The Vedic God: An Evolutionary Journey

By Gurushankar Swaminathan
Vedas - The oldest scriptures in Hinduism
Vedas – The oldest scriptures in Hinduism

The sections of the Vedas that deal with the various facets of the Supreme Consciousness is an articulation of the entire experience that the Vedic seers underwent, in their quest to realize that one supreme reality. What we are going to see below (in the Vedic hymns) is a symbolic and mystical explanation of what was experienced in the deepest of the penances by noble souls like Vishwamitra, Vamadeva, Madhuchandas, Agastya, Veda Vyas etc.

The Vedas make an extremely sincere effort to articulate the various aspects of the Supreme Brahman but they also accept the limitations of the human intellect in comprehending that one absolute reality. The Vedic seers grapple with the enormity of the exercise of attempting to understand the Supreme Consciousness and the myriad manifestations of the same.

Unlike other religious scriptures that position a named God upfront and build fables and a laundry list of dos and don’ts around that God, the Vedas try to understand the Vedic Brahman, attempt to pierce the realm of Brahman’s BEING and peep into its NON – BEING state. The seers also attempt to comprehend the passion of the one that made this universe manifest, established the ORDER that is immutable and identify it to be the ultimate TRUTH, the alpha and omega of everything.

Hymns of Creation (Nasadiya Sukta). Rig Veda 10/129/ 1 – 7

1. At first was neither Being nor Nonbeing.
There was not air nor yet sky beyond.
What was its wrapping? Where? In whose protection?
Was Water there, unfathomable and deep?

2. There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness;
Of night or day there was not any sign.
The One breathed without breath, by its own impulse.
Other than that was nothing else at all.

3. Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
And all was Water indiscriminate.
Then that which was hidden by the Void, that One, emerging,
Stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.

4. In the beginning Love arose,
which was the primal germ cell of the mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
Discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.

5. A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing.
What was described above it, what below?
Bearers of seed there were and mighty forces,
Thrust from below and forward move above.

6. Who really knows? Who can presume to tell it?
Whence was it born? Whence issued this creation?
Even the Gods came after its emergence.
Then who can tell from whence it came to be?

7. That out of which creation has arisen,
Whether it held it firm or it did not,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
He surely knows or maybe He does not!

The last two hymns seen above articulate a negative assertion that establishes the limitation of understanding and conceptually communicating what NON-BEING may have been.

The Vedic God emerges from NON-BEING into BEING. The Vedic God emerges out of the cosmic ardor/ passion (Tapas), establishes the order (Rita) and personifies the truth (Satya). And it is here that space and time get established.

Rig Veda 10/190/1 – 3

1. From blazing Ardor, Cosmic Order came and Truth;
From thence was born the obscure night;
From thence the Ocean with its billowing waves.

2. From Ocean with its waves was born the year
Which marshals the succession of nights and days,
Controlling everything that blinks the eye.

3. Then, as before, did the creator fashion
The Sun and Moon, the Heaven and the Earth,
The atmosphere and the domain of light.

The Vedic seers now are trying to comprehend as to “Who is this God?” and “Who should they offer their oblation to?”.

Hiranyagarbha (Golden Embryo) Rig Veda / 10/121/ 1 -10.

These hymns throw deep insight into the symbolism, mysticism and poetic nature of the Vedas. The golden embryo is where the Divine resides before coming into BEING. This is not about a logical evolution or a step in creation. By ardor, the Supreme one sacrifices to emerge from NON-BEING into BEING. The one that emerges TO BE is the Lord of Beings, Prajapati!

1. In the beginning arose the Golden Embryo:
He was, as soon as born, the Lord of Being,
Sustainer of the Earth and of this Heaven.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

2. He who bestows life-force and hardy vigor,
Whose ordinances even the Gods obey,
Whose shadow is immortal life–and death–
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

3. Who by his grandeur has emerged sole sovereign
Of every living thing that breathes and slumbers,
He who is Lord of man and four-legged creatures
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

4. To him of right belong, by his own power,
The snow-clad mountains, the world-stream, and the sea.
His arms are the four quarters of the sky.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

5. Who held secure the mighty Heavens and Earth,
Who established light and sky’s vast vault above,
Who measured out the ether in mid-spheres–
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

6. Toward him, trembling, the embattled forces,
Riveted by his glory, direct their gaze.
Through him the risen sun sheds forth its light.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

7. When came the mighty Waters, bringing with them
The universal Germ, whence sprang the Fire,
Thence leapt the God’s One Spirit into being.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

8. This One who in his might surveyed the Waters
Pregnant with vital forces, producing sacrifice,
He is the God of Gods and none beside him.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

9. O Father of the Earth, by fixed laws ruling,
O Father of the Heavens, pray protect us,
O Father of the great and shining Waters!
What God shall we adore with our oblation?

