Nature of Indra, the Lord of Divine Mind

He comes down into our world as the Hero with his shining horses
And slays darkness and division with his lightnings,
Pours down the life-giving heavenly waters,
Finds in the trace of the hound, intuition, the lost or hidden illumination and
Makes the Sun of truth mount high in the heaven of our mental plane.

(Sri Aurobindo)

The role of Indra, the lord of the Divine Mind, is to help man develop the abilities for mental formation and associated action. Indra is, primarily, the deity who gives the appropriate knowledge to human beings so that they can perform all the actions. Actions are not limited to those on the physical plane, i.e., those we do with our hands, legs, mouth etc. They include actions done at the inner levels also, the inner vital, inner physical, etc.

The actions of the Divine Mind, Indra, can be broadly divided into at least three categories. The first task is to manifest knowledge in all the humans who have aspired for it. Of course, this is not done in a single step. This task is imaged as the birth of the god Indra in man.

The second task is the preparation and building up of bodies which can absorb or sustain this knowledge. The physical body is made of material, vital and mental energies. In its ordinary condition, it is like an unbaked pot, which will break if knowledge of great intensity enters it. Hence, Indra has to create new forms or subtle bodies in the modern parlance which can receive the knowledge given and allow for its growth.

The third task of Indra is to offer protection for the individuals from the hostile forces. The existence of these non-human forces operated by the non-human typical beings is not a surprise for any one who has developed an inner life of sufficient depth. These hostile forces are the forces of falsehood which conceal Truth or divide the Truth into mutually opposite chunks, the forces which tend to stop the flow of consciousness, etc. Hence Indra battles these demonic forces led by Vŗtra, the concealer or tearer. Vŗtra and his followers operate not only at a cosmic level, but also in the inner life of every individual. Hence, Indra has to secure victory against Vŗtra, the demon, in each individual.

The divine knowledge given by Indra is not meant to come in one step or at any one moment like the experience of samādhi in the later vedāntic thought. The seers get this knowledge, one step at a time. Two mantrās (1.10.1) and (1.10.2) describe this procedure graphically.

The seers of the mantra rise and attain thee as they climb a ladder, (1.10.1).

When a human being starts any spiritual discipline, his/her progress is slow in the beginning, like climbing a ladder. At each step, s/he sees the several steps which s/he has yet to climb, many of them hidden from his/her sight. There is no need for discouragement for at some stage Indrahimself comes to the devotee and takes upon himself the task of guiding and helping the seer on his upward journey. In the language of the Rigveda, a god taking birth in a person means that the effort of the person has reached a culmination and hereafter the god himself will lead the person, pointing out to the devotee the new, untrodden paths. Hence, in the later mantra of the same hymn (1.10.11), Indra is described as one “who makes a seer” and “gives a new life to the seer”.

In (1.6.3), ketu means knowledge born of inner understanding. A person who has no such knowledge is aketu. Indra aims to manifest in man the higher knowledge, the knowledge of the different planes, the knowledge of gods, methods of obtaining their grace, the methods of not exposing oneself to hostile forces, etc. The process of the birth of knowledge is imaged by the RigVedic poets as the birth of a son to human being, the person who does the yajňa. The yajamānaprays to the gods for them to be born as his sons.

However, there is a deeper reason for imaging the dawn of knowledge in man as the birth of a god. A first step in spiritual life of many persons is the vision of a deity or a divine hearing or an appropriate suprasensual experience. But such an experience, by itself, is not sufficient to sustain spiritual life. The memory of such a vision often fades with time, subject to natural forces. But, if we want to have a continuous vision of the Godhead and continuously feel its/his presence, then we need a subtle body in addition to a gross body to support the inner vision and other experiences. The power of gods like Indra manifesting in a human has a subtle body which is as concrete as the physical body, but operates on a different plane. Thus the first line of (1.6.3) states, “giving knowledge to one who does not have it” and the second line says, “Indra gives an appropriate formpesho which can sustain this knowledge.” Just as the physical dawn denotes the advent of physical sun in the sky, the divine goddess Uşha by her presence indicates the advent of the Spiritual Sun.

The quotation given above is not an isolated one, but one of a hundred or more such images in the Rigveda. In (1.4.1) Indra, is hymned as “surūpa kratnu, fashioner of perfect forms.” Indra’s forms are perfect because he has access to complete knowledge. This idea of Indra as the author of forms and maker of seers (1.10.11) is not limited to the seer Madhuchchhandas. We give here the famous mantra of the seer Bharadwāja (6.47.18).

This mantra (6.47.18) is repeated in the Bŗhadāraņyaka Upanishad (2.5) as a part of the madhu,“universal delight”, doctrine. It is sufficient to note that the Supreme Brahman of the vedānticthought, is also a Supreme Person, ātman and every form is himself, his creation, a mould of the substance, a shape of his being. Indra is the divine counterpart of every form in existence; whatever we see is only a form of Indra through which Indra is pleased to reveal himself. The māya powers, in fact, have nothing to do with magic or illusion. They are his creative conscious powers, through which, he has set in motion, the countless life powers, which we behold. These life forces are imaged as his thousand horses, a fairly common image for life forces. The Sanskrit word for the four-footed animal horse, ashwa, is derived from the word ash, which denotes strength. Indra’s steeds are not the animals needed for his transportation; but are his life powers, and ratha, the chariot, indicates movement.

The seer Nema in the eighth book, gives a reply to the question of a skeptic who asks “There is no Indra; who has ever seen him?” (8.100.3). The reply is in (8.100.4) and has been given earlier.

We will give below several descriptive epithets in the hymns of Madhuchchhandas to delineate Indra’s role as the Divine Mind;

Of varied lustre (1.3.4); Impelled by thought (1.3.5);

Driven forward by the illumined thinker (1.3.5);

Of clear seeing intelligence, (1.4.4)

These epithets cannot be explained if we regard Indra as the rainmaker or as a warring chieftain.

Indra is the intelligence that discriminates and counters the forces which are adverse to the yogajourney of the seer and offers the appropriate help, even if the beginner cannot have any intimation of the help received. Some epithets are: Indra of thousand activities (1.4.8), Doer of happy deeds (1.5.6), (giver of) manifold knowledge, abundant intelligence (1.5.3), brightens the word of praise, makes the word accomplished (1.6.9), Indra is the great harmoniser (1.7.8).

