The Vedas treat of four classes of subjects viz. Vjanana (Philosophy or metaphysics), Karma (action in general), Upaasana (communion with God) and Jnaana (knowledge in general). Of these, the first, viz. Vijnana, takes the precedence of all. It means realization, in knowledge, of all things, from God down to a blade of grass. The first and foremost rank is occupied by the realization of God. He being the highest of all entities, the Vedas chiefly treat Him. That this is so, is clear from the following quotations:-
Yama says to Nachiketas in Kath II.15, “Om, i.e., God is the highest seat to which men attain in what is called emancipation (Moksha). It is characterized by the realization of God. It is full of all bliss and devoid of all pain. All the Vedas have for their main
topic Brahma – the Most High. All righteous deeds are performed and religious austerities observed with a view to fit oneself for His realization. The object of the performance of the duties of four Ashramas (stages of life), viz., Brahmacharya (the life of a religious student), Grihasta (the life of a householder), Vanaprastha (the life of an ascetic) and Sanyaasa (the life of a religious teacher), is the attainment of God.
The learned desire to reach Him by concentrating their mind upon Him and by proclaiming His glory. I tell thee briefly, O Nachiketas, that that seat is this Brahma”
[This sacred word, Om, connotes Him. Yoga, I,1:27.
‘Om is the name of the all-pervading Brahma’ Yajurveda XL 17.
‘Om is the name of Brahma.’ Taittiriyaranyaka VII. 8.
There are two kinds of knowledge contained in the Vedas – the Apara and the Para. That knowledge, by means of which we know all things, from the earth and a blade of grass to Prakriti and learn their proper use, is called the Apara, and that, by which one knows God – the invisible, the omnipotent, etc., is called the Para. The Para is much superior to the Apara.
Men of steadfast wisdom see Him who is invisible, incapable of being grasped or comprehended, without family connections and caste, without organs of sight and hearing, without hands and feet, eternal, all-pervading, omnipresent, the most subtle, immutable and the source of all beings. Mundak I.5, 6.
Again, says the Rigveda, I.2.7.5.* “The learned, at all times see that the highest seat of the all-pervading God, called Moksha (emancipation), which is attained by men through the adoption of the best possible means and is the highest beatitude. It extends everywhere and is not limited by time, space and matter.
God’s essence being all-pervading, that seat is attainable by all men at all times and places. As the eye is able to exercise its function in the space filled by the sun’s light, so man is capable of of attaining that seat everywhere and always, for, God exists in everything and at all times. Moksha being the best possible object of desire, the learned seek to obtain it.”
Translator’s note – The author in his usual way has not given a literal meaning of this verse. The work being in Sanskrit, he leaves out many words, which are easily understood by a student of Sanskrit, unexplained. I, therefore, give below a literal translation of the first verse. The author has not fully explained the second verse also, but I have given its literal translation in the body of the book. “The Apara knowledge is the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and Atharvaveda, phonetics, ceremonial, grammar, etymology, prosody, astronomy, but the Para is that by which the Indestructible is apprehended.”
This the reason why the Vedas accord it a special treatment.
Vyasa also, has an aphorism on this subject in his Vedanta. ‘God is the subject matter of all the Vedas, because such is the appropriate interpretation of all texts. Vedanta I.1.4.
Its purport is that God is the subject dealt with by the Vedas, at some places in express terms, at others by implications (parampra, lit. traditionary explanation). Hence the ultimate topic of the Vedas is God alone.
The Yajurveda, VIII, 36 says: there exists no other object superior to the Supreme being. God supports all creatures and He is, therefore, Prajapati – the Lord of creatures, pervades all the worlds and bestows the highest bliss on all things. He has filled the creation with the three lights – the fire, the sun and electricity – to illumine it. He has created the sixteen Kalas or the 16 Kalas exist in Him.
God is, therefore, the ultimate object of the Vedas.
He is Akshara whose name is Om. God is called Akshara because He never perishes and because He pervades the moving and the not-moving creation. All the Vedas and the Shastras and the whole universe itself have God alone as the chief subject of their exposition, Mandukyopanishad.
God is, therefore, the chief topic of all.
A secondary sense is never to be preferred to the primary one, for, according to the dictum of the grammatical commentary, the Mahabhashya. ‘When an action can be accomplished by the help of a primary as well as of a secondary rule, it ought to be accomplished by the help of a primary a well as of a secondary rule, it ought to be accomplished by the help of the primary rule.
For this reason, in interpreting the Vedas, we must first look to their chief sense which is God, because all teachings aim at this attainment. Consequently, all men should preface their activities, in the domain of action, worship and knowledge, with a glorification of God and His attributes, so that they may be able to achieve success in the affairs of this as well as in those of the next state (or in matters material and spiritual).
The second subject matter of the Vedas, called the action-portion, is concerned with activities only. There is such a close connection between the internal or mental and the external or physical activities that the acquisition of learning and knowledge would remain incomplete without the help of action.
Action is of many kinds, but its chief divisions are only two. The first aims at the achievement of the highest end of human existence, viz., the attainment of Moksha through the performance of God’s worship, praise and prayer, resignation and obedience to His will, by doing righteous deeds and be acquiring knowledge. The second
is performed with a view to achieve success in the affairs of this world, i.e., to acquire wealth and secure enjoyment by doing righteous deeds. When action is performed with the sole object of attaining God, it is followed by noblest results and is termed action detached from desire. It is bound up with endless bliss.
When it is performed with the ultimate object of securing worldly prosperity and enjoyment and mundane happiness, it is called action attached to desire. It brings in its train the tasting of the fruit of birth and death. To the first class belongs the performance of the Yajnas, the Agnihotra to the Asvamedha – in which one has to burn in fire ingredients (after they have been duly clarified) which are fragrant and sweet and possess tonic and curative properties, with a view to purify the air and the rain water. A Yajna is productive of happiness to the whole world.
To the second class belong such actions, as the production of foodstuffs and articles of clothing, the invention and manufacture of conveyances, machines, tools and implements, etc., which are performed for the successful working of the social order. These, for the most
part, conduce to the happiness of the individuals only.