10. O Lord of Creatures (Prajapati), Father of all beings,
You alone pervade all that has come to birth.
Grant us our heart’s desire for which we pray.
May we become the lords of many treasures!

It is important to note that these hymns (found above) are a favorite punching bag of those involved in human harvests. They use these hymns to claim that our forefathers never received any guidance, as; they seem not to know the God to whom oblations need to be offered. But the truth is the last hymn calls out the Lord to whom the Vedic seers adore their oblations as Prajapati.

And then the Vedic God sacrifices a one fourth of Self to create animate and inanimate things in this universe. This act is what is contained in the most famous Purusha Sukta, Rig Veda /10/90.

This sukta describes the act of Supreme Consciousness where, the Supreme one, called the Purusha here, sacrifices 1/4th of Self and the remaining 3/4th of the one, oversee and perform the sacrifice. There is a kind of a triple principle at play here. The Supreme Consciousness is the object of sacrifice, the sacrifice itself and one that is executing the sacrifice.

The 1/4th Purusha is the cosmic MAN. This sukta describes the MAN to be so large that HE encompasses the entire earth, possesses thousands of eyes and limbs and it is from this Purusha that all animate and inanimate things are born. This Purusha is the divine emanation.

1. A thousand-headed is the Man
With a.thousand eyes, a thousand feet;
Encompassing the Earth all sides,
He exceeded it by ten fingers’ breadth.

2. The Man, indeed, is this All,
What has been and what is to be
The Lord of the immortal spheres
Which he surpasses by consuming food.

3. Such is the measure of his might,
And greater still than this is Man.
All beings are a fourth of him,
Three fourths are the immortal in heaven.

4. Three fourths of Man ascended high,
One fourth took birth again down here.
From this he spread in all directions
Into animate and inanimate things.

5. From him the Shining one was born;
From this Shining one Man again took birth.
As soon as born, he extended himself all
Over the Earth both behind and before.

6. Using the Man as their oblation,
The Gods performed the sacrifice.
Spring served them for the clarified butter,
Summer for the fuel, and Autumn for the offering.

7. This evolved Man, then first born,
They besprinkled on the sacred grass.
With him the Gods performed the sacrifice,
As did also the heavenly beings and seers.

8. From this sacrifice, fully accomplished,
Was gathered curd mixed with butter.
Thence came the creatures of the air,
Beasts of the forest and those of the village.

9. From this sacrifice, fully accomplished,
Were born the hymns and the melodies;
From this were born the various meters;
From this were born the sacrificial formulas.

10. From this were horses born, all creatures
Such as have teeth in either jaw;
From this were born the breeds of cattle;
From this were born sheep and goats.

11. When they divided up the Man,
Into how many parts did they divide him?
What did his mouth become? What his arms?
What are his legs called? What his feet?

12. His mouth became the brahmin;
His arms became the kshatriyas,
His legs became the vysyas
And his feet became the sudras.

13. The Moon was born from his mind;
The Sun came into being from his eye;
From his mouth came Indra and Agni,
While from his breath the Wind was born.

14. From his navel issued the Air;
From his head unfurled the Sky,
The Earth from his feet, from his ear the four directions.
Thus have the worlds been organized.

15. Seven were the sticks of the enclosure,
Thrice seven the fuel sticks were made,
When the Gods, performing the sacrifice,
Bound the Man as the victim.

16. With the sacrifice the Gods sacrificed to the sacrifice.
Those were the first established rites.
These powers ascended up to heaven
Where dwell the ancient Gods and other beings.

Again, I must add that this sukta is used to debunk the Vedas by harvesters of souls. They point to the origin of casteism in hymn #12. But unlike those that believe in a redeemer to overcome the sin of having born in a particular lineage, this sukta establishes that men are born out of Supreme Purusha. The varna system established in the Vedas is based on vocations and there is nothing in the Vedas that espouses the dogmas that the prevailing caste system sticks to. Some of the cases in point: Yajur Veda 18:48 / 20:17/ 26:2, Atharvana Veda 19:32:8 / 19:62:1.