Indra himself creates the subtle body in man (1.10.11) and prepares the yajamāna for the vision of Indra and other deities. The yajamāna, human sacrificer, should be in a mood of inward surrender and outward activity.

Indra, impel towards us thy varied and superb wealth

Which is very pervasive and intense. (1.9.6)

In the Rigveda, Soma and Indra are hymned as great friends (1.4.10). When Indra manifests in a person, there is a profusion of Light and Delight which is clearly felt by the seer and expressed in hymns.

The rapture of thee grown indeed gives Light. (1.4.2)

(Indra) who, in his vastness, is a continent of bliss. (1.4.10).

Note here the association between bliss and vastness. The descriptions of the Truth plane are“satyam-ŗtam-bŗhat,” “the Truth, the Right and the Vast.” Bliss cannot manifest in a constricted environment. In (1.8.8), Indra is associated with Mahī, the goddess of vastness, who is sūnŗta, one with agreeable and auspicious speech, virapsi, flaming in exuberance, gomati, full of luminous knowledge, who comes to the performer of yajňa like a ripe fruit.

The overall role of Indra is well described in the first four mantras of the hymn of the Seer Madhuchchhandas (1.4.1-1.4.4). surupakrtnum utaye sudughamiva goduhe juhumasi dyavi dyavi.(1.4.1) upa nah savana gahi somasya somapah piba goda idrevato madah. (1.4.2). atha te antamanam vidyama sumatinam ma no ati kya gahi. (1.4.3). The fashioner of perfect forms like a good yielder for the milker of herds we call for increase from day to day.

(1) Come to our Soma offerings, O Soma-drinker, drink the Soma wine; the intoxication of thy rapture gives Light.

(2) Then may be know of thy innermost right thinkings. Show not beyond us, come.

(3) Notes:

The pure bright knowledge coming from Indra is capable of effecting good mental movements and good actions which increase every day (1).

Nourished and joyous by partaking the Soma that is pressed out, Indra, the Lord of the knowledge of divine mind showers his own rays of illumination (2).

Even though we would be able to know the intimate movements of the divine knowledge by reason of the attainment of the special luminous consciousness, still may not Lord Indra go beyond our sense perception; may he show us the knowledge understandable to us at our level of attainment (3).

Indra is hymned as the king or protector of the heaven dyu “brhatah patih bhuh (1.52.13).” Indra is said to celebrate his self-dominion “archan anu swarajam (1.80.),” the latter phrase being the refrain of all the sixteen mantras of that hymn. However, Indra is not the only deity hymned as a king. The usual phrase for a king “rajan” is invoked for the deity Varuna frequently “raja Varunah (1.24.6).” It is also interesting to note that the phrase daksham or putadaksham which stands throughout the vedafor skill in intelligence, “an intelligence of discriminating between good and bad, true and untrue, and deciding upon the truth of things” (Kapali, Vol. 4, p. 30T) is used exclusively for Varuna as in (1.2.7), (1.2.9), (1.24.7), etc. We will delineate between Varuna and Indra in a later essay on Varuna. It is sufficient to point out here that the rishis in the veda used words of everyday usage so that an inspection and meditation of the outward meanings of these words would indicate their inner symbolism. A king of an earthly country has not only overall sovereignty in that country but also has several specific functions like protecting the people from external forces, upholding the laws of the land, establishment of beauty and harmony in all walks of life in the country, etc. Indra is hymned as the “svarat,” self-ruler, and “samrat,” emperor. He represents the royalty of thought and action (Sri A., p. 454). Varuna is the king who is a fountainhead of discrimination, and omnipotent wisdom and he upholds the eternal law “rtam.” We may recall that if satya is the absolute Truth, rtam is the projection of that Truth in manifestation, in this world characterized by time and space. So rtam is often translated as the “Right,” but it also stands for the cosmic Law which cannot be violated. The deity Vrtra is also hailed as a king who upholds the harmony and beauty in all of the manifestations. Here the word king should not be interpreted in a very rigid way. The vedic poets were both deep and subtle, and a certain plasticity of the thought is necessary to understand their transcription of their spiritual experiences.

Indra and Soma

A common statement repeated in different variations is that Indra drinks the Soma juice offered by the rishis obtained by crushing the Soma, becomes intoxicated and with his strength increased, kills the demon Vrtra and releases the cows, horses, waters, Sun, etc. We need to study the symbolism in these statements. Skeptics may say “Why not take these statements at their face value?” The Rigveda itself says that Soma is a symbol. The entire ninth book (mandala) of Rigveda is dedicated to Soma. One cannot make any sense of all these mantras if Soma were merely a creeper.

For instance, consider the following mantra 9.86.5. “O thou, all-seeing, O Lord, Thy illumining rays encompass all abodes; Soma with thy natural powers pervades the all and flows, You are the King and lord of the whole world.” How can a creeper be all-seeing? How can it have illumining rays? How can a creeper pervade the All?

Another quotation (10.85.3) from the tenth mandala sets all doubts to rest. The seer of this mantrais a lady, Savitri Surya. “When they crush the herb one thinks that he has drunk the Soma; but no one ever tastes him whom brahmanas know to be Soma.” somam manyate papivan yat sampishantyoshidhim, somam yam brahmano viduh na tasyashnati kahchana. In addition, Kāpāli Sāstry adds “Twenty four varieties of Soma plant are mentioned in the section on chikitsa sthana of thesushruta samhita (Ch. 29) (a compendium of the Indian herbal medicines and their application and their uses). But nowhere is the mention of its intoxicating property.” (Vol.4, p.169).

So it is clear that the creeper is only the outer symbol of Soma. As before, its name gives a clue to its real nature. Just as the physical Sun is the outer symbol of the spiritual Sun, the physical fire a symbol of the mystic fire of aspiration, the physical dawn a symbol of the dawn of spiritual light, Usha, similarly Soma, the moon whose soothing light is praised by poets the world over, is the outer symbol of ananda, the delight of existence which upholds the Universe.

As Sri Aurobindo says in Savitri: A hidden bliss is at the root of things. A mute delight regards Time’s countless works: To house God’s joy in things space gave wide room, To house God’s joy in self our souls were born. There is a joy in all that meets the sense, A joy in all the experience of the soul. A joy in evil and a joy in good, A joy in virtue, a joy in sin: It grows toward the Titan and the God. (Book 10, Canto 3, pp. 630-631). The delight is being sought after by both Gods and the titans like Vrtra whose role will be explained later.

