From the Jacket
One of the most stupendous manifestations of the Spirit; is undoubtedly that which has been
handed down to us under the generic name of the Vedas. The Vedas are still too much neglected not
only in the world at large but also in their country of origin. This Vedic anthology will make
direct and fruitful knowledge of the Vedas available to a wider range of people than the small
elite of pandits and indologists.
This anthology collects the most crucial texts of the Indian Sacred Scriptures—in all more than
500—newly translated into contemporary English. Dr. Panikkar’s principle has been to select and
place together texts so as to offer a selection of texts that cover the full range of ‘The Vedic
Experience’ and at the same time to show how they manifest the universal rhythms of nature,
history, and Man. Excerpts are taken from the oldest hymns, such as the Rig Veda; from the
Brahmanas the Aranyakas, or "Forest Treatises, " and finally the Upanisads, which represent the
mystical and philosophical culmination of the Vedas.
This is a book for meditation, for reading, public and private, as well as for thorough study at
this wellspring of human wisdom. It should, moreover, facilitate that meeting of East and West so
long desired and delayed, and now so imperative.
Raimundo Panikkar is Professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa
Barbara. His books include The Unknown Christ of Hinduism, Worship and Secular Man, The Trinity
and the Religious experience o man, The Intrareligious Dialogue and Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics.
What would you save from a blazing house? A precious, irreplaceable manuscript containing a
message of salvation for man- kind, or a little group of people menaced by the same fire? The
situation is real and not for this writer alone: How can you be just an "intellectual," concerned
with truth, or just a "spiritual/’ busy with goodness, when Men desperately cry for food and
justice? How can you follow a contemplative, philosophical, or even religious path when the world
shouts for action, engagement, and politics? And, conversely, how can you agitate for a better
world or for the necessary revolution when what is most needed is serene insight and right
evaluation? That the burning house is not my private property should be clear to all my neighbors
on this earth of ours. But to speak about myself alone: this anthology is the product of an
existential overcoming of my concrete situation by denying the ultimate validity of such a
dilemma. If I am not ready to save the manuscript from the fire, that is, if I do not take my
intellectual vocation seriously, putting it before everything else even at the risk of appearing
inhuman, then I am also incapable of helping people in more concrete and proximate ways.
Conversely, if I am not alert and ready to save people from a conflagration, that is to say, if I
do not take my spiritual calling in all earnestness, sacrificing to it all else, even my own life,
then I shall be unable to help in rescuing the manuscript. If I do not involve myself in the
concrete issues of my time, and if I do not open my house to all the winds of the world, then
anything l may produce from an ivory tower will be barren and cursed. Yet if I do not shut doors
and windows in order to concentrate on this work, then I will not be able to offer anything of
value to my neighbors.
Indeed, the manuscript may emerge charred and the people may emerge blistered, but the intensity
of the one concern has helped me in the other. The dilemma is not whether to choose the Monastery
or the Ballroom, Hardwar or Chanakyapuri (Vatican or Quirinal), Tradition or Progress, Politics or
Academia, Church or State, justice or Truth. In a word, reality is not a matter of either or,
spirit or matter, contemplation or action, written message or living people, East or West, theory
or praxis or, for that matter, the divine or the human. Indeed, perhaps the fundamental insight of
this book is that there is no essence without existence, no existence without an essence.
This study emerges out of an existential struggle between concentrating on the writing of it at
the risk of letting people be trapped in the tire, and helping persons out of the house at the
price of abandoning the manuscript altogether. The act of faith behind this study is to have
denied the inevitability of a choice, not by an act of the will alone or of the mind alone, but by
allowing circumstances to guide my intellect, my spirit, and indeed my whole life. Is not the
entire Vedic experience based on life-giving sacrifice?
When, a decade ago, the urgent and
long-standing need for a study to this kind pressed on me so hard that it could no longer be
resisted, a tantalizing alternative seemed to present itself: either to become a trained mechanic,
in Sanskrit and English at least, or else to become a trusty pilot in Vedic and other personal
flights. Circum- stances again decided for me, and this work has been rendered possible by the
unusual team of people collaborating with me. One could hardly have found a more unselfish and
devoted group of helpers than the one that has made this anthology possible. One does not fly
First of all, I want to thank the group of collaborators. N. Snanta, to whom this anthology is
dedicated, has been decisive in deter— mining the entire gestalt of the book. M. Rogers has
revised the style, especially allowing the texts to reflect the beauty of the original through the
genius of the English language. B. Baumer and M. Bidoli have gone through the Sanskrit texts and
contributed creatively to an accurate version of them. Without these collaborators this anthology
could not have been completed.
Thanks are also given to a living artist, to a modern scholar, and also to an ancient monk. The
entrance mandala and the vignettes of the book are original of A. Kunze who, according to
tradition, drew them while meditating on the texts. The Sanskrit syllables appearing in some of
the drawings are bija-mantras, which symbolize, at least partially, the meaning of the
The Devanagari letters illustrating the anthology are reproductions of original xylographs
belonging to Sri Lokesh Chandra, Director of the International Academy of Indian Culture, New-
Delhi. They are from Shuji—shu, a Japanese "Collection of bijas" woodprinted by Bhiksu Chozen in
A.D. 1661-1673. They are also bija—mantras, that is, mystical syllables or aksara devatas, each of
them symbolizing some Vedic deity as indicated below the reproduction. Without R. H. Hooker and U.
M. Vesci, many a blunder would have remained unchecked; without R. S. Bhattacharya, P. Y.
Desh-pandey, D. Mumford, and many other friends the book would not have reached its present form.
Nor do I forget K. V. C. Subramanyan and A. K. Karmakar, who have typed and retyped the manuscript
so many times that they know many of its mantras by heart.
I have also to thank the Vedic Gods and all other spirits who have blessed this venture. I ask
them and the reader to pardon the chasm that exists between the real mantra and this marijari. May
both Gods and readers by their acceptance of this mantramanjari for- give and forget its compiler
so that the silent, Divine Mystery may flow freely through whatever living mantras this anthology
may elicit. The feelings of humility, which in many prefaces are some- what perfunctorily
expressed, are in this instance both genuine and overwhelming. How is it possible to touch upon
almost all the relevant and central problems of Man, over a time span of at least four millennia,
and to dare to present a seed that may germinate elsewhere and a beam capable of setting light to
what it touches? If this is so, then even the decade of life and work compressed into this