From the Jacket:
Import of the Veda has been a matter of great curiosity ever since its inception millennia back, the Vedic seer himself having characterized it as secret words, ninya vacamsi. This curiosity has become all the more enhanced and universalized in the modern times with the failure of science to provide suitable answer to the basic problems of mankind, that is peace, harmony and satisfaction in life. The higher intelligentsia once again, therefore, is turning back to the Veda, the oldest literary heritage of mankind having embedded in it the wisdom of ancient seers and sages supposed to have seen across the total span of the reality. But in the absence of a proper clue to get unfolded this ancient deposit of wisdom, all the expectations from the Veda have remained unfulfilled so far and have got rather blurred by the misinterpretations of the typical modern scholarship in the area.
Vedic Symbolism is not only a befitting answer to all such misrepresentations but also the key to unlocking the secret of the Veda most authoritatively, having been forged out by a seasoned Vedic scholar of the eminence of Prof. S.P. Singh. Here is a tool made available in a profound way to unlock the secret of the Veda at its best to quench the thirst of the inquisitive to know what Veda really is.
The validity of Vedic Symbolism has already been attested and established through its presentation in the Worshops organized successively for two years in December 1998 and 1999 under the aegis of the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratisthan and attended by the select gathering of Professors, Readers, Lecturers and Research Scholars of the Universities of Delhi besides highly knowledgeable persons drawn from other areas of understanding, The Maharshi sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan has under taken to publish the work so promptly at the constant insistence of these learned persons.
The Pratisthan would feel gratified only if this latest and most ambitious projection of it gets matching response from the intelligentsia of the country as well as abroad curious to get to the real content of the richest heritage of mankind bequeathed to it by seers who had got so elevated in their consciousness even at that stage of human history as to think of the whole world as a nest, yatra visvam bhavaty ekaneedam, and of all expositions of truth as referent to one and the same Reality, ekam sad vipra bhaudha vadanti.
That the Vedic language is symbolic has been recognised throughout the long history of development of the Vedic knowledge. The Vedic symbolism continued to be used to a considerable degree in the Upanishads. The spirit of symbolism is constantly alive in the Puranic and Tantric literature. Vaishnavite poetry, too, bristles in symbolism. The important question, however, pertains to values of symbols used in this great Vedic tradition, and these values can be meaningfully uncovered only if the symbols used in the Veda are correctly unveiled. This is a very difficult task, particularly because we are today very much removed from the modes of Vedic thought, while preponderance of the ritualistic interpretation of the Veda has tended to weaken our occult and spiritual sensibility, which is of supreme importance for getting to the heart of the Vedic hymns and their symbolism.
Vamadeva, whom the fourth mandala of the Rigveda is devoted to, declares that Vedic words are secret words and revealthemselves only to seers . These secret words are, however, not entirely secret, and the veil that they cast is not always thick; their transparency is often decipherable, and in the hands of the seers they reveal their secret, just as, -- to use the Vedic expression --, the woman reveals herself to her husband. It is because of this reason that the task of unveiling the secrecy of the Vedic symbolism is not as impossible as it might seem. Nonetheless, the task is very difficult and painstaking labour has to be coupled with occult and spiritual sensibility.
It is against this background that Professor S.P. Singh's vast and meticulous labour in undertaking the task of uncovering the Vedic symbols is to be appreciated. He is one of the rarest scholars of India whose knowledge of Sanskrit and of the Vedic Samhitas is so intimate that he is today the most qualified scholar to speak to us of Vedic symbolism and its secrets.
In conducting his research work, he has happily discovered that the light that Sri Aurobindo has shed on the secret of the Veda is an indispensable aid. As is well known, Sri Aurobindo has presented a psychological theory of the Veda in the light of his own spiritual experiences, and the Vedic knowledge that he has brought out has been expounded in two of his major works, "The Secret of the Veda" and "Hymns to the Mystic Fire". He has also employed this knowledge in his interpretation of the Ishopanishad and Kenopanishad. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo's magnum opus "The Life Divine" as also his other works such as "The Synthesis of Yoga", and "The Essays on the Gita" bear the impress of his discovery of the secret of Vedic symbolism. Professor S.P. Singh has been a life-long student of Sri Aurobindo's works, and his expert knowledge of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy and Yoga is evident in his earlier works on the Upanishads and his comparative studies of Jung and Sri Aurobindo, as also Whitehead and Sri Aurobindo.
It is gratifying that it was at my request that Professor S.P. Singh undertook five years ago to conduct the research work that has resulted in this voluminous book. The first half of the Vedic Symbolism has been devoted mainly to determination of precise symbolic meaning of gross earthly objects used frequently in Veda such as cow, bull, ghrta, horse, chariot, boat, path, cave, etc. while in the second half the same has been done in regard to certain functions, abstract objects, principles and practices such as initiation, spinning and weaving, askesis, sacrifice, Vak, Pranava, Sarasvati and ventures of the most primeval seer Angiras in the realm of the knowledge of the reality.
The meaning behind the symbols has been determined on the basis of sufficient evidence and with utmost care and precision. The basic tool that has been forged out and used in this regard is the use of simile and metaphor in the mantras. Simile and metaphor have been taken as the primary and secondary stages in the formation of the symbol which emerges as culmination of the process.
Having been worked out on this solid basis, nothing arbitrary has been allowed to creep into this study which is intended to be made as precise and objective as possible.
The study of Professor S.P. Singh has led to certain conclusions, main Gross physical objects have been used in the Veda in some or the other secondary sense and scarcely in the primary sense. Such usage is obviously symbolic. Symbolism is the transference of the signification of a word from the basic to a secondary order of things or ideas.
The basic idea Vedic seers have intended to convey is of spiritual and deep psychological nature which is the result of their intensive search, contemplation and askesis. The objects, events and processes the seers have adduced for the expression of these ideas have been taken from their surroundings some times in their existing forms and at others in modified forms so as to suit the requirement of expression. Stock example is the bull with four horns, three feet, two heads and seven hands.
The manifest content or symbol in the Veda has acquired its sanctity in the tradition owing to its association with noble ideas expressed through it as well as to their practical utility in the lives of the discoverers of those ideas.
Thus the theory of triple meaning of Vedic mantras has come to be redefined in the "Vedic Symbolism" in terms of primacy of the spiritual and secondary character of the physical and the mythi