In this we are supported by the 1st and 8th aphorisms of Pada 3, Adhyaya 4 and Purva Mimansa. They purport to say that the duty of the perfomer of a Yajna is threefold, viz., to collect the ingredients (of homa), to purify them and to consume them in fire. The ingredients are of four kinds as mentioned above, viz., fragrant, sweet, tonic and curative.
It is imperative that they should be so prepared and purified as to produce the best results. For instance, in order to prepare good curry fragrant ghee is poured into a ladle and heated over the fire, and when smoke begins to rise, the ladle is, thrust into the vessel containing the curry, the mouth of vessel is closed and the curry is stirred about. Then the smoke, like the vapor that had risen before, is condensed as
fragrant liquid, and, mixing with the curry, renders it sweet-scented, nutritious and palatable. In like manner, the vapors that arise from a Yajna remove the impurities of air and rain water and thus conduce to the happiness of the whole world.
Hence it is said in the Aitareya Brahmana, I:2, that a Yajna in which a learned man burns the purified ingredients in fire in the aforesaid manner conduces to the good of all mankind. A Yajna is performed eulogizing its result is to ward off evils. Good results flow from a Yajna only when it is performed with purified ingredients in a proper manner and by pure and holy men and not otherwise.
We read in the Shatapatha V.3, that smoke and vapor are produced by fire. When fire enters into trees, medicinal herbs, water and other substances it disintegrates them and
separates their juices from them. The juices are then rarefied and ascend into the upper regions, borne up by air. Their liquid particles are termed vapor. Smoke is the name given to a combination of their liquid and earth (or solid) particles.
When after the ascent of smoke into the higher regions a sufficient quantity of watery vapor is collected clouds begin to form and from these masses of vapor rain to begin to fall. Then the annual plants, barley, etc., are produced.
From them is produced food, from food semen, and from semen the bodies (of living beings). For this reason all these are said to be the progeny of fire.
We read in the Taittiriyopanishad that from that self (atman) sprang ether (Akasha), from ether air, from air fire, from fire water, from water earth, from earth herbs, from herbs food, from food seed, and from seed man. Man thus consists of the essence of food. Ananda Valli I,2. Again, “He performed
Tapas. Having performed Tapas He perceived that food as Brahman, for, from food these beings are produced; when born they live by food and into food they enter at their death. Bhrigu Valli II. 3.
Here food is called Brahman (the Great) because it is the chief cause of the continuance of life. Happiness can accrue to the living beings from pure food, air and water, but not, if they are impure.
There are two agencies at work for the purification of food, air and water, viz.,
God has made this fiery orb of the sun and sweet smells, and flowers. The sun is constantly engaged in drawing up the juices from all things of the world. But as sweet smelling and bad smelling particles are mixed up with these juices, the water and air,
which come in contact with them, are, on account of the mixture of sweet and bad smells rendered of an indifferent quality in which there are both desirable and undesirable elements. As a result of this, the quality of plants, food, seed and bodies also, which are produced from the falling of rain, becomes indifferent.
As a consequence of this, strength intellect, prowess, energy, fortitude, courage and other qualities become of a mediocre type because it is a philosophical truth that as is the cause, so is its effect. This does not, however, argue a defect in God’s creation; for, bad odors and other nuisances are mostly the creation of man. He being the author of bad odors and other nuisance, it becomes incumbent on him to remove them.
It is a divine commandment that a man ought to speak the truth and ought not to tell lies. Whenever transgresses, it becomes a sinner and suffers pain in accordance with the law of God. Similarly, this commandment also, that man ought to perform a Yajna, had been promulgated by God. Whoever, therefore, violates it, commits sin because he omits to do an act which is productive of universal good. He must consequently
suffer pain. The greater the number of men and other animals collected together at one place, the greater the amount of offensive smell. It cannot be the result of God’s creation because it is the consequence of the crowding together of a great number of men and other animals.
Men collect together elephants and other animals for their own pleasure and hence the stink caused by these animals must be put down to the account of men’s pleasure-seeking proclivities. In this way all bad odors which contaminate the air and rain water are produced by the agency of human beings. They alone ought, therefore, to remove them.
Of all living beings man alone is able to know good and evil. Manhood of man consists in the possession of the thinking faculty. Of all living beings man alone has been created with a mind, i.e., with a capacity of acquiring knowledge.
By a peculiar arrangement of the molecules of the organs of the human body God has made them fit for being used as instruments for acquiring knowledge. Man alone, and no other animal, therefore, is capable of knowing right and wrong and of doing righteous
and keeping aloof from unrighteous acts. This is the reason why all men should perform the Yajna for the good of all.
Q. – But the fragrant substances such as musk, etc., are destroyed by being thrown into fire; how can be said that a Yajna is productive of good? On the other hand, if these good things be given to men, etc., to eat and be utilized other wise they would yield better results than homa. What is then the use of performing Yajna?
A. ~ Nothing is ever utterly annihilated. What is called destruction (nasha) is merely the passing from a perceptible state into an imperceptible one. I admit eight kinds of cognition (darshana).
Acharya Gotama lays down in the Nyaya Shastra that direct cognition is that true and unerring knowledge which springs from the contact of a sense organ with an object; for example, on looking at a man from close quarters one becomes certain that what one is looking at is a human being and nothing else.
The knowledge of the bearer of a mark from the mark is called inference; for example, on seeing the son we conclude that he had a father.
The knowledge of an object based on its resemblance to another object is called analogy; for example, when we say that Yajnadatta resembles Devadatta we convey knowledge by means of similarity between the two men.
The knowledge springing from the verbal authority is that which produces conviction in respect of things, seen and unseen, by means of words; for example, the saying that emancipation (moksha) is obtained through knowledge. Nyaya I. 1-4, 5, 6, & 7,
Historical tradition is the statement of a trustworthy person, as for instance, the statement that there was a war between the Devas and the Asuras.
Implication is the sense conveyed indirectly, for example, the statement, that rain falls when there are clouds, implies that there is no rain when there are no clouds.