And this sukta evolves in the Upanishads and Satpatha Brahmanas in a couple of different ways. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (I/4/1-5) shows an evolved Purusha that is established in the self (consciousness of I) and then the fable goes on to state that the masculine Purusha created a feminine principle of Self by splitting into two. And this idea is extended to all animate things like cows, stallions, sheep etc to develop the idea of the Purusha Sukta. Again harvesters of human souls point to this Upanishad to claim that Prajapati did many asinine things!

Once the Vedic God enters the BEING mode, the Vedic seers go on to perceive the Supreme Consciousness as focal point of everything and as the cosmic pillar (Skhamba) that anchors everything in this universe, the SELF of the universe.

Atharvana Veda 10/7/ 1 – 40. I am furnishing only a few of the forty hymns to help us get a drift of the hymns.

1. In which of his limbs does Fervor dwell?
In which of his limbs is Order set?
In what part of him abides Constancy, Faith?
In which of his limbs is Truth established?

3. In which of his limbs does the earth abide?
In which of his limbs the atmosphere?
In which of his limbs is the sky affixed?
In which of his limbs the great Beyond?

8. That which of all forms the Lord of Life
Created–above, below, and in between–
With how much of himself penetrated the Support?
How long was the portion that did not enter?
[The part that did not enter, pertains to the 3/4th part of the transcendental ONE that sacrificed the 1/4th Purusha]

15. In whom, as Man, deathlessness and death combine,
To whom belong the surging ocean
And all the arteries that course within him;
Tell me of that Support–who may he be?

18. He whose head is Universal Fire,
Who has for his eyes the Angirases
And for his limbs the practitioners of sorcery–
Tell me of that Support–who may he be?

21. The branch of Nonbeing which is far-extending
Men take to be the highest one of all.
They reckon as inferior those who worship
Your other branch, the branch of Being.

22. In whom the Adityas, Rudras and Vasus,
Are held together, in whom are set firm
Worlds–that whch was and that which shall be–
Tell me of that Support–who may he be?

23. Whose treasure hoard the three and thirty Gods
Forever guard–today who knows its contents?
Tell me of that Support–who may he be?

Perhaps, the above hymn is where the Puranas draw the fable of 33 Million Devas in Indra loka, though this hymn only talks about 30 aspects/deities of the ONE.

25.Great are the Gods who were born from Nonbeing,
Yet men aver this Nonbeing to be
The single limb of the Support, the great Beyond.

Now that we have seen the way the Supreme Reality emerged from NON-BEING to BEING, the way the universe was manifested, the way life forms were created by the Supreme one, the way the Divine became the pillar of support, it becomes easier to decipher, this false belief that Vedas only espouse myriad Gods. In fact the Vedic mind, cognizant of the multifaceted nature of reality embraces the non-being and being, the manifest and unmanifest aspects of the Supreme Reality. Let us go through a few Vedic hymns.

He is one and only one, Sustains entire universe, Omnipresent, Formless, All-Powerful, Perfect, Omniscient, Unborn, Eternal and supports us always. He alone should be worshipped. Yajur Veda 40:8.

Truth is One; the wise call it by different names. Rig Veda 1:164:46

Power entered within him. He is the one, the onefold, the only one Atharvana Veda 13:4:12

All moments originated from the Purusha like lightning, no one has comprehended him, above, across, or in the center. Yajur Veda 32:2

Divine and formless is the Person; he is inside and outside, he is not begotten, is not breath or mind; utterly pure, farther than the farthest Imperishable. Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:2

However this one Supreme Reality in the Vedas is Brahman and not the ones in Abrahamic scriptures. I will deal in detail what the differences between Brahman and Jehovah and Allah are separately.

Sources:
Raimon Panikkar. The Vedic Experience
Sri Aurobindo (1956) The Secret Of The Veda

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Comments

  1. Woo Yong Park says

    Amazing and unfathomable knowledge. Thank you very much for sharing this incredible & vast ocean of wisdom with us. I wish, some day, all of us reach or rise to that state of awareness to be able to understand what really Vedas mean in our heart and mind. Have a great day!!!

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