RISHIS: AUTHORS OR SEERS?
FROM BOOK : Veda-The Myth and Reality ( A reply to Vedic Age )
Author : Pt Dharmdev Vidyamartand
We have tried in the earlier chapter to establish that Vedas, which are eternal, have been revealed by God Himself. We have also stressed their importance from different points of view. But Western scholars like Prof. Max Muller, Weber and Macdonell hold the view that Risis were the authors of Vedas. The mantras contained in the Vedas had been written by them from time to time, How can the Vedas then be etemal and Divinely revealed? Some of these scholars and authors even quote from Vedas and Sutras to support their contention. They say that Vasishtha, Jaamdagni, Angira, Kava, Bharadwaj, Gautam, Atri (whose names occur in the Vedas) were some of these authors. They also attempt to
reinforce their view by showing names of some countries and their kings extant in the Vedic “ballads”. Their detailed list is compiled by Prof. Macdonell and Dr. Keith. This list is entitled “ Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. ”
But the fact is that Risis are “seers’ and not the “authors” of the Vedas. The following is the definition of Risis given by Yaskacharya in Nirukta :
Also Acharya Upmanyu has stated that, those who have realised the true meaning and import of the mantras, are regarded as Risis. They were called Risis because they came to such realisation during the course of meditation and through penance. The realisation of the true meaning of the mantras, with all their mysteries, constitutes their seerhood.
Something similar to Acharya Upumanyu”s assertion is also found in Taittiríya Aranyaka (2.9.l):-
The following from the Satpath Brahman also denotes the similar meaning: –
In Taittiriya Samhita, Aitareya Brahmana, Kanva Samhita,Satpatha Brahmana and Sarvanukramni etc, seers have been described as the Risis. lt is speciﬁed which mantras, suktas and the mandals were revealed to each :-
Though it is true that such names as Viswamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja, Atri, Angiras, Priyamedha occur in the Vedas but it might be stressed here that they are epithets cannoting certain attributes and not proper nouns standing for particular individuals.
Again it is stated in Aitereya Brahmana that words like Grtsamada, Vísvamitra, Vamdeva, Atri, Bharadwaja, Vasistha, Pragatha, generally denote vital energy :
As these words denote common attributes in accordance with the derivations given in the above passages, they can be used for men and places having such attributes. For example, one who considers everyone as his friend and whom everyone considers his friend, will be called “Visvamitra” ; One who prevents others from committing sins, will be known as Atri.
A man endowed with strength and knowledge will be called “Bharadawaja”. One who is well-versed in the science of respiration (प्राणविद्या)and is a true devotee of God will be named “Vasistha”. A person, who keeps his senses and intellect under control, will also be known by the same name.
One who develops good qualities or lives in God and is shining through His glory, is “ Vamadeva”. The same is true of other words occurring elsewhere in the Vedas.
In Satpath Brahmana, which is an authentic exposition of Yajurveda, it is said, that Vasishta stands for vital energy Bharadwaja for intellect, Vishwamítra means ears, Angirasa for spiritual energy, and Visvarkamian for speech.
In Brhadaranyaka also, the words like “Gautam”, “Bharadwaja” are meant to denote senses :-
Here the two ears, two eyes, two nostrils and one speech have been called respectively Gautama, Bharadwaja, Jamadagní, Vasistha etc.
Words including Vasístha, Viswamitra, Jamadagni are not proper nouns denoting certain attributes as evident from the following:
Words like Kathaka, Kalapaka, Paippalada are- (missionaries of style) ( ).
Those who try to prove history in the Vedas are mistaken. For instance, when “Bhoj” occurs in Rigveda :-
Surely it is not a particular name of the King bom in 11th or 12th century A D, but refers to any king or any person who is charitable or who protects others.
In mantras like :
“Kanva” is not the name of a Risi or his progeny, but according to Nighantu, refers to all those who are endowed with sublime wisdom.
In the following mantra from Atharvaveda (18-3-16)
“Viswamitra ” is not the son of Gadhi; Jamadagni‘ is not the father of Parasurama, “Vasistha” is not the priest of he Suryavansis, as erroneously understood by a few scholars.
As pointed out earlier, Viswamitra stands for a man who looks upon everyone as his friend, Jamadagni for one who sees through the reality by his intellect or whose sight is pure; Vasistha is one who is Well-versed in the science of breath or who is the noblest of all by virtue of his inherent qualities; Bharawaja is one who is endowed with knowledge or purity of mind. One who is agile is Gautama, one who is constantly occupied in the devotion of God is Vamdeva. Atri is one who is free from all sufferings-spiritual, or material.