Possibility is the happening of a thing through the instrumentality of a person or at a place; for example, the statement that father and mother beget children is a possible statement, but, if a person were to make statement, that the hair of the moustache of Kumbhakaran stood 4 kosa erect and that his nose was 16 kosa long, it would be impossible and, consequently, false.
Non-existence is the absence of a thing at certain place and time; for example, a man asks another to fetch a pitcher. That other person finding that the pitcher was non-existent at that place fetches it from another place where it exists. Nyaya II. 2:1 &2.
Thus we believe that there are eight sources of knowledge. Without accepting these no one can achieve success in the affairs of this or in those of the next world.
Suppose a man thoroughly pulverizes a clod of earth and throws it up in a strong wind into the sky with the force of his arm. It will be said that the clod had been destroyed. (Naasha), it being no longer visible to the eye. The word Naasha is formed by adding the suffix (Dhan) to the root (nasha) to become visible. Hence Nasha (disappearance) is nothing but the state of becoming imperceptible to the external sense – organs.
When atoms (of a thing) are separated from one another they pass beyond the sphere of perception and are no longer seen with the eye, but when they combine with one another and assumes gross form they again cross the path of vision, because a gross object alone can be perceptible to the eye.
When a thing is so divided and sub-divided that it is incapable of further division its (last sub-divisions) are called atoms (paramanu). They can not be perceived with the senses, but they continue to exist in space all the same.
Similarly, when a thing is thrown into fire it is disintegrated, but continues to exist in another region. It is never utterly annihilated. For this reason, when a fragrant substance, which removes such injurious elements as offensive odors, is burnt in fire it purifies air and rain water and when they become free from defects they are a source of great benefit and happiness to the creation. For this reason, the performance of Yajna is obligatory.
Q. – But, if the sole object of performing a Yajna be to purify air and rain water that object would be gained by keeping the fragrant substances in the house. Where is then the use of so much fuss?
A. ~ No, that would not do; for, the air would not become lighter and rarefied and would not ascend into the sky, but, would remain where it is and there would be no room for the external air to come in. besides this, the disease – destroying effects also would not ensue in the presence of half foul and half pure air. But, when fragrant and the like substances.
would be burnt in fire in the house heat would cause the air to expand and to become lighter and it would then ascend into the sky and pure air would get room to rush in from the four sides and fill the house and would thus produce salutary effects.
The air, being laden with the atoms of fragrant substances through homa, would ascend into the sky, purify rain water and also increase the quantity of rain.
Rain, in its turn, would produce plants of pure qualities and so on, and thus the quantity of happiness in the world would be immensely augmented. There can be doubt about this. Such effect would never be produced by fragrant air which has not come in contact with fire.
The performance of homa is, therefore, most assuredly good. Again, when a person burns fragrant substances in fire the air which comes in contact with it effects the nasal organ of a man standing at a distance (from the place where they are being burnt) and he feels that the air is redolent of sweet smell. Thus, we come to know that the air carries with it good as well as bad odors. But, as the man moves further away his organ of smell ceases to be affected by
the sweet smell and men of undeveloped mental faculties fall into the error that fragrance has been destroyed, although the fact is that they are not conscious of the existence of the fragrant substance because the latter have been divided up by being burnt in fire and exist in other religions.
There are many other advantages of homa which thinking men will be able to discover by bestowing a little consideration on the subject.
Q. – If the object of performing homa be only this much it would be gained by the act itself, for what purpose, then, are the mantras recited at the time of homa.
A. ~ That has its own purpose to serve. As we perform the homa with the hands, see it with the eyes and receive its sensation of touch through the skin, sow we recite the Vedic Mantras with the tongue and praise unto God. The recitation of the mantras imparts us knowledge of the advantages of homa and of the existence of the Deity and the repetition of the mantras
helps to preserve them. Beside this, we are taught that all acts should be commenced with a prayer to God and the recitation of the Vedic mantras in the Yajna is only to offer such prayer at all of its stages.
Q. – But what would be the harm if passages from other books than the Vedas were recited?
A. ~ The above mentioned object would not be achieved by reciting passages from other books because, not being the word of God, they would not be absolutely true. It is to be borne in mind that wherever and whatever truth is to be found it has proceeded from the Vedas and all untruth has its origin outside them and has not proceeded from God.
On this says the Manu smriti: Sire (Manu)! Thou alone art acquainted with the purport and true meaning of the duties prescribed by the Vedas which are the ordinance of the unthinkable, unfathomable, and self-existent God.” I.3.
“The four Varnas, the past, the present and the future are known means of the Vedas.
“The eternal beings and is a means of securing happiness to them, hence, we assign to it the highest place of honor.” XII. 97 & 99.
Q. – But, is it a sine qua non in the performance of a Yajna that one should prepare a a Vedi by digging the ground, erect a Yannashala, provide the Yajna vessels such as Pranita, etc., and Kusha grass, and secure the service of Ritvijas, etc.
A. ~ Out of these one should provide only what is needful and reasonable and nothing else. For example, it is necessary that a Vedi should be dug into the ground, for, in a Vedi,
fire that is kindled, burns with a strong blaze and the things thrown into it ascend into the sky. Moreover, by making the Vedi of triangular, quadrangular, circular and shyena-like shape knowledge of geometry would be acquired.
Similarly, the construction of a particular number of bricks and thus would be helpful in the acquisition of knowledge of arithmetic. In the same way, other acts also have their own use and value. But, to say the placing of the Pranita, etc., in a particular way is productive of merit or that to place it in any other way is sinful, is fanciful and false, for, here, the cause of sin being absent, there can be no sin.
Those acts only should, therefore, be done that are reasonable and necessary for the success of a Yajna; for, if they would be left out the Yajna would not be successful.
Q. – What does the word devata stand for when it is used in the connection with a Yajna?
A. ~ For those objects only which are spoken
of in the Vedas. The Yajurveda XI. 20, says: “Agni devata, vata is devata, Adityas are devatas, Vasus are devatas, Maruts are devatas, Vishvedevas are devatas, Vrihaspati is devata, Indra is devata and Varuna is devata.”
