The Vedas and Their Message to Humanity
by Swami Krishnananda
For the first time, perhaps, in the history of mankind, the great ideal of Yajna was propounded in the Vedas, especially in the Rig-Veda, to its immortal glory. In the famous hymn, called the Purusha-Sukta, we have this enunciation of cosmic sacrifice as an all-round duty. The importance of sacrifice was raised to such heights in this glorious hymn of the Veda that it has been identified with the existence of the Creator Himself. God Himself is Sacrifice – "Yajno vai vishnuh."Narayana became the First Sacrifice. And His Sacrifice has had its impact in a series, in lesser and lesser densities of manifestation, until the last particle of earth has been reached, which also is performing a sacrifice of its own. Every atom of creation is engaged in a sacrifice because of the impulse of this supreme Sacrifice that has been imported to it by the Eternal Being.
The Purusha-Sukta enunciates the cosmology of the Veda. In the beginning the Purusha alone was, and the Purusha is all that is, and also what shall be. The Purusha is all creation, and is, at once, above all creation. Past, present and future do not exist in Him, He is the Timeless Eternal Being. From Him, the All-Reality, proceeds the Creative Cosmic Person who manifests Himself further as this visible Universe of Space and Time, of Sun and Moon and Stars, of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth in their vast comprehensiveness. From this cosmic manifestation arises all that is of a variety in the mineral kingdom, in the plant, the animal, the human being or even the angel or the celestial. The Purusha is All-in-All. The individual creations – celestial, human, animal, plant and mineral-are the descents of the One Purusha in graded densities of concretisation, diversification and externalisation in Space and Time, and these varieties are His own Heads, Faces, Limbs, Forms, Parts, and He sees through their eyes, hears through their ears, thinks through their minds, works through their bodies. The gods of the hymn are the ancient contemplators of this Unity of Existence by an act of self-sacrifice in communion with it in every level of their being. The Universe is the Object of Meditation as the Self-alienation of the Absolute. The individuals, thus, have to lead a cooperative life of mutual sacrifice in the light of this Great Universality of the Purpose of all life. The social groups are the principles of coordination for mutual good by way of participation in the working of the social structure as a whole.
In this grand hymn, the Purusha-Sukta, we have four facets of life beautifully presented, which is the philosophy as well as the sociology and the mystical meaning behind life as a whole. The great principle that is finally laid down in this hymn is the goal of attainment. Any effort directed towards this end, or purpose, little or small, intense or mild, whatever be the character of the effort of the endeavour that we put forth, is motivated by an impulse towards the attainment of an aim immediately visible, or perhaps remotely seen at a distance.
The fixing of this ideal is one's primary duty in the performance of Sadhana. The aim of the Nation determines its constitution. We cannot frame the constitution of a government unless we have its aim before our minds. What is it that we are asking for? What does the Nation mean? What is required? That is to be clear, first of all, with the people and leaders of the Nation. When the ideal of the Nation is clear, the system of working out this ideal is laid down. This is called the constitution, the law and the order. And then there is the organisation which is called the administration – we call it the government, which is the working mechanism that puts into visible action the ideology that is framed in the constitution on the basis of the final attainment towards which the Nation is moving or ought to move.
This is also echoed in the system and doctrine of Buddhism when it clinches its essentials as the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. What they call the Buddha is the ideal that is set up before us as that which has to be reached;-the universal Goal of life is signified by the term Buddha; the consciousness of the Infinite which is the ideal of attainment. Not necessarily a human being or a Guatama Siddhartha is signified by the term Buddha, here. It is rather the cosmic ideal that is denoted by the term in the organisational doctrine of the Buddha.
What is the method of attaining the ideal? That is the Dharma, the constitution, the technique to be adopted in practical life, for the purpose of the attainment of this ideal – Dharma, the Law. And in order that this Dharma may become fructified or materialised in day-to-day existence, there is a necessity for cooperative activity among people, an organisation, which is the Sangha – this is the government. In a similar fashion was the mention made, long ago, of the entire process of the practice of Sadhana, in the Purusha-Sukta.