This idea is already there in Rigveda. The fathers who have divine vision set Him within as a child that is to be born. (9.83.3) The ananda, Bliss, is everywhere in seed form waiting to be manifested. The bliss is released in every activity and especially in activities involving intense self-offering like yajna.The joy a person feels in doing any work is an indication of this bliss. However, the effects of this bliss are not perceived because our minds are preoccupied with the supposed benefits to be obtained from the action. Even when we do the work for the sake of duty of do work for work’s sake, still the egoistic feeling that “I am the doer, I am the cause of the success of the work,” etc. dilutes the effects of this bliss since nature is the principal doer of all actions using individuals as instruments. Hence the seers of the Rigveda insist that the Soma or the bliss released in every activity of life like yajna be purified by divesting them of any individual claims and other gross elements and be offered to the Gods, principally Indra. The delight of existence offered to the Gods energizes them and promotes the manifestation of the powers of Gods in the person performing the self-offering activities and also in the humanity at large. This idea is present in numerous places in the Rigveda and we will quote here the mantra of the Seer Madhuchchhandas (1.5.5). Purified are these Soma juices, pure, they are spent for thy manifestation able then to bear their own intensity.

In 1.5.4, Indra, the God of the Divine Mind, is said to take the Soma purified by the subtle power of thought “anvibhih” and by extension in the outer physical consciousness (1.3.4).

A unique feature of the rig vedic Gods is their camaraderie with humans. The different vedic Gods do not support different human beings and cause them to fight one another as the Greek Gods do in Iliad. The vedic Gods are eater to help a person and manifest their power in him provided the person expresses his aspiration by recognizing the delight of existence present everywhere and released by the activities s/he is involved and offering them to the Gods. The Gods like Indra manifest in the human, remove the effects of hostile forces like Vrtra in the inner life of the person and promote the all around growth and happiness of the person.

In the Rigveda Soma and Indra are hymned as great friends (1.4.10). When Indra manifests in a person, there is a profusion of light and delight which is clearly felt by the seer and expressed in hymns. “godah idrevato madah” (1.4.2) The rapture of thee grown indeed gives Light. (1.4.2) “(Indra) who in his vastness is a continent of bliss.” (1.4.10) “yah rajah avanih mahan.” (1.4.10) Note here the association between bliss and vastness. The descriptions of the Truth plane are “satyam-rtam-brhat,” “the Truth, the Right and the Vast.” Bliss cannot manifest in a constricted environment. In (1.8.8), Indra is associated with Mahi, the goddess of vastness, who is sunrta under, one with agreeable and auspicious speech, virapsi under, flaming in exuberance, gomati under, full of luminous knowledge, who comes to the performer of yajna like a ripe fruit. “sam te santu pracetase” (1.5.7) “Peace to thee in thy forward looking awareness.” Here “prachetase” means forward looking awareness. Indra has to put his consciousness forward in thought and action, yet preserve the peace of the liberated soul. Thus Soma increases both power RV (1.5.6) and knowledge RV (1.5.7).


Vritra, Vala and Hostile forces

We will briefly discuss the meaning of the hostile forces led by Vrtra. We should resist the temptation of regarding the Gods and demons as two different clans or tribes with different ideals. The followers of Vrtra have no ideals at all. The aim of the hostile forces, also called as demons, in the Rigveda is to bring down and smash all the different ideals which motivate human beings. In contrast, the only aim of the Gods is to foster a harmonious development of wisdom and force in all human beings so that the whole environment is suffused with harmony and beauty. There is no need for warfare between individuals. Agni, the great God, works in the inner life of all persons, making them strive toward light, whether they worship Agni or not. It is not correct to say that Gods help only those who worship them. The act of worship makes a human in tune with the harmonious cosmic forces so that these forces get a firm hold in him and propel him or her toward higher vistas. The demonic forces want to capture all the spiritual wealth and light, hoard them, as it were, and they do not want to share them with anyone, human or otherwise.

Since the role of the Vrtra and other demons in the macro-cosmic worlds has been discussed in another essay, we will focus on their role at a microcosmic level, i.e., in the inner and outer life of a human individual. The names of the different demons give a clue to their power and personality. Vrtra is the coverer and tearer, having the same root as vrka, the wolf. Vrtra enforces the separation of each individual from one another. Since the bodies of two persons are different, two persons cannot have anything common. Vrtra, like the cloud, covers the universal Sun, the nourisher of all from us and Vrtra, like the wolf, tears apart the bonds that unify humans. Vrtra represents the physical consciousness of man, the consciousness of matter in its dominating mode, suppressing all other forces. Another name for Vrtra in the veda is Ahi, the serpent. In Indian thought, serpents are symbols of vital forces. Since serpents assume any shape and exude varieties of vital forces, they are good symbols of vital forces. Vrtra stands for the lower vital forces, the so-called five enemies: desire for possession for everything, anger, greed, arrogance and jealousy.

Vala is another demon whose name signifies a cave, the cave of unawakened consciousness, substratum of all impressions which is hidden in us without any knowledge to our outer or waking consciousness. Vala also denotes the tendency to hoard all things, whether physical or vital. Vala does not enjoy the things he hoards, but takes pleasure in hoarding. Panis are the sense traffickers, derived from pana or transaction. For them every object is tradable and has no innate value. Sushna is another domain who sucks up the vital forces and renders the place like a desert. He is the cause of all depressions, etc. It is important to understand that the attitude of the vedic seers toward sense enjoyments is quite different from that found in the later vedantic thought (not the upanishads). The vedic seers recognized the divinity in every aspect of life and perceived that the delight that the object conveys via the senses is only an expression of the universal delight and hence must be enjoyed only after sharing with Gods and other human beings. The vedic seers were not ascetics who looked down upon the sense delights conveyed by objects around them. The human beings who, becoming selfish, insist that only they can enjoy the sense-delights and who do not want to share their delights and possessions with Gods or fellow humans, these are the followers of Vala and Vrtras, the titans. So, figuratively, it is said that these persons do not press the Soma or chant the mantras. These persons like Panis behave like sense traffickers. They steal the delight, as it were, from the common pool and try to hoard it in the cave. It should be noted that these demonic forces have found a place in each human being by invitation. If every part of the being declined to have any dealing with these forces, the power of these forces would decay at once. The God Agni works in this hostile atmosphere in each individual and tries to kindle the psychic fire and bring in the other Gods like Indra, who is the principle of universal mind with its numerous layers. Indra is endowed both with luminous knowledge and with luminous power. Thanks to the God Agni, we recognize the benefit of extracting the delight in all things and offer it to the Gods like Indra. Indra, by accepting the Soma, pours in the luminous forces of the universal mind and destroys the Vrtras in the body of worshipper. Indra, having access to the perfect knowledge, can give perfect guidance about the actions to be done so that these actions to not encourage the forces of falsehood. Thus the mind deformed due to the pursuit of sense-objects only and deluded by false knowledge is offered release from bondage and constriction by Indra by exposing the worshipper to the vast knowledge. Indra by his rays burst the hill (1.7.3) The hill is the obscure insensate world of our subconscience. Indra we call for affluence, great and little, the thunderer assailing the Vrtras (1.7.5) i.e., we resort to Indra not merely in prosperity but even in adversity. O thou, by whose strong action, we shall completely deter the foes, guarded by thee and well powered with the steed (of life forces) (1.8.2). O Indra, guarded by thee, may we wield the vajra, May we conquer the jealous foes in battle. (1.8.3) O Indra, thy glory is manifest well. Unobstructed in its movement, it has been cleansed by Thee. O Master of the hill, open the gate of the home of the cows and release the rays of divine consciousness. (1.10.7) O Indra, thou wins the Waters of svar, the luminous world. Impel us towards the rays of knowledge. (1.10.8) O Indra, thou thrust open the cave of Vala (hoarder) with the cows. (1.11.5) O Indra, thou has slain with thy skill the cunning Shushna. (1.11.7) As the name indicates, Shushna is the titan who robs the environment of its sap and converts it into a desert.

