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MEDITATION, DEVI AND UPANISHADIC KNOWLEDGE IN RIGVEDA

Conventional western and westernized wisdom wrongly regard Rigveda as being merely a collection of prayers to nature-gods for material benefits. My translation suggests that the Rigveda is shot through with concern for Union or Yoga with the divine. It deals with different aspects of meditation. There are references to self-realisation or liberation, and sometimes to moksha. Of course, these words are not used in their modern form. This may be the reason why these references are missed out in existing translations.

In this post, I am discussing one verse in the 23rd hymn of Rigveda, which refers to meditation, Devi and also reveals Upanishadic knowledge. As part of the discussion, I will also bring in references to verses 1.010.01 and 1.007.02, which seem to confirm the correctness of my translation.

The verse under discussion refers to meditation as सं, and to Devi as ग्ना (= ग्ने) and जया. The verse reads:

सं माग्ने वर्चसा सृज सं प्रजया समायुषा | विद्युमे अस्य देवा इन्द्रो विद्यात्सह ऋषिभिः ||(1.023.24)[1]

The verse has four parts that bear a close look.

   1.     सं माग्ने वर्चसा सृज : Meditation (सं) on goddess of knowledge (मा-ग्ने) creates brilliance (वर्चसा सृज). The goddess is referred to as ग्ना, and knowledge as मा. Meditating on her creates brilliance.

   2.    सं प्रजया समायुषा  : Meditation on Durga (सं प्र-जया) bestows a perfect duration of life (सम्-आयुषा). Durga is referred to here as जया. This can only mean a reference to her puranic exploits in defeating asuras.

It can be noted that meditation on Devi yields benefit in the world of duality, in the form of brilliance, and a perfect duration of life. In other verses, there seem to be references to the sanction required from Devi to pass to a world of non-duality.

The first line of the verse seems to relate to the world of duality, which is a world of delusion. The second line of the verse takes up the plane of non-duality in which one sheds delusions.

  3.   विद्युमे अस्य देवा : In the light of ‘I’ is God (विद्यु-मे अस्य देवा). The word used for self is मे . Macdonell translates this word to mean ‘aham’ or ‘I’. This translation reveals that this phrase: विद्युमे अस्य देवा  gives the essence of Upanishadic knowledge. It says that in the light of self, we can see the supreme spirit or divinity. This same thing is emphasized by Bhagwan Satya Sai Baba: “Liberation is attained when the Soul shines in its own divinity”.[2]

  4.   इन्द्रो विद्यात्सह ऋषिभिः : With the state of spiritual knowledge upheld or promoted by Indra, vanquishes (इन्द्रो विद्यात्-सह) Rishi the delusion (ऋषि – भिः). इन्द्रो is interpreted here as being an abbreviation of इन्द्रोत, which means “upheld or promoted by Indra”. विद्यात् is taken as an abbreviation of विद्यात्व, which mean state or idea of विद्या, which in turn means spiritual knowledge.

The statement इन्द्रो विद्यात्सह ऋषिभिः has two aspects.

First, it implies that the effort to illuminate ‘I’ (विद्यु-मे) is based on the state of spiritual knowledge promoted by Indra (इन्द्रो विद्यात्). Thus, Indra promoted the spiritual knowledge of Yoga. This is in line with the statements of Vaisvamitra which said that Indra had promoted yoga (इन्द्र इद्धयो,[3] इन्द्रो वज्री हिरण्ययः,[4] 1.007.2). It also confirms the verse of Vaisvamitra that says that: ब्रह्माणस्त्वा शतक्रत उद्वंशमिव येमिरे, i.e. he had acquired the breath of Brahman riding on the backbone as it were of Indra, and established and acquired Union or yoga (1.010.01).

Second, the full phrase says : इन्द्रो विद्यात्-सह ऋषि – भिः. That is with the state of spiritual knowledge promoted by Indra, vanquishes Rishi delusion. The vanquishing of delusion is called liberation or self realization: Bhagvan Satya Sai Baba says:.. Liberation is the condition of one who has shed delusion.[5] Hence the use of the word Rishi (ऋषि) in this phrase, to denote one who has shed delusion or attained liberation.

Putting 3 and 4 together, the second line of the verse:

विद्युमे अस्य देवा इन्द्रो विद्यात्सह ऋषिभिः

Is a full statement of the Upanishadic Truth. It says: In the light of self shines divinity, with the spiritual knowledge upheld or promoted by Indra, the Rishi vanquishes delusion.


[1] सं मा – ग्ने वर्चसा सृज सं प्र – जया सम् – आयुषा | विद्यु – मे अस्य देवा इन्द्रो विद्यात् – सह ऋषि – भिः ||

Meditation (सं) knowledge (मा) goddess (ग्ना = न्ने) brilliance (वर्चस् = वर्चसा) creates (सृज् = सृज) meditation (सं) on (प्र) Durga (जया) complete/perfect (सम्) duration of life (आयुष = आयुषा) | to illuminate (विद्यु = विद्युत्) I or aham (मे) is (अस्य) God (देवः = देवा) upheld or promoted by Indra (इन्द्रो = इन्द्रोत) state of spiritual knowledge (विद्यात् = विद्यात्व) vanquishing (सह) Rishi (ऋषि) delusion (भः = भिः) 

[2] July 4, 2013, http://www.saibabaofindia.com, Thought For The Day As Written At Prasanthi Nilayam Today

[3] Kindled yoga.

[4] upheld or promoted by Indra is the thunderbolt of golden yoga.

[5] July 4, 2013, http://www.saibabaofindia.com, Thought For The Day As Written At Prasanthi Nilayam Today

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