In action-portion the word devata signifies the Vedic mantras, the meters Gayatri and Agni, etc., as in the above quoted verse. They are so called because they explain the method of doing an act. A mantra which reveals the meaning of the word Agni is said to have Agni for its devata.
Similarly, those verses, which bring to light the meaning of the words Vata Surya, Chandraama, Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Maruts, Vishvedevas, Vrihaspati, Indra, and Varuna are said to have those substances for their devata. God, whos authority is most trustworthy, has meant those verses to contain a reference to those substances.
On this point we quote two observations of Yaskacharya which occur in his Nirukta I. 2. and VII. 1.
(1)When a mantra describes the ways of successfully performing the arts or the Yajna from the Agnihotra to the Ashva medha – that mantra is technically called devata in the Veda or when a mantra describes emancipation or union with God, which is the ultimate object of all action, it as well as its meaning, is given the name devata.
(2) When a devata forms the chief subject of the exposition in a mantra it is called daivata. The names of substances and their explanations occurring in a mantra become the signs or marks of a devata e.g., in the 7th mantra of Chapter
22 of the Yajurveda, the word Agni is the mark of devata. It is, hence, evident that wherever a devata is spoken of it signifies the mantra which bears its mark. A mantra has that substance as its devata whose name occurs therein.
Now we come to the tests for finding out the devata of a mantra of which some have been mentioned already and the rest will be described hereafter. God is the Rishi – the all-seeing. When God, desiring to impart instruction about a particular object, describes its properties in a mantra that mantra is said to have that object as its devata.
The mantra itself which gives a comprehensive exposition of a substance becomes the connotation of the word devata. The word ‘richah’ comes from the root ‘rich’ to praise. The mantras (richas) are called ‘devatas’ because the learned describe and expound and bring to light all the true sciences through them. Such mantras are of three kinds: (1) those whose meaning is secret, (2) those whose meaning is obvious and (3) those
which deal with spiritual substances – the soul and the indwelling ruler – God.
These then are the meanings of the word devata in the action portion.
Again we quote from the Nirukta VII, 4. What is the test for finding out the devata of a mantra in which the name or the meaning of its devata does not specifically occur? In the case of such mantras, in which the devata is not visible on the surface, it should be understood to be Yajna or a component part of Yajna. But, as regards those mantras which cannot have Yajna for their devata, the latter is Prajapati – God. This is the opinion of the Yajnikas. There is a difference of opinion on this point.
The Niruktas say that such mantras are naraashansa, i.e., the treat of men. The Laukikaas
believe that these mantras have a desire for their devata. In this way various views are held on this point. In some cases God, in others, actions or mother, or father or holy guest or learned are taken as the devata of the mantras.
The reason is that father, mother, etc., are worthy of respect and benefactors and so possess the shining virtues of a devata. The verses of the Vedas have success in Yajna as their chief object and hence they have the latter for their devata.
To summarized, in the action portion, the devatas are the mantras composed in the Meters, Gayatri, etc., the ordinance of God, Yajna, its component parts, God, man, desire, learned men, holy guest, mother , father or preceptor. But in Yajna the devatas are only God, and the Vedic Mantra.
The Nirukta VII.15, says that the devas are so called because they give, shine, illumine or instruct or because they have their abode in the regions of light.
A Mantra is so called because it inspires thought and a Chhandas is so called because it affords cover or protection (from ignorance). Nirukta VII. 12.
[To give away is to relinquish one’s own proprietary rights over a thing and to convert it into the property of another.] God, learned men and other human beings are called devas because they bestow gifts on others. The sun, etc., are said to be devas because they shine and illuminate.
The mother, the father and the preceptor are named devas because they instruct others. God is deva because He is the illuminator of illuminators, and because He resides in the solar rays, in the sun itself and in the praanas.
It has been said in the Kathopanishad V. 15., that there the sun shines not nor does the moon, nor do the stars, nor even these lightnings, what to say, then, of this fire. All these shine after that shining One. All this shines with His light.
In God the sun, etc., cannot shine. They all shine after Him – the shining one. None of these possesses any independent light of its own. Hence we ought to believe that God alone is the one Deity to whom worship is due.
In Yajurveda XL 4, the word ceva means the five senses hearing, etc., and the manas. The senses and the manas are called devas because they convey to us the sensations of sound, touch, color and form, taste and smell, and enable us to know the truth and the untruth.
The word deva is the same as devata. The word devata is formed by adding the suffix ‘tal’ to deva as an intensive according to Ashtadhyayi.
Definition (stuti) is to describe the good, as well as the evil qualities of a thing, i.e. to give a true description of its good as well as bad properties, e.g., to say that this sword when struck cuts extremely well, it is sharp-edged and does not break even if it is bent like a bow would be its stuti. Similarly, the statement that the
sword does not possess these qualities would be its stuti.
The forgoing remarks about the word devas or devata are applicable to all instances where it may occur. This application, however, is restricted to the action portion only. In the worship and the knowledge portions and also in the Nishkaama section (in which actions are enjoined to be performed without attachment to their results) the word deva connotes God only, because there He alone is the object of our worship and seeking.
In the Sakaama section (in which acts are done for the sake of results) devata means God also, because there we pray to God to give us the objects of our desires. This is the only difference between the Nishkaama and the Sakaama sections of the action portion. The true purport of the Vedas is that reference to God should not be omitted anywhere in them. We refer to Nirukta VII.4, which purports to say:
Of all the devatas which are helpful to us in the affairs of our life God is the chief devata, because He alone possesses such qualities as
Almightiness, etc., Before Him no other devata can lay claim to devata-hood, for, all the Vedas ordain in various ways the worship of Him alone – He being one without a second, independent of the help of others, and all-pervading.
Therefore, all the other devatas, of which we have spoken or of which we shall speak hereafter are only secondary limbs, as it were, of the one God. They are manifested in only a small portion of His might.