One of the roles played by the hostile forces is to oppose to the maintenance of harmony and to encourage the forces of disintegration in a human being. Indra alone has the knowledge and power to separate the forces of destruction from effecting the body. The human body is the abode of both immortality and mortality. Indra in his role of disseminating the divine knowledge, can give the force which opposes destruction. “tanunam ma abhidruhan” “isanah yavaya vadham” (1.5.10). May not our bodies be harmed. Separate all destruction from us.


Battle of Indra and Vritra

The battle has numerous references in the Rigveda. To understand its significance, we have to control our tendency to interpret the rig vedic words in terms of their meanings in medieval or classical Sanskrit. It is not our intention here to claim that the people of rig vedic times where peaceful and did not indulge in wars. From what little evidence we have, we can say that they were organized into clans which fought with each other for the recovery of stolen cows and horses. Our claim is that the battles appearing in the Rigveda are symbolic. The seers of the Rigveda used the images of scenes around them like the battles, milking of cows, the dawn, the oceans, etc., to convey their spiritual experiences in the form of poetry. Since they were not intellectuals, they used the imagery associated with the words to convey their ideas. Hence the words occurring in the Rigveda cannot be assigned the meanings of words available in modern day dictionaries. Rigveda itself describes the meaning of the various words in various places.

For instance, take the vajra. It is translated as the bolt or the weapon with which Indra killed the demon Vrtra. It is translated by those who interpret rig vedic gods as nature powers as the bolt of lightening with which the cloud signified demon Vrtra is struck by Indra, releasing the rain. But Rigveda clearly gives the meaning of the word “vajra.” In 1.32.2, the vajra is said to be formulated by the divine sculptor tvasta belonging to the luminous world “svar.” “tvasta asmai vajram svaryam tataksha.” Note the use of the word “svar.” It is a world full of opulence which have nothing to do with the rigid materialism of earth. The architect tvasta like the Ribhus fashion for man and gods the things of immortality. To emphasize that the vajra is formed by the mantra, the poet says in RV (1.121.12) “vajra, which Ushanas, son of kavya, gave thee (to Indra).” Ushanas is one of the preeminent seer-poets of Rigveda and it is hard to think of a great poet fashioning a material weapon. In RV (1.51.10), addressed to Indra the seer-poet Angirasa Savya says “When Ushanas sharpens thy strength with his own.”

It is not with physical weapons that Indra fights Panis, but with words. “panin vacobhir abhi yodadIndra.” (6.39.2). It is the force of truth alone. “By Truth, the cows (illumined thoughts) enter into the Truth; The aggressive force of the Truth seeks the cows breaking through (the enemy)…” (4.23.9). Consider the phrase (1.7.3). “(He) burst open the hill with the rays.” “gobhih adrim airayat.” Here there is no mention of a physical weapon at all. We have translated “go” as “rays.” To translate “go” as “cows” is ridiculous because how can cows burst open the hill?

Similarly, neither the horses of Indra are earthly animals nor the chariot made of matter. For instance, the seer Gotama says (1.82.6). “I yoke thy lustre-maned steeds with the mantra.” “te hari brahmana yunajmi.” Again in 1.20.2, the steeds of Indra are yoked by speech (vacoyujah).

Again in the battle when the Indra kills the demon Vrtra and releases the waters, the poet says that the released waters as “ascending the mind” (mano ruhanah, 1.32.8). Elsewhere the waters have knowledge “apo vichetasah” (1.83.1).

Further, the veda often describes in various places six distinct benefits occurring from the battle, namely killing of Vrtra (ii) release of the waters (iii) release of the Sun and the Dawn (iv) release of the Soma (v) release of cows (vi) release of the horses. All of these are interconnected and occur simultaneously as stated in the Rigveda in many places. For instance, take the Seer Bharadwaja’s mantra in RV (6.30.5). “O Indra, thou opened the waters wide, Broke the hardness of the mountain. Thou became the king of the world of the men that see, together gave birth to Sun, heaven and Dawn.”

The release of the cows and horses cannot be separated from the release of the Dawn or Sun. For instance, in RV (1.62.5). O Reducer of foes, praised by Angiras with the dawn, Sun and rays (cows) then destroyest the blind darkness.

The exponents of the nature power theory explain Vrtra as the rain bearing cloud which covers the Sun. Indra, by breaking the cloud, causes rain and the release of the Sun. But they cannot account for the cows and horses. So they way that the release of the cows and the horses is a separate incident involving a battle between clans. They have to ignore most of the key phrases like “yoked to the mind” or “ascending to the mind,” saying that the passage is vague.

Indra is not the only player among the Gods in this battle. In different hymns, Agni, the Angirasa seers, Brihaspati, Ashwins, Maruts, Pushan, the All-Gods and even Saraswati are also credited with the victory against the demons. Elsewhere the connections between the roles of the various Gods and seers will be discussed.

