Vedas, Upanishads and Us

Vedas and Creation rescued by Varaha

Our retelling of an episode from the Kenopanishad, raised a query on why we dipped into so remote a past of the Hindu tradition, what these works are and what we aim to accomplish by it.

Vedas

The Vedas constitute the bedrock of Hindu thought, culture and living. Every small and mighty edifice of this ancient race is infused through and through with the roar of victory voiced by Rishis more ancient than known history. Vedas were man’s first and perhaps the most profound attempt at Immortality. As with works of posterity whose origins and motivations are a mystery to the brief memory of men, there is a great cloud of ignorance that surrounds popular perception of the Veda. Like the proverbial blind trying to cognize an Elephant, each brings the limitations of his perception to interpreting and understanding the Veda. Add to it people whose goal in life was to show up the Hindu race as uncultured, because Hindus do not follow their particular strain of barbarism and you have a perfect storm of ignorance that makes any objective understanding of the Veda impossible.

Ambition Deficit

Part of the blame would have to lie with Hindus themselves, who due to ignorance, lack of courage and no great ambition kept the Veda on so high a pedestal as to keep it out of reach to the common man. The understanding of the Veda does not have to be via 2nd and 3rd hand translations, transcriptions, commentary and so on. We could reach out to the Veda indirectly via a simple Google search or go the direct route by aspiring to the immanent Divine. Both can act as catalysts to churn our consciousness and give birth to powers and potentialities that are unmistakably part of us, yet add immeasurably more than what we can imagine. This process of churning takes a moment or many lifetimes, depending on the intensity and purity of purpose we bring with our aspiration.

Upanishads

What about the Upanishads then? Well, the Upanishads constitute a later development that built upon the Veda. While the Veda is a mass of intuitions, a collective roadmap to immortality as discovered by the ancient Rishis. In contrast the Upanishads were the intuitions chopped and packed into neat parcels of logic that the reasoning mind would understand. The Veda was poetry of the spirit, the Vedic Rishis travelled as the Gods on their cars of intuition, while the Upanishadic Rishis chose reason as their vehicle to explore trails of consciousness.

Rishis and Seers

We know little of the Vedic & Upanishadic Rishis, apart from what was built around their names in the Puranas and Itihasas. The actual names have come down to us though- Angiras, Bharadwaj, Kanva, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra, Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyapa, Grtsamada, Agastya, Bharata. At times, when the passions of our trivial lives are quelled we hear these names echoing through our being. Each name marking an emperor of the spirit. Each name an adventure of the soul into immortal realms. Each name the reminder of a victory won through the luminous heavens of our being. Each Rishi a guide and preceptor to the aspiring soul of us.

Authorship

The Rishis did not consider themselves authors of the mantras they wrote, they were merely agents, transcribers who had the inner realizations and sang of it in verse. As such they are the undiluted essence of a particular experience. Hence the Veda is called Shruti, that which is heard. It was Sri Aurobindo who in modern times recovered and relived the essence of the Veda, as did the Varaha avatar to save earth from destruction by Hiranyaksha.

How to read Vedas and Upanishads

One has but to read these works. Not with the modern infantile mind that expects all to be given on a platter. The Veda and Upanishad demand a certain discipline of the being. After all if you were a scientist building a cyclotron, you would expect every machinery to be precise to the thousandth of a milli-meter. So it is with understanding of the Veda and Upanishads. Some would even say the mere act of reading the thoughts of a Rishi is an Yagna. No need for detailed paraphernalia, the instruments of external ritual. What the Veda wants is that inner engineering to be in order.

Aim of Kali’s Brood

The goal of Kali’s Brood is to re-acquaint Hindus to the living heart of their tradition. We will do this by providing snippets from the Vedas, Upanishads and other key works. We will get to the heart of its spirit and inner experience. This body of knowledge is not restricted to Hindus alone, it waits for all those who will open themselves to its vast synthesis of man, life and his immortal destiny.

Blade of Grass – Episode from Kenopanishad

Om – May our journeys be auspicious!

Prelude

The time is right. Through many roads you and I have arrived here.

Now we shall do the ritual that reveals.

Preparation

Three things are required.

Eyes that see things that have no form. Ears that hear unsounded meaning. And a mind that learns from silence.

Begin

Let us begin now, this story shall be our Guru.

Long long ago in a realm different, yet very intimate with ours, there was a war. The Gods had won this round. Smug in victory they celebrated in their thoughts, the ancient ones – Indra, Vayu and Agni.

The Unnamable watched their thoughts. It took a form and appeared in front.

Agni

“What is this?”, wondered the Gods. “Agni, go forth and inquire”, they said. Agni rushed in front of It.

And That enquired, “Who art thou? What is thy power?”

“Agni am I. I am fire that burns Night. The many I burn away”, said the God.

“Then burn this”, replied That. And set forth a blade of grass, a mere tendril, in front.

Agni, with a crown of flame, rushed in. The blade stood drooped as ever. Not a blemish on its pale green skin.

“This being is hidden to me”, said crest fallen Agni.

Vayu

The Gods said, “Vayu, go forth and inquire”

Vayu moved swiftly in front of it. And That enquired, “Who art thou? What is thy power?”

“Vayu am I. I am breath that animates. The many I cast aside by my breath”, said the God.

“Then move this”, replied That. And set forth a blade of grass, a mere tendril, in front.

Vayu, with wings of wind, rushed in. The blade stood drooped as ever. Still as stone from earth’s deeps.

Crest fallen, Vayu returned, saying, “This being is hidden to me”

Indra

Now, the Gods said, “Indra, wisest among us, go forth and inquire”

Indra, mounting a chariot of thought, moved in front of it. And lo, the Being dissapeared.

Indra waited in a thoughtless prayer. In place of the Being, now he beheld Uma, daughter of higher realms.

Uma

“Who was that Being?”, Indra prayed to the Mother of them all.

“That is the Brahman”, She replied.

Brahman

“Agni burns with fire lent by the Brahman. Vayu animates with breath lent by the Brahman. Beyond words and thought is the Brahman, the source of all that is and is not”.

Indra learnt of that which cannot be learnt. And Uma, the Mother, had revealed it to Indra.

Swaha

Subtle are the ways of the Highest. Be vigilant. Watch for the unnamable. The Mother awaits us at the heights.

We shall part now, until the next whirl of time brings us together.

Om tat sat.

[Note: Our next post will explain the symbolic nature of this Upanishadic story and outline its relevance to aspiring souls.]