They are action-born or self-born because they owe their existence to divine acts or to divine Might. God is the resting place of these devatas. He is the cause of their movements. He is their weapon with which they prevail and He is their arrow, the destroyer of all misery. God is all in all of the devas, i.e., He is their creator, sustainer, ruler and benefactor. There is nothing nobler or higher than God.
We quote here some mantras from the Vedas on this subject.
“The thirty three devas for whose sake a Yajna is performed take their shares and return them to us twofold.” Rigveda VI.2.35.1
“Know full and completely the thirty three devas. God – the Lord of creatures – is their over Lord and Master. He keeps all created things under control.” Yajurveda XIV. 31
“Over whose riches the thirty three devas keep a constant watch. Who can now know his riches which are protected by the thirty three devas.”
“The thirty three devas fulfill their allotted functions in God’s creation (anga -lit’. body). Some learned in the Vedas know those thirty three devas.” AtharvaX23.4-23 & 27.
We must consult the Brahmanas, which explain the Vedic verses, for their interpretation.
Now we give a quotation from the Shatapatha Brahmana. It is a speech of Yajnavalkya to Shakalya.
The devas are only thirty three, viz., the 8 Vasus, 11 Rudras, 12 Adityas, 1 Indra and 1 Prajapati.
The fire, the earth, the air, the intermediate regions between the earth and the sun, the firmament or the regions illumined by his rays, the moon and the constellations – these eight are given name of Vasus. [Dyaus is the sun’s light illuming the regions round about the sun or the earth. Agni is the terrestrial fire]. They are called Vasus because they hold or contain all created things and because they are the abode of all things. The fire, etc., being the dwelling places of all are called Vasus.
Ten praanas (vital airs) within the body and the Atma, as the eleventh, are called Rudras. The ten Praanas are:- Praanah – in breathing, Apaanah – out-breathing, Vyaanah – the wind
which causes the bodily organs to move, Samaanah – the wind which causes the circulation of blood, Udaanah – the wind which causes the food to be swallowed, Naagah – the wind which causes eructation, koormah – the wind which brings about the opening and closing of the eyelids, Krikalah – the wind which causes yawning, Devadattah – the wind which produces hunger, and Dhananjayah – the wind which remains in the body even after death and causes it swell.
These are called Rudras because when they go out of the mortal body at the time of death they cause the relatives of the deceased to weep. Being the cause of weeping (Rudana) they are called Rudras.
The twelve months beginning with Chaitra (March) and ending with Phalguna (February) are called Adityas. They are so called because they revolve swallowing up the whole world form all sides or because in running up their course they drag on all created beings nearer and nearer to their life’s end at ever moment or because by their wheel-like revolution they bring about the decay of the parts of all created things and ultimately their death.
Thunder and lightning is called Indra on account of its vast potentialities and refulgence.
Yajna is the animals. It is called Prajapati. It is the cause of the prosperity of all men and is, therefore, called the Lord of creation (Prajapati) in a metaphorical sense.
All these together make up the thirty-three devas. This epithet is given to them from a secular point of view. The word deva is derived from the root ‘Divu’ to give, shine, etc., and they are called devas because they possess the attributes of gift, light, etc.
The three lokas also are called the three devas. The author of the Nirukta says that the three Dhamans (lokas) are locality, name and form of existence – Nirukta IX. 28. The Shatapatha XIV 4. says: “These are the three lokas) worlds. This world (earth) is the speech, the intermediate space (antariksha) is
the mind (manas) and the other world is Praanah (vital airs). These three also are known as the three devas.
Food and breath (Praanah) are the two devas.
The electric force (Adhyardha) called the Sutraatman, which pervades this cosmos and causes the whole world to grow, is also a deva. Shatapatha XIV 5.
But are all these devas to be worshipped? No, worship is due only to Brahma, who is the maker of the whole universe, omnipotent, the object of universal worship and reverences, all-sustenance, all-consciousness and all-bliss, unborn, just and possessed of other similar attributes.
He alone, the One, the Supreme Lord, the thirty-fourth Deva is the object of worship of all men. He is proclaimed as the established conclusion of the Vedas. The Aryas who follow the path laid down in the Vedas have always worshipped, do worship and will ever worship Him alone as their Deity.
By constituting another being as the Lord of their desire and the object of their worship men only give an unmistakable proof of their being non-Aryas. For, says the Shatapatha XIV. 4 “worship only Atma (God).If one were to say to one who declares another than Atman as God that he will weep for what is dear to him, very likely it would be so. Let him worship Atman (God) alone a dear. He,
who worships Atman alone as dear to him will never lose what is dear to him. If a man worships another deity he does not know; he is like a beast for the devas (learned men).”
From this historical record the Aryas it is evident that they were never the worshippers of any one except God.
All this leads to the conclusion that the word deva connotes all the ten meanings of the root divu, viz., sport, desire to conquer, activity, luster, praise, joy, dejection, sleep, beauty and progression, in whichever of the two senses it may be used.
But all the other devas shine with the light of God. He alone is self-effulgent. Of these sport, desire to subjugate the wicked, taking part in activities, sleep, dejection are chiefly the worldly activities. The devas, fire, etc., are the means of success in such activities.
But here also the other sense, viz., that of God is never entirely absent because He is ever present everywhere and is the creator and supporter of all. Luster, i.e., to bring to light, praise, i.e., to describe the qualities, the production of qualities, joy, beauty, motion, i.e., progression, knowledge and acquisition are chiefly and properly the attributes of God.
In the other devas they exist in a secondary sense alone, depending as they do on the divine power. Hence dva-hood in God is primary and in the other devas secondary only.
Some persons object that as the Vedas sanction the worship of both animate and inanimate objects their authority becomes doubtful. This is erroneous. God has planted inherent qualities in all the objects e.g., He has endowed the eye with the capacity to receive the sensations of form, light and color. Hence he alone is able to see who has got eyes and not he who is blind.
This objection is as futile as the one as to why God does not enable us to see form and color without the aid of the eye and the sun. The word Puja (honor) means to treat properly and its synonyms are,
to act agreeably to, to act in conformity with, a person or thing. In this sense all men do Puja to the eye also. Similarly, so far as fire aids our vision in seeing the objects and it useful to us in the acquisition of knowledge it has the attributes of a devata. Where, however, the Vedas ordain the worship of the devata, the term means God and God only.