For rig vedic seers, life is simultaneously a journey, a sacrifice and a battle. Since any poetry has to be written sequentially, one of these three aspects takes prominence in a particular hymn.

Life is for the Seers of Rigveda a spiritual journey in which we go from a plateau to a higher plateau (1.10.2). We can see what is to be done next only after reaching a plateau, not before. In this journey, they meet resistance of the hostile forces resulting in a battle. The means used in the battle are not physical weapons, but the mantra and the yajna, translated as sacrifice.

The Seer Hiranyastupa Angirasa describes the battle between Indra and Vritra in two hymns (RV 1.32 and 1.33), emphasizing the symbolism. We will explain these presently. The symbolism in theveda is like the special notation used in the classic grammar of Panini. Just as ignorance of the notation will not allow us to appreciate the beauty of grammar, the ignorance of the symbolism of Rigveda makes one regard it as gibberish. The battle takes place both at a macrocosmic level and at a microcosmic level in the spiritual life of an individual life. We will first focus on the macrocosmos.

The words Adri, Parvata (hill, mountain) signify the universe with its three lower worlds of earth (prithvi), the mid world (antariksha) and the lower heaven (dyu). These three worlds are said to be the worlds subjected to ignorance, i.e., the forces and influences of the titans and demons like Vritras, Vala, etc. Above this triple world is the world of svar or brihat dyu or uru loka, the wide world. Beyond this is the higher triple worlds of bliss, the worlds of sat-chit-ananda (existence-knowledge-bliss) of the later vedantas. Each of the seven worlds embody and manifest a separate principle. For instance, the lowest world, our earth, manifests the principle matter; the antariksha or mid world manifests the principle of prana or life energies; the lower heavens or dyu manifests the lower mind; svar manifests the higher mind, etc.

Below the worlds is the ocean below of the inconscient, aprekatam salilam, hymned by the Seerparamestin in 10.129. From this inconscient base rises (or is created) the hill of the laws three worlds. The higher triple world above is also identified with the superconscient ocean above, thesupraketam (4.50.2). The triple world and svar is between these two oceans. Similarly the Light (Jyoti), Truth (satyam, ritam) is above and is perpetual. It signifies the eternal day. The tamas(darkness) and falsehood is the Night. The triple world is said to lie between Light and Darkness.

There are two principal types of typal (or nonevolving) beings, the Gods or the children of Aditi and the demons, the children of Diti. Human beings are different from both these groups since they are evolving. The humans come under the influence of both these two kinds of typal beings.

The gods like Indra are also called Adityas, since they are all sons of Aditi, the infinite Nature, the unslayable cow, signifying the forces of cohesion and unity. The gods are always pure and are not tainted by the lower human qualities like jealousy, hatred, etc. The gods are fosterers and sharers with man; they help man in his yajna, the process of the ascension of the consciousness toward Light. They help him at every step, or plateau (sanau), pointing out what remains to be done at each step (1.10.2) in his ultimate goal of immortality. The gods take birth in man, manifest their powers in him and accomplish the yajna or sacrifice through him. These are the dwellers of svar, the luminous world and dyu, the lower heaven.

The Dasyus, the Danavas, the Vrtras, Panis are the children of Diti, the divided Nature which signifies multiplicity and which has become quite separate from the principle of unity or harmony. These are children of darkness, forces of anarchy, beings that cover the light (Vrtra), the hoarders (Vala), the misers and sense-traffickers (Panis), etc. Instead of fostering harmony, sharing, the light, self offeringyajna, they originate and encourage the forces of clash, hoarding, the darkness, robbing and grabbing. These Dasyus take control of human beings who incline themselves to such behavior and offer a welcome, albeit unconsciously, to these forces. The residence of the Dasyus is the cave or hole (bila) at the bottom of the hill. But their activities extend to all the three worlds. There is continuous battle between the forces of Light, the Gods, the Adityas headed by Indra and the Dasyus headed by Vrtra. The battle between them occurs in the antariksha, the mid world and even the lower heavens (Dyu).

However, the regions of Truth and that of Falsehood are not distinctly demarcated; they are mixed, leading to confusion. As the substance of Truth increases with each ascent, the substance of Falsehood increases downward, culminating in the Inconscience of the Earth-matter.

The daityas or asuras not only distort Truth, “but even simulate Truth by Falsehood” (Sri Kapali, vol. 10, p. 165). As the vedantins insist, ignorance is not the total absence of knowledge; it is deformed knowledge. One of the principle asuras is Kuyava (RV. 1.104.3) whose purpose is adulterate Truth with Falsehood. Truth has several layers and one level of truth covers another. (rtena rtam apihitam;isha upanishad?). Each layer has its own level of truth. A statement valid at one level need not be valid at another. What proponents of falsehood do is to use a statement of truth valid at one level to negate another statement at another level. As an illustration, it is well known that there exist realms of truth which are beyond the realm of speech or other modes of human activity (yatha vacho nivarthanthe – taittireya upanishad). The proponents of Falsehood use this truth and say “what is the use of acts like prayer, chanting, giving gifts, etc., in reading the highest truth? The scripture itself documents their futility.” This statement is a falsehood masquerading as truth because there are realms of Truth which are completely accessible to spiritual practices like prayer and an artificial opposition is set up between spiritual practices like prayer and meditation.

In an earlier battle between the gods and daityas, the Gods were vanquished. This battle does not get any description, but its results are mentioned at many places. They are (i) the blocking of the seven celestial rivers, (ii) the covering of Sun and Dawn, (iii) the covering of Soma, (iv) the concealing of the cows and horses in the nether cave, the Cave of Hill. In the battle hymned by Hiranyastupa Angirasa (1.32, 1.33), these effects are undone.

Let us dwell briefly on the symbolism of the above events.