The hymn starts with the proclamation, "Sahasra-sirsha purusha." etc. It speaks of the Ideal ahead of us;-the multiformed Absolute with eyes everywhere, with ears everywhere, with hands and feet everywhere, with everything everywhere. That is the Purusha, the Supreme Being, who has no past or present or future – "Purusha evedam sarvam yad bhutam yat cha bhavyam." Whatever was, whatever is and whatever shall be, in short, that which transcends the very notion of time, is the Purusha. This is the Goal succinctly stated, precisely presented before us.
Now comes the next question: how to attain this ideal. This is the Sadhana, or the Dharma, or, we may say, the methodology to be adopted. The whole process of creation which has been described in this Sukta is the fundamental base behind the description of the Dharma or the method of Sadhana to be practised. There is a manifestation, an evolution of the Purusha, stage by stage. There is a concretisation of the Universal Person. First, there is affirmed the Universal Self, the Purusha. Then, gradually coming down to the level of space and time, it becomes more and more conceivable to us. The descent takes place in a systematic manner. That is why we call creation a universe and not a chaos. This is the unified organisation that is the creation of God, mathematically thought out with utter minuteness of execution, so that there is no need for any amendment of this constitution of God. The act of the human parliament requires amendments according to the situation prevailing at any given time. But all the exigencies have been preconceived already by the Purusha. He knows all the circumstances that would arise at any time in the future until the next step in evolution. Every provision has been made in this Constitution so that there need be no necessity to think over it every day, or for amending it or improving it for the day. The coming down of the Purusha as creation is the manifestation that is described in the Purusha-Sukta. The Absolute seems to come down gradually, and slowly. In the beginning, this happens inconceivably, later on notionally possible of conception, and later still, further, it becomes visible. Suffice it to say that the Purusha comes to the earth-level where we are standing now, on which our feet are planted. That is the completion of creation. This fulfilment of creation by God is usually known as the Virat, a term that we use for our notion of God as completely manifest in the universe. But all these events had taken sufficient time, may be logical time, in the coming down of the Purusha to the level of the earth in a gradational, systematic and methodical manner. In this process, there has been included the necessity of bringing into a harmonious relationship every level of being. It is not a segregated scattering of particulars that God has done in creation, but an integration which has come down as various degrees of lesser integration, again, in more and more concretised forms, until things come to the level of the individual which, also, is an integration of personality at the lowest. There is no chaotic arrangement anywhere in creation, even down to the lowest atom. Everything is an organisation, and even an atom is a beautiful organisation by itself. There are organisations after organisations, wholes and wholes emanating from wholes – "Purnam adah purnam idam." At every stage one whole comes from another whole leaving the intact. The difference is only in the intensity of the concretisation of wholeness and the consciousness embedded in it. But wholeness is nevertheless present until one comes to the wholeness of this physical universe which is the Virat consciousness.
Again, there is segregation taking place, in another type of wholeness, which is the individuality dividing into the subject and the object, through the evolutionary process of the plant, animal and human to which we belong at present. We are humans; we are cut off in consciousness from the Universal Integration of the Virat.
And nevertheless, we are retaining a sort of wholeness in our personality. We are undivided, somehow. The essence of the wholeness of individuality has now taken the name and form of egoism. Unfortunate is this, indeed. Yet, divinity is reflected there in this affirmation. Such a vehement affirmation is inconceivable unless there is an eternity backing it from behind. Else, why should a human being be so egoistic and intractable? There is an eternal wholeness of self-affirmation that supports this isolated affirmation of wholeness we call personality. It is a travesty of affairs, a downfall, but, behind it, very legitimately, is the Ocean of all existence. Therefore, we are in a complex situation. We are neither here nor there; we are between the devil and the deep sea, as one may say. From the one side there is the impact of the universal, and from the other side there is the impetuousness of the individuality. That is where we stand today, at the cross-roads, between God and the devil. But we are neither God nor a devil entirely. We have the elements of both in us. However, neither element is complete in us, and that is the superiority of the human individual over the animal. You can fall, you can rise – you have the freedom. But what freedom? To fall or to rise? Both freedoms have been bestowed upon us, and we can do whatever we would like. To hell or to heaven you go by your freedom. Mankind is at the brink between the Universal Divinity of Virat and the further urges into segregation that are also impelling everyone to move on externally, outwardly, into social and physical relationships. The Virat consciousness is not the end of creation.