Again, the devatas are divided into two classes, viz., those that have a body and those that have no corporeal frame. Both classes have already been dealt with. The Taittriyopanishad refers to 5 devas who are to be honored and worshipped by all men.
Let thy mother be to thee like unto a deva;
Let thy father be to thee like unto a deva;
Let thy preceptor be to thee like unto a deva;
Let thy guest be to thee like unto a deva. VII. 11.
Thou, indeed, art the real Brahma, I shall proclaim thee atoms alone as the real Brahma. VII. 1.
Here the mother, the father, the preceptor and the guest are the devas who have a corporeal body, but God is altogether devoid of it. Similarly, among the devas mentioned before, the Vasus, viz., the fire, the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars, etc., are the devas which have a body and the eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas, the Manas, the five intellectual senses, the air, the intermediate regions between the earth and the sun, the bright firmament and the Mantras are the devas which are devoid of a body. Thunder and lightning (electricity) and Vidhiyajna are embodied as well as bodiless.
In this way devatas are of two kinds, viz., those with a body and those without a body. Their deva-hood consists only in their being of use in our actions and transactions. Similarly, the mother, the father, the preceptor and the guest possess deva-hood only in so far as they afford us help in our affairs of the world and
enlighten us in matters relating to our spiritual welfare. But worship is due to God alone because He is our greatest helper and the highest object of our desire. It is, therefore, certain that the Vedas ordain the worship and adoration of God alone and of none else.
For these reasons the opinion, which has been held and is still held by some of the modern Aryasn and Europeans that the Vedas sanction the worship of physical devas alone is altogether false.
Equally false is also the opinion of many Europeans who say that the Aryas were originally the worshippers of physical devatas and in course of long ages they gradually advanced to the knowledge that God alone was deserving of worship.
For, the fact is that the Aryas have been worshipping God since the beginning of creation under various names such as Indra, Varuna, Agni, etc., in accordance with the method laid down in the Vedas.
We shall now give a few quotations in support of our view.
For example take the first verse of the Rigveda.
AGNI MEDE PUROHITAM YAJASYA DEVA MRITVIJAM, HOTAARAM RATNA DHAATAMAM.
“I praise Agni (God) the great high priest, the presiding deity of Yajna, the creator of the seasons, the great giver, the Lord of wealth.”
In the course of our commentary on this verse we have quoted the Rig Verse II, 3, 222, 6. the remarks of the Nirukta Daivata Kaanda 18 and Yajuh verse XXXII. 1
They call him Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Agni, glorious suprana Garutman. To Him who is One the sages give various titles: they call Him agni, Yama and Matarishvan.
The sages speak in many ways of this very Agni – the great Being who is one.
He is Agni, Vaayu, chandamaah, Shukra, Brahma, He is Apah, Prajapati
Take the Rik verse I, 5, 15, 5, the nine verses, VIII, 7, 3, 1-9 and the Yajuh verses XXXII, 29. 10, 11, XXXI, 18; XL, 5, 8; XVII. 17, 18 19, and many others of similar character.
Him we invoke for aid, who reigns supreme, the Lord of all that moves or stands inspirer of the soul. That Pushan may promote the increase of our wealth, our keeper and our guard infallible for our good.
In the beginning there was God, the source of light, He was the one Lord of all created beings. He upholds this earth and the heavens. To him – Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
He, who is giver of spiritual knowledge and giver of strength, whom the world worships, whose command all learned men obey, whose shelter is immortality, whose shadow (want of protection) is death. To Him – the Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
He, who by His greatness is the one sole King of all that moves, breathes and slumbers, who is the ruler of all bipeds and quadrupeds. To Him – Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
Whose greatness these snow-clad mountains and the ocean with the rivers proclaim; whose arms are these vast regions. To Him – Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
By whom the heavens are upheld and the earth is made steadfast, by whom the firmament and heaven are made stable, by whom the heavenly bodies in mid-space are pervaded. To Him -Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
To whom the earth the heavens, upheld by His protecting might and moved by His will, look up, in whom the risen sun shines. To Him the – Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
When this vast diffused matter, holding the universe in its womb and producing the Yajna (cosmos), who is the one Supreme deva of all the devas. To Him – the Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
May He the Lord of righteousness, who is the creator of the earth, who made the shining regions, who made the,
vast and shining diffused matter manifest itself. May He not harm us. To Him the – Prajapati – we shall offer our prayers.
May the sage describe fully that station of immortality (God) which is enveloped in mystery. He who knows the three portions (feet) hidden in mystery is wiser than his elders.
He is our brother, father and beggeter. He knows all stations and the worlds. In Him the learned men taste of immortality (moksha) and enjoy the pleasures of that highest station.
He encompasses existing creatures, the worlds, the quarters and the sub-quarters; He is the manifestor of the first states of matter, and the Lord of moksha. He alone can approach Him who surrenders his self to Him.
I know this mighty Being whose color is like that of the sun, who is beyond the reach of darkness. A man can overstep death only by knowing Him. There is no path save this to travel by (beyond death).
He moves and does not move. He is far distant. He is near. He is within this All and He surrounds this all externally.
He pervades on all sides, He is full of luster, Bodiless, Woundless, the Holy, not-pierced-by-evil, Omniscient, Wise, Encompassing all, the Self-existent. He has revealed the true knowledge to His everlasting subjects.
He makes a gift of all these words, the Seer, the Bountiful Lord, the All-pervading, our father. His wish is wealth, He pervades everything the first as well as the last.
What was the place whereon He took His station? What was it that upheld Him? What was the manner? Whence the Omnific Lord, seeing all, producing the earth, disclosed the heavens with His might?
He has eyes on all sides, a mouth on all sides, and hands and feet on all sides. He is the one Lord who, producing the earth and heavens, arranges them in order, like the wings (of a bird) with His might.