Sayanacharya has asserted that not only in the Vedas but even in Brahmanas, there is no human history. We, however, do not are the living expositions of the Vedas by Risis. So, there is human history even in the Brahmans as evident from the following from Taittiriya
But what can be more regrettable than this that the same Sayanacharya, who asserts that there is no human history even in the Brahmanas, gives historical interpretation of the following mantras from Rigveda (1-126-6) :
“When seduced for an intercourse by his child-wife Romasa, Rishi Bhavahavya said to her jokingly: “And you are most worthy of enjoyment! You embrace me with arms outwardly and join your reproductive organ inwardly. What a wonderful woman you are! You’re so much attached to me! You’re like Nakuli, who never deserted her husband. There is a lot of vital energy in you. You are capable of providing one with sexual delight in more than hundred and one ways”
In fact, there is not a single word in the mantra denoting request by Romasa for an intercourse; nor is there any indication of any ridicule by Risi Bhavahavya.
ln his commentary Swami Dayanand has given the following explanation of the above mantra :-
i.e. (A man should follow that policy which gives manifold pleasures).
Thoughtful readers can compare the two explanations (given by Sayanacharya and Swami Dayananda respectively) objectively and decide for themselves which of them is more in keeping with the spirit of the Vedas as a whole and which is only strained and forced and based on fantasy. The next mantra of the same hymn is as follows (Rig. 1-126-7) :-
Commenting on it says Sayanacharya :
Replying to Risi Bhavayaya, Romasa, daughter of Brihaspati and herself, a Brahmavadini, says :-
“Don’t think that I”m not fully matured and, therefore, not ripe for your enjoyment.
“My hair have fully grown. If you have any doubt, touch my hidden reproductive organ and discover it for yourself if I can give you pleasures of a paradise or not.”
Thus we see self-contradiction in Sayanacharya ‘s commentary : on the one hand he denies existence of any human history in the Vedas, nay even in Brahmanas, and on the other, he does not hesitate in giving obscene meaning of the so-called narration in the vedas relating to Bhavavaya-Romasa, Agastya–
Lopamudra, Pururavas-Urvasi, Indra-Indrani etc.
Those who regard Risis to be authors of the mantras will have to face very strong objections which they will ﬁnd difficult to rebut.
There are many mantras which are supposed to have more than hundred Risis. as for example in the following mantra from the Rigveda :-
Are we going to believe that this mantra in Gayatri Chhanda (containin g only 24 letters), was written jointly by 100 Risis? Can any impartial scholar accept this absurd assumption?
In fact, instead of writing the mantra, the 100 Risis only realized the true spirit of the mantra and revealed its secret to others. There is nothing incongruous or absurd in this interpretation.
There are supposed to be 1,000 Risis of the three mantras of the 34th hymn of Rigveda’s 8th Mandal :
It would be highly absurd and ridiculous to believe that 1,000 Risis authored these three mantras.But there is nothing irrational in believing that they were the interpreters of the same. Another objection that can be raised against believing that Risis were the authors of the Vedas is: how is it that there are different Risis of not only the same mantras in different Vedas but of the
same mantras at different places in the same Vedas? For example :-
(1) In Rigvedas (4.4.83) the Risi of the mantra
is Vamadeva, but in Yajurveda (17-91), it is Sadhyah.
The Risi of the following mantra is “Bharadwaja“ when it occurs in Atharveda (1.20.4)
but not so in Rigveda.
The Risi of the following mantra is Yakasma-Nasana Prajapati in Rigveda (l0.l6l.l) and Brahman in Atharvaveda (3.11.1)
In Rigveda, the Risi of the following mantra is Agastya but when it occurs again in the Sama Veda (40.l6), its Rishi is Dadhyan Atharvana.
We can produce hundreds of examples in which Risis of the same mantras differ from mandala to mandala in a particular Veda.
lt is very difficult to explain away the change in the names of the Risi if we attribute to them their authorship. while no such difﬁculty arises if we take these Risis as only their seers and not their authors. How can we, otherwise, save these Risis from the allegation of plagiarism. But such a charge becomes incongiuous with the concept of the Risi as deﬁned in the Scriptures.
WHO ARE RISIS?
In Yajurveda’s 34-49 Rishis have been described as follows-
(Those who study together the religious yore, who read together the Vedas and enjoy happiness, who retum from the Gurukula after observing Brahmacharya and completing their studies, who are together advanced in knowledge, who are masters of seven Divine forces, are veritable Risis, the knowers of the Vedas. Such calm, wise persons, viewing the path of ancient sages, take up the reins of noble deeds, as on a highway, a chariot driver does.
Deﬁning Risis, it is stated in Mundaka :-
(i.e. Risis are those who, realising the Omniscience of God, are ﬁlled with knowledge and lead a contented, satisfied and peaceful life.)