The Panchadasi of Vidyaranya says that right from the concept of the Universal Seed Isvara's Will, up to the manifestation of the Virat, is God's creation. But then the Jiva comes-our own individuality – which starts with the waking consciousness, descending into dream consciousness, going into sleep, and coming back to waking consciousness, returning again into dreaming and sleeping, in a cycle – this is Samsara-chakra, the wheel of metempsychosis. But the impulse of the great ideal before us is not lost hold of. God will never forsake us even in hell; even in the downmost nether regions God is with us. And He is speaking to us in his own language, beckoning us to Himself. That is why we are restless wherever we are. Whatever be the stage in which we are, we have a sense of insecurity, restlessness and indeteminability of the future, all which is a reflection of the truth that we are not in a perfected condition. We are aiming at an ideal of which we have lost consciousness now, but towards which we are struggling under the conditions in which we are placed. This is the saga of life. We are trying to solve the problems and pains of life by ways and means conceived by our individual mind through the perceptional faculties provided in the waking life, which is the first step that the individual takes in asserting independence. In the Biblical language, here is the Fall of Satan. Here arises the consciousness of good and evil into which Adam and Eve are supposed to have been roused against the dictates of God, by their eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Until then they had no consciousness of personality and sex, not even of space and time, evidently. So, it was the garden of paradise. Then, when Adam and Eve became conscious that they were naked, God remonstrated. "How do you know that you are naked? Have you eaten the fruit? How has the consciousness come into you? Up to this time, you were not aware that you were." Everything was-that was all. Everything is, not "I am." The 'I-am'-consciousness is the beginning of thoughts which can tear apart man in his woe. And he connives and contrives and manufactures gadgets, psychological and physical instruments for ridding himself of the misery of sorrow that has come upon him on account of this isolation from the All-Being. He invents technology and radio and social organisation and political set up, international ideals of peace and harmony. Nothing succeeds. All these externalised attempts of the human individual remain as gluing broken pieces of glass to come together into an apparent wholeness. But broken glasses are broken glasses, they can never become one whole, again. The effort has not succeeded and it cannot succeed on the face of it because the assertion of individuality is at the back of every attempt at unity. As is the Hindi saying, "Mooh me Ram, bagal me chhuri." You have a theoretical ideal of unity before you, but in the pit of your arm is concealed secretly a knife to attack the neighbour, should the time come for it. There is a subtle prejudice in us to affirm ourselves in our own individuality, irrespective of the ardent endeavour of everybody to come together on a common platform of humanity, or even an organisation of all nations. A psychological analysis of individual prejudices will reveal that personal security is at the background of even international welfare programmes. If the security of the ego is threatened, let welfare go to the dogs! If this is the ideal, well, one can imagine the consequences.
The great constitution of God, the Dharma, as enunciated in the Purusha-Sukta, is of the completeness of creation, and the individuals under it are not supposed to independently assert themselves. There is a need for cooperation, which is mentioned towards the end of the Sukta, commencing with the Mantra, "Brahmanosya mukhamasit," etc. The spiritual ideal, the political administrative system, the economic order intended for the maintenance of personal security and social existence and the labour required for its achievement are what are called the 'Varnas', a system of universal social organisation. "Chatur varnyam maya srishtam guna-karma-vibhagasah," says the Bhagavad-Gita. God says, 'I created it,' which means to say that the initial sanction behind this organisation of groups of humanity into a set up of cooperation is in the principle of the ultimate inter connectedness of creation. There is cycle of cooperative activity continuing right from the Creator onwards. The Creator Himself enunciated this great law of cooperation (Purovacha Prajapatih). Cooperative activity does not necessarily mean work in the sense of physical movement or doing something, in a visible form, always. Action is an external symbol in the form of motion, social and personal, of an internal unification of feeling, ideology or purpose.
"Samano mantrah samitih samani,"says the Rig-Veda towards the end of it. "Let your deliberations be common, your assembly of a common aim." Meet together; come together; work together; sit together; speak together; converse together; have a common ideology, so that you may have a common working aim, a single reality, is the note of the concluding message of the Rig-Veda.