Like kine unmilked we call aloud O Glorious Lord (Indra) the Hero, to Thee. Thy vision encompasses the highest heavens. Thou art the Lord of all that moves and of that which moves not.
See the following two verses of the Sama Veda, the following seven verses of the Rig Veda and the following and many other verses of the Atharva Veda. Of these verses some have been explained before, the others will be explained hereafter. This not being the proper place we do not explains them here.
O Glorious Lord (Indra)! There is not one like unto Thee, of earth or of the heavens, none hath been born or ever will be born. We invoke Thee, O Lord! Give us power and wealth in horses and cattle.
Then there was neither the Asat (the manifested cosmos), nor the Sat (the first stage of matter evolved out of the primordial matter for creation of the universe), nor were there the nebulae, nor the sky beyond them. There was something which covered all like a haze, but it could not be of such an unfathomed depth as to cover Him, the Holy Prahna.
There was neither death nor its opposite, nor was there any sign to distinguish between night and day. The One was there existing by His own nature, without agitation. Apart from Him there was nothing whatever.
In the beginning there was darkness. This All, was concealed in darkness, and was undiscriminated chaos. Whatever there was, was void and formless. The One created the cosmos by His greatness and might.
In the beginning then rose Desire the primeval seed of Manas. Sages who searched with their hearts thought discovered the kinship of the Sat with the Asat.
Whatever was below, whatever was above was traversed by the light of these (sages). [They discovered that] there were germs of life, mighty forces, free action at one place and energy at another.
Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence came this creation? The learned sages were born after this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, from whom this creation first proceeded, upholds it. He is the supervisor of even the highest heaven. He verily
knows it and who knows it if He also do not know.
That universe, which Prajapati created, wearing all forms of the highest, the midmost and the lowest – how far did Skambah Prajapati penetrate within it? What portion did he leave umpenetrated?
Tell me who is that Prajapati on whom, as their foundation, earth, and firmament and sky are set and in whom, as their appointed place, rest fore and moon and sun and air?
The following quotations are taken from the Upanishads, vix., from the Katha Valli Upanishad, Valli 2:20; Valli 3:15; Valli 4:10; Valli 5:12 7 13; from the Mundaka Upanishad II. 1.2. & II. 2.7; from the Mandukyopanishad Mantra7; from the Taittiriyopanishad Brahmananda Valli I.1; and from the Chhandogyopanishad VII. 23 and VII. 24.1
The Supreme Self, smaller than the small, greater than the great, is hidden in the heart of this creature, A man, who is free from desires and free from grief, sees the majesty of the self by the grace of the Creator.
He who has attained that who is without sound, without touch, without form, without decay, without taste, eternal without smell, without end, without beginning, beyond the Great and unchangeable, is freed from the jaws of death to death.
There is one ruler, the self, within all thins, who makes the one form manifold. The wise, who realized him within their self, to them belongs eternal happiness, not to others.
He is the eternal among the eternal, the conscious among the conscious. He, though one, fulfils the desires of many. The wise, who realized him within their self, to them belongs eternal peace, not to others.
That heavenly person is without a body. He is both within and without, not born, without breath, without mind pure, higher than the high, imperishable.
To Him, who understand all, and knows all, all the glory in the world belongs. He, the Self, dwells in the pervading – the luminiferous ether the abode of the great city [the univers].
He is not one whose consciousness is functioning inwards (i.e., in the sleeping state) [i.e., in the wakeful state], nor one whose consciousness is midway between the two states. He is not cloud of intelligence, nor possesses of consciousness, nor yet devoid of it. He is invisible, above human control. Incomprehensible. He has no marks. He is unthinkable, indescribable, conscious of self in self, unconditioned by the world, calm, all-bliss, without a seond. His state is the fourth. He is the Self, He ought to be known.
He who know Brahman who, is eternal, consciousness and infinite and hidden in the depth [of the heart], enjoys all blessings in the highest regions with Brahman.
The Infinte is bless, there is no bliss in anything finite. The Infinite only is bliss. We must, therefore, desire to understand this Infinite.
Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else that is the Infinite. Where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else that is the finite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite is mortal.
Sir! In what does the Infinite rest?
In its own greatness.
The German Professor Max Muller, in commenting upon the Mantra, Rigveda VIII. 7.3.1, in his book called the History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, says that this mantra is recent in comparison to the Chhandas. This is erroneous. He further says that the Vedas are divisible into two parts, the Chhandas portion and Mantra portion.
He defines the Chaandas as that composition which contains commonplace ideas and is devoid of originality and which is a rhapsody proceeding from the mouth of an ignorant man due to spontaneous suggestion.
He guesses that the earliest date of the Chhandas cannot be prior to 3100 years and that no earlier date than 2900 years can be assigned to the composition of the Mantras. In support of his opinion he quotes such verses as Rigveda I.1.1.2.
This also is contrary to the truth. He does not know the meaning of the word Hiranyagarbha. According to Shatapatha VI-7-2.2, the word Hiranya means Jyotih and Jyotih means immortality (emancipation). According
to the Nirukta XII. 25, Jyotih means Keshi i.e. one who possesses Keshu (rays) and, therefore, it means who shines and makes other shine. According to the Aitareya Brahmana VII.3, Hiranya means renown, glory. According to the Shatapatha XIV. 7, Jyotih means soul and according to the same X.4, it means sun and fire.
Hence Hiranyagarbha means one who is effulgent and wise by nature. It means God who has in His control (carries in the womb as it were) the light of immortality (emancipation), the luminous globes of the sun, the glory, good renown, the fame, the soul, the sun and the fire, etc.
In this way the use of the word Hiranyagarbha demonstrates the noble character and the eternity of the Vedas and not their modernity. Consequently, the opinion of the Professor, that the use of the word Hiranyagarbha
shows the modernity of the Mantra portion and that we are unable to obtain any proof of its antiquity is grounded in error. Equally erroneous is the conclusion that such verses as RigvedaI.1.1.2 prove the modernity of the Mantra portion. God sees and knows the three times.