Yaskaracharya in Nirukta deﬁnes Risis as :
साक्षात्कृतधर्माण ऋषयो बभूवु: |
(Risis are those who realise the true religion)
It is unfortunate that the late Kanhaya Lal Munshí attributed to them the authority of mantras (which he did not even understand) and wrote thus about them in the preface to “Lopamudra “ :-“Risis who had ﬂat noses were black in colour and lived on the charity of presents of Das and Dasis. They were usually intoxicated throughout the day and night and often betrayed a ﬁt of anger. They praised those who made the offering of cows. They were sometimes extremely jealous of each other and in anger, tried to invoke the gods for their wrath on their adversaries.
“The young among them tried to attraet the opposite sex by their gesticulations and exhibitionism. They wrote mantras with a motive to captivate the hearts of the young maidens.”
When our readers compare the description of the Risis given in Lopamudra with that which emerges from the Vedas, Upanishads and Nirukta, they will themselves know the reality. lt will be evident then that the Risis, as described in the Vedas and the Upanishads cannot be “greedy, full of anger, and lustful” as depicted in Lopamudra. The picture of the Risis delineated in this book is highly condemnable.
The allegation that “the Risis used to compose mantras to allure the beautiful women is highly insulting, particularly as it has not been substantiated by the text of the Scriptures. How can the allegation be accepted when it is not in harmony with the true concept of the Risis?
We have already given a number of quotations from ancient literature deﬁning the true character of the Rishis. The Risis picked up such names from the Vedas as appealed to them because of their deravative meaning. lt was just like followers of a religious faith choosing from their Scriptures, names for their spiritual heads. Or their new borns as being witnessed at all times. Besides, there are hundreds of examples to show that these names are generally imaginative or are just nick names.
It is generally observed that if a person is devoted to some
cause or a mission he becomes so much indentiﬁed with it that he
is sometimes named after it. For example, Mahatma Munshi Ram ji, who sacriﬁced his life for the Gurukula Kangri (which he had founded), had come to be known as Gurukula himself. “Here comes
the Gurukula”, people used to say when he arrived at any place.
A man had come to be known as .JayantiPrasad for he was working for the golden jubilee celebrations of the Gurukula.
The same is true of how the Risis came to be known by the names occurring in the Vedas.
The names ofthe Risis also had similar origin in many cases. Hundreds of examples can be given to prove the above contention leaving no scope for any misunderstanding.
Rigveda’s 10.90 is called “Purush Sukta “ which begins with:-
This sukta, which gives a description of God and his creation has appropriately “Narayana ” as its Risi.
The word Naryan is synonym for God. The root of this word has been given thus in Manusmriti :–
Rigveda’s 10.97 is devoted to praise of medical science and its Risi accordingly is “Bhishaq ” (i.e. a doctor)
Rigveda”s 10.101 has its theme as विश्वे देवा ऋत्विजो वा I lt is, therefore, quite appropriate, that its Risi is बुध: सौम्य: (an intellectual and sober person).
The risi of Rigveda`s 10.106 is दिव्यो दक्षिणा वा (giver of charity) which is quite in keeping with the spirit of its content which deals with the importance of donations.
Rigvedafs 10.117 is in praise of charity of money and food grains and its Risi is भिक्षु:I
It is quite logical that Rigveda’s 10-121 which has Hiranyagarbha as its Risi, should deal with God, the Giver of happiness.
Likewise अग्नि: (Fire) is both the theme and the Risi of RigVeda’s l0-124.
In Rigveda’s 10-125 also, the subject matter and Rishi are the same. ( वागामभ्रूणी )
The famous hymn of Rigveda`s 10.190 which begins with ऋतं च सत्यं चाभीध्दात तपसोSध्यजायत | gives an account of the creation and its order and teaches us to refrain from committing sins. Its Rishi is ‘अघमर्षण’ because the way to save oneself from sins is meditation on God.
Another well-known hymn of Ri gveda’ s 10.191 contains such mantras as ‘संगच्छध्वं, संवद्ध्वम सं वो मनांसि जानताम etc, calling for unity and friendship among all. The Rishi of this hymn is ‘संवनन: ‘(one who is friendly to all).
In his introduction to Rigveda’s commentary, Swami Dayanand raises the question : Why should we not believe that Rishis, whose names occur at the top of mantras, or hymns in the Vedas, were their authors and replies :
(lt is not correct to believe so. Even Brahma listened to the Vedas and studied them. Brahma possessed the Vedas even before the Rishis were born.
Swami Dayanand’s view, given above, has been endorsed by Svetasvatra upanishad(6-18) :