Let us take the Sun. In the veda, Surya is the master of truth, the illuminator, the creator and increaser. The solar energy which energizes the whole solar system and enables life on this earth is the physical form of the spiritual Sun, Surya, Lord of Light and Truth. The Seers of the vedaintuitively felt that the forces and processes of physical world repeat the truths of supraphysical worlds which produce it. The rishis imaged the functioning of their inner life using the symbols of the outward life. The rays of the spiritual Sun enter the three worlds including the earth via the fourth world of Svar, the luminous wide world, ura loka, the vast heaven, brihat dyu (1.36.8). What thedaityas like Vritra did was to cover the luminous world of svar so that it is invisible to the denizens of the earth. At an individual level, the Seer experienced an intense darkness where the influence of the Sun was shut out, as it were. This phenomena is, of course, temporary and similar experiences have been recorded by mystics of other parts of the world. For instance, one European mystic complains of the darkness of the night of the soul. Thus the Sun and along with it the Dawn are termed as lost. Similarly there are the seven rivers of consciousness flowing out of the ocean of superconscient situated above, supraketum salilam. Each river signifies one of the principles of existence like matter, vital or pranas, lower mind, etc. Vrtra also blocked these rivers and prevented them from reaching the earth. Next let us come to the cows and horses. In the veda, consciousness is described using two different sets of images. One description is that of a stream or a movement of consciousness, described earlier. Consciousness is also described as embodied in distinct packets, the so-called cows, often translated as rays of consciousness. Just as each ray of the physical Sun is distinct, yet contains in it the properties of sunlight, similarly each cow, the luminous cow, symbolizes a distinct manifestation of the supreme consciousness. The four-footed animal cow was used as the symbol of the seers because of the utility and reverence associated with that animal among the people at that time. Similarly, horses shared for the vital energy.

Now consider Soma, the delight of existence. Every human activity, ordinary or special, high or low, commonplace or creative, generates a certain rasa or essence which is the delight of existence. Thisrasa may have some psychological impurities in it such as the notion of doer and possessor, viz. “this activity becomes successful because of my efforts, my abilities,” etc. Recognizing that all activities involve the dominating role of cosmic forces for which we as separate human beings cannot take credit, we can purify this rasa by removing our personal claims and offer the purified rasa or Soma to the Gods. The Gods Indra are pleased to accept the Soma offering and nourish the humans. It should be understood that the high Gods like Indra are not traffickers. They offer their help to all persons, both to those who adore him in their yajna and those who do not. As the later mystics explain, their grace is like the breeze in the lake. Anyone can use it to sail their boat, provided they take the trouble of unfurling the sail and pointing it in the proper direction. The daityas cover the Soma also. In all persons who perform yajna, the daityas place the idea that their activities are the result of their own strength and abilities and there is not need to be thankful to the higher powers. Hence these individuals are deprived of the experience of the delight of existence which is Soma. Hence Soma is said to be covered by the daityas.

Indra kills the Vrtra, the coverer, and releases the waters, the Sun, Dawn and Soma. Indra, helped by the Angirasa rishis with their hymns, breaks open the cellars of the nether world, releases the cows and drives them upward so that they are accessible. The divine power of intuition, the goddess Sarama, often imaged as a divine hound, shows Indra the cave where the cows are imprisoned. “This is the constant work of Indra in which he is Supreme. Though he has originally achieved and established for the benefit of mankind this victory of the recovery of the cave with the ancient Angirasa rishis, even today, this king of the Gods, engaged in ceaseless search of the cow-treasurer, repeats his feat for the benefit of man” (Kapali, vol. 10, p. 6).

Seer Hiranyastupa hymn to Indra. I just relate the valorous deeds performed mainly by Indra He killed the demon Ahi, struck the hill and released the waters. (1) He struck the demon hidden in the hill. The divine sculptor fashioned for him a bolt of the luminous worlds (svar). The flowing waters reached the ocean by a straight path like lowing cows the calves. (2) Acting like a bull, he drank the Soma in three infusions, Opulent, he wielded the weapon vajra and struck this first born of demons. (3) O Indra, thou struck the first born of demons, and destroyed the deceptive knowledge of the fraudulent. Illuminating the Sun (Surya), the dawn (Ushas) and the heaven (dyau) thou had not got at the enemy. (4) Indra, with a mighty blow of vajra, cut off the shoulders of the superb coverer Vritra. The vile one lay dormant close to the earth like tree trunks specially cut with an axe. (5) The haughty and intoxicated Vritra challenged the great warrior Indra, the remover of foes. He (Vritra) ground to a halt the rivers. He could not parry the impact of blows. (6) Bereft of hands and feet, he fought Indra, who struck him at the crown. Like a eunuch desiring to act virile, Vritra fell down with his limbs shattered. (7) Like a river breaking the bank The waters which mount the minds of men flow over Vritra lying on the floor. The Vritra lay at the very feet of those whom he besieged with his might. (8) Vritra’s mother lowered her arms; Indra flung the striking weapon below her; The Mother was above, the son below; She lay like a cow with the calf. (9) Vritra’s body lay concealed at the bottom amidst the changing currents of waters. Vritra lay in prolonged sleep. (10) The waters constrained by Vritra stood fettered like the cows confined by the Pani. The striker of Vritra uncovered the closed aperture of the waters. (11) O Indra, when he struck thee back thou chased him away. O the supreme God, thou was the Soma, and released the seven rivers to flow. (12) When Indra and Vrtra fought each other, neither the lightening, the roar, nor the rains nor the thunderclap got at Indra. And Indra surmounted other deceitful tricks as well. (13) In thy mind a doubt arose, who else is the slayer of Vritra; Doubting, thou traversed the ninety-nine rivers and worlds like a hawk. (14) vajra-armed Indra is the king of the mobile and the immobile; the quiescent and the forceful. He, as a king rules over men is around them all like the rim encircling the spokes. (15) Notes on the hymn 1.32.

In hymn 1, Vritra is called by the name Ahi, the serpent, to indicate that he is a man of energy without any fixed shape.

In hymn 2, it is stated that the Indra’s weapon vajra, translated here as bolt, was made by the divine sculptor tvasta from the luminous world of svar, the world beyond the reaches of the lower mind. Clearly in the world of svar all the objects are fashioned out of light, not out of any matter as in our earth.

Note that the poet says “the flowing waters, released by Indra, reach the ocean by a straight path.” The rain water or rivers do not reach the ocean by a straight path. Hence these waters are not the physical rivers of northern India, but the streams of consciousness held up by Vritra.

In mantra 3, the three infusions of Soma taken by Indra are nothing but the essence of the three worlds of matter, life and mind.

In mantra 4, poet states that the demon Vritra is not an ordinary cloud. By the killing of Vritra, the deceptions of the fraudulent are also destroyed. In mantra 5, for Vritra, the poet adds the adjective Vritranam, clearly indicating that among the coverer, he is the most coverer.

In mantras 7 and 8, Indra has cut off the limbs of Vritra and the demon’s body is lying on the floor of the ocean over which the waters flow. Again the poet describes the waters as “mounting the minds of men.”