God says, “I have been, I am, I shall ever be praised and worshipped by all rishis of the past, the present and the future. The rishis are (1) Men who see the mantras., (2) pranas, and (3) reasoning. Again, those, who having learnt the Vedas and other Shastras themselves, instruct other may be called the ancient and those, who receive instruction from them, the modern rishis. God is to be praised and worshipped by such rishis.
In this connection we give a quotation from the Nirukta XIII. 12, the purport of which is
One has a curiosity to know the meaning of Mantras which appear as collections of inflected and conjugated terms, words and letters related to one another as adjectives and substantives in a general way. One should ask one’s intellect such questions as: “What can be the meaning of this Mantra”? One should exercise one’s intellect and reasoning for completely understanding the meaning of the Mantras.
The Mantras cannot be interpreted in an off-hand manner on hearing them or with the help of reasoning alone. They ought to be explained with due regard to their context, i.e., with reference to what precedes as well as to what follows.
But a man, who is not a rishi, who has not performed the austerities (Tapas), whose mind is not pure and who does not possess learning, can not realized the meaning of the Mantras. Unless a man is fully acquainted with the context of the mantras,
has the necessary qualifications for realizing their presence and is a man of highest erudition, he is not in a position to grasp the (true) meaning of the Vedic Mantras, however good his reasoning may be. To illustrate this the author quotes the Itihasa (historical tradition).
Once upon a time men saw that they were left without the rishis, i.e., the seers of the Mantras. Thereupon they repaired to the learned and asked them as to who should be the rishi among them. The learned gave them reasoning as their rishi, so that by knowing the truth from falsehood them might be able to understand the meaning of the Vedas and told them by way of reply that reasoning would be the rishi among them. By reasoning here is meant that kind of it whose only solicitude is the elucidation of the meaning of the Vedas and which leads to a knowledge of the sense of the Mantras.
This demonstrates that when a thoroughly learned man explains the meaning of the Vedas his explanation becomes the explanation of a rishi and an exposition of the Vedas. But when a man of mediocre learning and intellect,
who is partial and biased, attempts to explain (the Vedas), his explanations can not be those of a rishi and are therefore false. They are not worthy of any consideration by any one, for, they are full of perverted ideas and other men’s ideas would be perverted by paying regard to them.
Hence Agni (God) alone is to be worshipped and praised by all rishis, of all times – the ancients, the moderns and those of future generations. No object other than God is ever to be worshipped, adored and praised by any man. By explaining the Mantra. Rigveda I.1.1.2, in this way no blame of modernity can be fastened upon the Vedas.
Once more, according to the Aitareya Brahmana. II.4, the Pranas are the rishis. Hence the words, “ancient and modern rishis,” in the above Mantra would respectively mean the Pranas as they existed in the causal state in primeval times and the Pranas as they exist in the cause substances. The meaning of the Mantra would, therefore, be that God is to be worshipped and praised by all learned men
with the help of those rishis i.e., by means of Samadhiyoga – ecstatic state of the mind reached by concentrating it on God. This alone leads to happiness.
The opinion (of Prof. Max Muller) that there is a difference between a Mantra and a Chhandas is also wrong, for, the words Chhandas, Vedas, Nigama, Mantra, and shruti are synonymous. Of these the world Chhandas has many other senses, e.g., it means meters, the Vedic meters such as the Gayatri, etc. and the common meters such as the Arya, etc., and sometime it signifies independence.
The Acharya Yaska on this says in the Nirukta VII. 12, that a mantra is so called because it provides food for thought, a chhanda is so called because it praises, a Yajus is so called because it is useful in a Yajna and Saman is so called because it is a richa possessing rhythm.
The Vedas are called Chhandas because they remove suffering and cover (mand) with happiness. The word Chhandas is derived from the root “Chadi” to be happy, to shine, by adding the suffix ‘asun’ to it and by changing its letter ‘cha’ into ‘chha.” According to the aunadika aphorism ‘cha’ of chandi, etc. is changed into ‘chha’. By studying the Vedas men acquire all kinds of science and consequently become happy.
The word Chhandas, therefore, means the Vedas. The Shatapatha says in VIII. 2, “These devatas are doubtless the Chhandas and in VIII.3, “The Chhandas are the life-sustaining devas, for, by them everything living is sustained here.’ The word Mantra is formed by adding the suffix ‘ghan’ to the root ‘matri’ to hold private consultation according to the aphorism ‘asmadhalascha’. The veda is called Mantra because it contains
explanations of hidden subjects and as the individual verses which go to make up the Veda explain many (secret) subjects they also have been given the name of Mantras. The word Mantra may also be derived from the root ‘mana’ to know, by adding the suffix ‘shtan’ to it in accordance with the aphorism. ‘Sarva dhatubhyah shtran.’
The Veda is called Mantra because all men can acquire knowledge of all realities in and through it. The verses, Rigveda I.1.1.1, etc., also, being parts of the Veda are called Mantras. The meters Gayatri, etc. and the mantras which are composed in them are called devatas because they throw light on all subjects. For this reason it is said “the Chhandas are the devas”.
They hold together all actions and sciences – God has bound (made steadfast) all actions by means of the Chhandas and Mantras i.e., the Vedas. Because the Chhandas cover or embrace all sciences and all sciences are correctly known by their means the Vedas are called Chhandas and because they are the means of knowledge they are called Mantras. The words Chhandas
and Mantra are, therefore, synonymous. The Manusmriti says: “by the word ‘Shruti’ is to be understood the Veda”. The Nirukta calls quotations from the Vedas Nigama. The words Shruti, Veda, Mantra, Nigama. The words Shruti, Veda Mantra, Nigama are all synonymous. The Veda is called Shruti because men hear all sciences out of it and the Vedic Verses also are, therefore, called ‘Shruti.
The Veda is called Nigama because men acquire a correct and complete knowledge of all sciences through it. In the Ashtadhyayi II.4.80. II.4.6 and VI.4.9, the words Mantra, Chhandas and Nigama are used as synonyms. It is thus established that the words Chhandas and Mantra are synonyms and consequently the words of one, who says that they are different from each other, can be of no authority whatever.