in future life; may Self Refulgent God, keep us safe from misfortune and dishonor.)
In Atharva Veda, the use of स उ जायते पुन: most certainly conﬁrms the Vedic theory of transmigration of soul:
(The individual soul wanders within the womb of mother and takes birth again and again in bodies of intelligent persons. It exists in past, present and future; when it becomes a father, it again enters into the body of a son with the powers of his actions.)
Reproduced below are two mantras from Atharveda in this connection:-
(May the earth give us birth again and may the shining heavenly region and the atmosphere restore the same to us; may Soma, All Creating God, give us body again (after our death) and may the All Nourishing God, lead us on the path of peace and happiness.)
(May I again receive my sense organs in my future life and may I receive my spirit, together with worldly possessions and knowledge Divine so that I may perform ﬁre-offering on the altars and may ever attain prosperity.) `
THEORY OF ACTION
In Vedas there is a great emphasis on action and industry. lt is clearly mentioned in the vedas that one cannot achieve progress and prosperity through mere performance of yajnas, singing euologies to God or offering prayers to him.
The Vedic Age, however, seeks to create an impression that devotees have been instructed in the Vedas to seek more and more gifts from God by ﬂattering songs and ritualistic sacrifices.
But this is not true. For instance, it is clearly mentioned in the Rigveda that God never befriends a person Who avoids hard work or industry :
ln Yujurveda, there is clear instruction to desire a long life full of action:
PRAYERS FOR PURITY
In Vedic Age, very serious allegation has been made against the Rishis :-
“Absence of evil is not what they pray for. Their supreme desire is to triumph over poverty and resistance”
In the 97th hymn of the First mandala of the Rigveda, there are 8 mantras, each of which ends with अप न: शोशुचदघम (O God destroy our sins). Some of these mantras are reproduced below:-
(O God, may we become yours. Destroy our sins.)
(May with Thy mercy, O Omnipresent Lord, all our sins be destroyed -may we never commit sins again).
(Just as sea is crossed through ship, may we cross this miserable world through Thy Grace – May our sins be destroyed.)
POLYGAMY AND VEDAS
Of many misconceptions about the Vedas propagated by the authors of Vedic Age, one pertains to polygamy.
It is written in the Vedic Age:-
“The Rigveda certainly permits polygamy, though monogamy may have been the rule. Whether monogamy developed from polygamy in the Rigvedic Age as Zimmer thinks in “Altindísche Leben “, or whether polygamy is secondary as Weber believes in “Indische Studeíern” cannot be decided-Probably polygamy, though allowed, was practically conﬁned to the “Rajanya” class. Polyandry is not referred to anywhere in the Rigveda.”
It may be stressed that monogamy is considered best in the Vedas. Some of the mantras indicating this ideal have also been referred in the Vedic Age which also acknowledges that monogamy was the rule though polygamy was allowed. For instance, in Rigvedas 1.124.32 and 1O.74.4 जायेव पत्य उशती सुवासा: means knowledge reveals itself to the scholars, just as a woman draped in her best attire, presents herself before her husband. It may also be mentioned here that the words जाया and पत्या are both singular in number and, therefore, clearly indicate monogamy.
In the following mantra from the Rigveda God has been compared to a “chaste woman” of a noble character :
(He who is like the sun, the supporter of the universe, who abides on earth like a king with good friends, who is like heroes at home- and who is like the irreproachable Wife, beloved of her husband.)
In the following mantra from Rigveda, one of the four comparisons which have been made to express a devotee’s desire for God to turn to him is that of a husband for wife :-
“As kine turn to the Village, as warriors to their steeds, as loving milk-giving cows to their calves, a husband to the Wife, so may the Deity, the Upholder of the heavens, Lord of all Bliss, turn towards us”.
In the hymn about marriage in Rigveda (10.85.30) a bride is enjoined to work for the happiness and pleasure of her husband :-
(Shining like the sun, oh, bride, full of tapas, ascend this chariot and go to thy husband”s home to add to His pleasure and happiness.)
In the following mantra, the bride has been blessed to live with her husband and never be separated :
(May you always live together happily in your home-may you lead a happy, prosperous married life.)
In the following mantra both husband and wife make a declaration that their hearts will be united with each other like water which is cool and peaceful.)
ln the following mantra, the Wife says to her husband :
(Establish me ﬁrmly in your heart. May our hearts be united.)
(May you be mine entirely. May you never even praise other women in my presence.) ‘
The following mantras may also be quoted in support of this Vedic ideal of polygamy :
In these mantras also, there is an instruction to the couples to love each other like “chakva-chakvi ” (love birds) and use sweet words for each other.)
Because of a few similies in the Rigveda, the authors of the Vedic Age have tried to establish the existence of polygamy during the Vedic period which is very erroneous. A large number of quotations against polygamy in the vedas render such interpretations infructuous.
For instance, take the following mantra, in which a person, tortured by the worldly agonies, has been compared to a person annoyed or troubled by co-wives :-
And also in the following mantra, it is written that a person, having two wives, is pressed from both sides like a neighing horse driving a chariot which is pressed between two spokes :-
While there is provision for only one marriage in the Vedas, in exceptional cases, “Niyoga” (temporary alliance of wife with a stranger), is permitted with a limited purpose.