In mantra 9, the mother of Vritra, Diti, is mentioned. She is said to protect her son by placing herself above her son, Vritra.

In mantra 11, the poet says that the Indra removed the closed aperture in the hill and allowed the waters to flow. In the inner yoga of tantriks, these closed apertures are the closed knots (orgranthas) which have to be cut before the psychic energy can flow freely.

In mantra 12, the seven rivers are the seven streams of consciousness. Mantra 13 says that when the battle was going on, the whole of nature was in a turmoil, indicated by the roaring winds, pouring rains, the thunderclaps, etc. This turmoil was caused by the tricks of Vritra, but had no effect on the outcome.

Since Vritra’s body was hidden under his mother’s body, the rik 14 indicates that Indra could not see the Vritra’s body; hence Indra had a fear that Vritra was not slain and looked for him in many places.

Seer Hiranyastupa Angirasa Hymn to Indra (1.33). Come, let us go seeking the cows to Indra; For it is he that increases the thought in us; Invincible, he releases for us (from darkness) in plenty the supreme knowledge of the luminous cows. (1) I fly to the unassailable giver of the riches like a falcon to its beloved nest, bowing down to Indra with the supreme words of light, who is invoked by his affirms in their journey. (2) Along with all his armies, he has fastened the quivers; He is the fighter who brings the luminous cows to him whom he favours O Indra, who has increased (by our word) hold not back for thy self much delight Become not in us the Pani. (3) Thou slayest with thy weapon the wealthy Dasyu, ranging alone with thy powers that serve thee, O Indra; The ungiving foes, the Shanakas, came from all sides to thy bow, And met their end. (4) O Lord of the shining steeds, firm of poise Thou cast out from heaven and earth those who observe not the workings of thy law. They who do not sacrifice, but strove with sacrificers, turned their heads away and ran. (5) They (demons) fought against the blameless Indra, the Navagwa men set him (Indra) on his march; Dispersed by him, they fled from Indra by steep paths like emasculates before the potent hero. (6) O Indra, thou hast fought them who laughed and wept, on the borders of the heaven. From the high heavens, thou has burnt down the Dasyu Thou has superbly protected the sacrificers who pour Soma and affirm thee with hymns. (7) Encircling the earth, shining gold-jeweled, rushing (to fight) they could not pass beyond Indra for he set spies all around by the Sun. (8) O Indra, possessing the earth and heaven all around by thy vastness, Attacking those who think not the truth by those who think, Thou did cast out the Dasyu by the speakers of the word. (9) Stalled by Vritra, they (the waters) from heaven did not reach the earth. Under his spell, they could not attain to Indra. Indra, the bull, made lightening his helper and he milked the shining cows out of darkness.

(10) The last line of rik 3 is often translated as “Become not a miser” decreasing the power of the original line. Indra is a beneficent god, whose as the Panis, are hoarders. The seer asks Indra not to hold back his delight like a Pani.

The rik 6 indicates that even though Virtra was dead, his followers had not stopped fighting. Moreover, the mother of the Danavas, Diti is still active. Hence Indra has still to fight repeated battles to vanquish the forces of darkness. In this fight Angirasa seers labeled here as Navagvas, “those with nine cows,” help Indra with their mantra-powers.

The rik 7 indicates that the battle between Indra and Vritra was fought in the borders of heaven.

In rik 10, Indra, the lord of divine mind, is seen milking the cows and releasing the light from them. Note that in Indian thought, mind is not the source of knowledge. It is an instrument of action which can help knowledge enter our system and suffuse it with light. This process is imaged as the milking of cows.

Indra, giver of light (RV 1.4)

  1. The fashioner of perfect forms, like a good yielder for the milker of the Herds, we call for increase from day to day.
  2. Come to our Soma-offerings. O Soma-drinker, drink of the Soma-wine; the  intoxication of thy rapture gives indeed the Light.
  3. Then may we know somewhat of thy uttermost right thinkings. Show not beyond us, come.
  4. Come over, question Indra of the clear-seeing mind, the vigorous the un overthrown, who to thy comrades has brought the highest good.
  5. And may the Restrainers say to us, ” Nay, forth and strive on even in other fields, reposing on Indra your activity.”
  6. And may the fighters doers of the work, declare us entirely blessed, O achiever; may we abide in Indra’s peace
  7. Intense for the intense bring though this glory of the sacrifice that intoxicates the man, carrying forward on the way Indra who gives joy to his friends.
  8. When though hadst drunk of this, O thou of the hundred activities, thou becamest a slayer of the coverers and protectedst the rich mind in its riches.
  9. Thee thus rich in thy riches we enrich again, O Indra, O thou of the hundred activities, for the safe enjoyment of our havings.
  10. He who in his vastness is a continent of bliss, –the friend of the soma-giver and he carries him safely through,- to that Indra raise the chant.


Sayana’s Interpretation

  1. The doer of ( works that have) a good shape, Indra, we call daily for protection as (one calls) for the cow-milker a good milch-cow.
  2. Come to our (three) libations, drink the soma, O soma drinker; the intoxication of thee, the wealthy one, is indeed cow-giver.
  3. Then (standing) among the intelligent people who are nearest to the, may we know thee. Do not (go) beyond us (and) manifest (thyself to others, but) come to us.
  4. Come to him and question about me, the intelligent one, (whether I have praised him rightly or not), — to the intelligent and unhurt Indra who gives to thy friends (the priests) the best wealth.
  5. Let of us (i.e. our priests) speak (i.e. praise Indra),-and also, O you who censure, go out from here and from elsewhere too, – (our priests) doing service all about Indra.
  6. O destroyer [of foes], may even our enemies speak of us as having good wealth, –men (i.e. our friends will say it of course) may we be in the peace (bestowed) by Indra.
  7. Bring this Some, that wealth of the sacrifice, the cause of exhilaration to men, (the Soma) that pervades (the three oblations) for Indra who pervades (the Soma-offering), that attains the rites and is friendly to (Indra) who gives joy (to the sacrificer).
  8. Drinking of this, o thou of many actions, thou becamest a slayer of Vŗtrās (i.e. enemies led by Vŗtra) and didst protect entirely the fighter in the fights.
  9. O Indra of many actions, for enjoyment of riches we make thee abundant in food who art strong in the tattles.
  10. Sing to that Indra who is a protector of wealth, great, a good fulfiller (of works) and a friend of the sacrificer.



