The Central Philosophy of the Rgveda

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From the Jacket

Rgveda, a collection of hymns which are primarily prayers and praises addressed to various deities, is a religious/spiritual classic which influenced the formation and development of Indian way of life and culture. The concept of divine is central to it. The meaning of divine though has undergone significant changes in the long history of Hinduism depending upon its interaction with other world religions, the basic Vedic idea of divine still remains central to the Hindu concept of divine or God.

In this work we discuss mainly the meaning of divine and the mode of its revelation to the seers of the 1gveda in the state of divinely inspired devotion. This is what the Veda reveals or says about itself. To understand this claim of the Veda requires a deep understanding of the Vedic symbolism employed in communicating the meaning of divine inspiration. The seer-poets resort to symbolic use of language to communicate their vision of the divine, the birth of divine consciousness in them and its expression in the form of hymns. By closely following the text of the Rgveda, one can understand the symbolic use of certain words, and appreciate the meaning of the Veda which would otherwise be highly obscure and utterly unintelligible. Unless we understand the meaning of divine and the mode of its revelation to the Vedic seers it is difficult to understand and appreciate the meaning of the Veda or to interpret it. The Veda in its literary form comes into existence when the divinely inspired devotion is expressed in the form of prayer or hymns. When divine inspiration is offered back to the divine in the form of prayer and praise, human life finds its supreme fulfillment, and its attitude to world or nature gets transformed into one of reverence and worship.

Professor A. Ramamurty taught philosophy and comparative-Religion for more than fifteen years at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan before joining the Department of Philosophy, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad. Besides a large number of research articles, he has authored many books including Advaitic Mysticism of Sankara, Advaita – A Conceptual Analysis (2008), Indian Philosophy of Religion (2002), The Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism (2000), Vedanta and its Philosophical Development (2006) and Philosophy of Brahman (2010).

 

Preface

AMONG the Samhitas (collections) of the Veda, the Rgveda Samhita occupies a pre-eminent position as it presents comprehensively the vision or wisdom of the Vedic seers. Apart from the fact that the other Vedic Samhitas, with the exception of the Atharvaveda Samhita, repeat most of the hymns of the Rgveda, they do not have much to add to the basic thought or wisdom of the Vedic seers as expressed in the hymns of the Rgveda. The importance of the 1gveda to Indian thought is foundational, and our understanding of the meaning of the 1gveda will not only help us in comprehending the thought of the Veda, but will be significant in understanding and appreciating the post-Samhita or the Upaniadic thought also. Some of the ideas and insights, which are central to the Upaniads, presuppose, and are a continuation and development of the Vedic ideas and insights, which, when interpreted in their proper perspective, will be valuable in revealing the depth and richness of the Upanisadic ideas. For instance, the meaning of the Upaniadic concept of Brahman can be comprehended in depth and more integrally when it is viewed and understood in relation to the Vedic concept of Brahma, inspired devotion and its poetic expression in prayer. Similarly, the meaning of the Vedantic idea - knowledge” (jnana or prajna) both as the essence of and a means .f Brahman realisation, can be grasped and appreciated more fully n the light of the Vedic concepts of yak and Kavya. So also is the case with the Vedantic concept of Maya whose positive dimension is revealed in the hymns of the Rgveda.

All this depends upon our approach to Vedic interpretation. If we start with the assumption that the Veda, as a collection of primitive man’s thought and wisdom, reflects his helpless condition in a hostile nature over which he had no control or mastery and hence his animistic world view, and try to interpret it in the light of certain modern theories about the origin of religion hoping thereby to find a sort of confirmation for those theories in the Veda, we not only will be prejudging the worth and significance of the Veda but by attempting a naturalistic interpretation of it we will be distorting and consequently missing the real meaning of the Veda. The meaning of almost all the hymns of the Rgveda remains unintelligible in terms of a naturalistic interpretation. And almost all the modern scholars on the Veda, with the exception of a few thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, started with such a presupposition, and tried to force a naturalistic interpretation on all the hymns of the Veda whether thereby the hymns reveal anything meaningful or not. Because of this the naturalistic interpretations of the Veda are utterly confusing and unintelligible, except in broad outline, even from a naturalistic standpoint. On the other hand, if we try to discover in the Veda a creative beginning of the later Indian thought, especially that of the Upaniads, though expressed in a language peculiar to the Veda which is highly symbolic, our attitude and approach to the Veda will be significantly different. This does not, however, mean that we should try to find out in the Veda some form of Vedantic thought. And if we keep in view the traditional view that the Veda and Vedanta form an integral whole, and are hence complementary to each other — both form Sruti — it will help us in comprehending the meaning of both in relation to each other.

My interpretation of the Rgveda in the following pages is inspired partly by the writings of Sri Aurobindo on the Veda. My attempt to understand and interpret the central teaching or philosophy of the 1gveda is born out of tension which I experienced while going through and comparing the naturalistic interpretations of the Veda offered by most of Vedic scholars, both Indian and Western, and the psychological or spiritual interpretation of it offered by Sri Aurobindo. The following is a P4ystematic attempt to reconcile both the views, and yet to go beyond them in comprehending the basic vision of the Vedic seers as expressed in the hymns of the 1gveda. Although the work is based entirely on the text of the 1gveda, in comprehending its meaning the other Vedic literature is -onsu1tued. While some of the interpreters of the Veda find it difficult to appreciate the role of Sayai3a as an interpreter of the Veda, I find that without his commentary on the Veda the possible meanings of a Vedic word or a hymn and hence the whole of the Veda can have remained highly unintelligible.

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Introduction

FROM the Brahmanas down to the present times several attempts have been made, both from within and without tradition, to interpret the Vedic Samhitas, especially the Rgveda Samhita. Each school of thought has evolved its own method of interpretation; and historically we find several such methods of Vedic interpretation. The different schools of Indian thought have developed distinct standpoints of their own, not only with regard to the nature and validity of Vedic revelation, but also in respect of its meaning. Although the revealed character and authority of the Veda are admitted by all the schools of Indian tradition, the continuous attention paid to the study and interpretation of the Vedanta texts has not been shown to the study and interpretation of the Vedic Samhitas. The mutual antagonism developed and sustained by certain schools of Indian thought between the Samhitas and the Upaniads in terms of ritualism and knowledge (jnana), in which the Samhitas are seen as standing for ritualism, mainly due to the view adopted by these schools that the significance of the Samhitas is tied up with the ritualistic literatu


Item Code: NAC750
Cover: Hardcover
Edition: 2012
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
ISBN: 8124606102
Language: English
Size: 8.8 Inch X 6.0 Inch
Pages: 285
Other Details: Weight of the Book: 510 gms