GAMBLING/ DRINKING IN THE VEDIC PERIOD
Vedic Age describes dice playing as one of the principal amusements of the Vedic period. It says :-
“Dice was another amusement. The number of dice, the method of dice playing and the names of the throws are all described in detail in the various texts of this (Yajur Veda) period A ritual game of dice is played at the Agnyadheya and the Rajasuya cennonies – so gambling is probably sought to be restricted by elevating racing and dicing to the rank of religious ceremonies.”
The book has, however, failed to mention where the details of dice playing have been given in Yajurveda. We cannot believe in what they say unless they produce some evidence in support of their contention. Such an evidence is impossible to produce. (because it is not there at all.)
Moreover there is another reason for not believing them because what they have said is quite contrary to the injunctions against gambling in the hymn l 0.34 of the Rigveda (which is entirely devoted to this subject). ln some of the mantras of this hymn, it is clearly stated that gambling bums the heart of a person like the charcoal which though apparently cool from outside, is potentially destructive.
lt is also said that the family members of a gambler-his parents, Wife, brother etc, also disown him when he runs into debt because of this game :
In the end there is clear instruction against gambling in the most unequivocal terms : अक्षौर्या दिव्य (O man, no gambling.)
A gambler is told that he would enjoy the blessings and pleasures of the family life only when he earns money by industry, by such work as agriculture :
It there is a provision anywhere for gambling or dice playing on the occasion of some Yajnas, it should be considered only as an interpolation without the sanction or authority of the vedas; it is, therefore, unauthentic and without merit.
One might say that even a highly religious man like Yudhistira used to gamble. But does it go to prove that gambling is a meritorious thing? We may recall what Lord Krishna had told him: if he were in Dwaraka he would never have let him indulge in this game asserting that its consequences are disasterous :
In these shlokas he counts gambling among the four vices which destroy a man’s beauty and his wealth (the other three being women, hunting and drinking).
Vedas have clearly instructed against drinking in the same way as against gambling.
Among the seven vices (even one of which makes a man sinner) is also drinking :
Yaskacharya has described these seven vices as follows in Nírukta :
(Theft, corruption, killing of righteous persons, abortion, falshehood, repeating a bad action and drinking.)
In Rigveda there is a mantra which described how the men who drink do not feel ashamed even in undressing themselves and looking at each other in naked bodies.
Drinking and gambling have been described in Rigveda as actions which lead to अधर्म (unrighteousness).
In Atharva Veda (6.7O. 1) meat eating, drinking and gambling have been placed in the same category and described as condemnable and prohibited :-
It is alleged in the “Vedic Age” that the risis remained intoxicated under the influence of “soma” which was misunderstood as a kind of a liquor.
In fact, the word Soma सोम: which occurs in the following mantras stands for God, who is described as the producer of all herbs, water, ﬁrmament, earth, sky, ﬁre, sun and air illuminator and Master of the whole universe and Omnipresent.
Addressing God a devotee says; “King of this entire Universe, O Lord, Thou who art, Omniscient and Knower of everything and Repository of all virtues and Father of all “devas° purify me :
Can even an idiot take the word “Soma ” for a herb or a medicine in this context? There is not an iota of doubt that this word has been used only for God because He alone is and can be Omnipresent, Omniscient and the Master of the universe.
While the word ‘Soma ‘ has been used for God, at times it is also meant to denote affectionate devotion to God which is coupled with the true knowledge of His attributes. For instance, in Rigveda’s 9.108.1, it is stated:
Here ‘soma ` is described as spiritual intoxication induced by true devotion(इन्द्राय क्रतु वितभो ).
This spiritual intoxication is naturally different from the intoxication induced by liquor or drinks.
In Rigveda and Samveda, the word soma has been described thus :-
(This soma which is full of sweetness ( मधुमान) is purifier( पावक: ) inducer of virtues ( देवावी ) and destroyer of all impure sentiment’s ( अधं शंसहा )
lt is clear from the above that this soma is not used for simple liquor but Spiritual intoxication which results from devotion, knowledge and puriﬁcation.
In the same Vedas, Soma has been invoked for puriﬁcation, strength and intellects :
Such a description of the ordinary liquor, which pollutes the intellects, is quite incongruous.
The following mantra, which occurs both in the Rigveda as well as Samaveda, gives a very clear cut account of Soma :
(O, Soma, the Illuminater and Purifier, Thou proclaim-est immortality for all.)
This mantra leaves in no doubt about the true meaning, rather nature, of Soma-which is a declaration of Conquest over death (i.e., immortality).
The following mantras, from Rigveda also conﬁrms that besides God, the word “Soma` means spiritual intoxication :-
ln the above mantras the word `soma’ has been described as giver of Peace, puriﬁer, born of Truth and embodiment of knowledge etc.
Hundreds of mantras can be quoted to prove that the meaning of the word ‘ Soma” as interpreted by contributors to the Vedic Age is completely wrong. Their contention that the Risis remained drunk all the times is, therefore, completely baseless.