Madhuchchhandas, son of Vishvamitra, invokes in the Soma- offering lndra, the Master of luminous Mind, for increase in the Light. The symbols of the hymn are those of a collective sacrifice. Its subject is the growth of power and delight in Indra by the drinking of the Soma, the wine of immortality, and the consequent illumination of the human being so that the obstructions of his inner knowledge are removed and he attains to the utmost splendours of the liberated mind.

But what is this Soma, called sometimes amrta, the Greek ambrosia, as if it were itself the substance of immortality? It is a figure for the divine Ananda, the principle of Bliss, from which, in the Vedic conception, the existence of Man, this mental being, is drawn. A secret Delight is the base of existence, its sustaining atmosphere and almost its substance. This Ananda is spoken of in the Taittireya Upanishad as the ethereal atmosphere of bliss without which nothing could remain in being. In the Aitareya Upanishad Soma, as the lunar deity, is born from the sense-mind in the universal Purusha and, when man is produced, expresses himself again as sense-mentality in the human being. For delight is the raison detre of sensation, or, we may say, sensation is an attempt to translate the secret delight of existence into the terms of physical consciousness. But in that consciousness, – often figured as adri, the hill, stone, or dense substance, – divine light and divine delight are both of them concealed and confined, and have to be released or extracted. Ananda is retained as rasa, the sap, the essence, in sense-objects and sense-experiences, in the plants and growths of the earth- nature, and among these growths the mystic Soma-plant symbolises that element behind all sense-activities and their enjoyments which yields the divine essence. It has to be distilled and, once distilled, purified and intensified until it has grown luminous, full of radiance, full of swiftness, full of energy, gomat, asu, yuvaku. It becomes the chief food of the gods who, called to the Soma-oblation, take their share of the enjoyment and in the strength of that ecstasy increase in man, exalt him to his highest possibilities, make him capable of the supreme experiences. Those who do not give the delight in them as an offering to the divine Powers, preferring to reserve themselves for the sense and the lower life, are adorers not of the gods, but of the Panis, lords of the sense-consciousness, traffickers in its limited activities, they who press not the mystic wine, give not the purified offering, raise not the sacred chant. It is the Panis who steal from us the Rays of the illumined consciousness, those brilliant herds of the sun, and pen them up in the cavern of the subconscient, in the dense hill of matter, corrupting even Sarama, the hound of heaven, the luminous intuition, when she comes on their track to the cave of the Panis.

But the conception of this hymn belongs to a stage in our inner progress when the Panis have been exceeded and even the Vŗtrās or Coverers who seclude from us our full powers and activities and Vala who holds back the Light, are already over- passed. But there are even then powers that stand in the way of our perfection. They are the powers of limitation, the Confiners or Censurers, who, without altogether obscuring the rays or damming up the energies, yet seek by constantly affirming the deficiencies of our self-expression to limit its field and set up the progress realised as an obstacle to the progress to come. Madhuchchhandas calls upon Indra to remove the defect and affirm in its place an increasing illumination.

The principle which Indra represents is Mind-Power released from the limits and obscurations of the nervous consciousness. It is this enlightened Intelligence which fashions right or perfect Forms of thought or of action not deformed by the nervous impulses, not hampered by the falsehoods of sense. The image presented is that of a cow giving abundantly its yield to the milker of the herds. The word go means in Sanskrit both a cow and a ray of light. This double sense is used by the Vedic symbolists to suggest a double figure which was to them more than a figure; for light, in their view, is not merely an apt poetic image of thought, but is actually its physical form. Thus, the herds that are milked re the Herds of the Sun, – Surya, God of the revelatory and intuitive mind, or else of Dawn, the goddess who manifests the solar glory. The Rishi desires from Indra a daily increase of this light of Truth by his fuller activity pouring rays in a rich yield Upon the receptive mind.

The activity of the pure illuminated Intelligence is sustained and increased by the conscious expression in us of the delight in divine existence and divine activity typified by the Soma-wine. As the Intelligence feeds upon it, its action becomes an intoxicated ecstasy of inspiration by which the rays come pouring abundantly and joyously in. “Light-giving indeed is the intoxication of thee in thy rapture.”

For then it is possible, breaking beyond the limitations still insisted upon by the Confiners, to arrive at something of the finalities of knowledge possible to the illuminated intelligence. Right thoughts, right sensibilities, – this is the full sense of the word sumati; for the Vedic mati includes not only the thinking, but also the emotional parts of mentality. Sumati is a light in the thoughts; it is also a bright gladness and kindness in the soul. But in this passage the stress of the sense is upon right thought and not on the emotions. It is necessary, however, that the progress in right thinking should commence in the field of consciousness already attained; there must not be flashes and dazzling manifestations which by going beyond Our Powers elude expression in right form and confuse the receptive mind. Indra must be not only illuminer, but a fashioner of right thought- formations,surupakrtnu.

The Rishi, next, turning to a comrade in the collective Yoga, or, perhaps, addressing his Own mind, encourages him or it to pass beyond the Obstruction of the adverse suggestions opposed to him and by questioning the divine Intelligence progress to the highest good which it has already given to others. For it is that Intelligence which clearly discerns and can solve or remove all still-existing confusion and obscuration. Swift of movement, intense, energetic, it does not by its energy stumble in its paths like the impulses of the nervous consciousness. Or perhaps it is rather meant that owing to its invincible energy it does not succumb to the attacks whether of the Coverers or of the powers that limit.

Next are described the results towards which the seer aspires. With this fuller light opening on to the finalities of mental knowledge the powers of Limitation will be satisfied and of them- selves will withdraw, consenting to the farther advance and to the new luminous activities. They will say, in effect, “Yes, now you have the right which we were hitherto justified in denying. Not only in the fields won already, but in other and untrod provinces pursue then your conquering march. Repose this action wholly on the divine Intelligence’, not upon your lower capacities. For it is the greater surrender which gives you the greater right.”

The word arata, move or strive, like its congeners ari, arya, arya, arata, arani, expresses the central idea of the Veda. The root ar indicates always a movement of effort or of struggle or a state of surpassing height or excellence; it is applied to rowing, ploughing, fighting, lifting, climbing. The Aryan then is the man who seeks to fulfil himself by the Vedic action, the internal and externalkarma or apas, which is of the nature of a sacrifice to the gods. But it is also imaged as a journey, a march, a battle, a climbing upwards. The Aryan man labours towards heights, fights his way on in a march which is at once a progress forward and an ascent. That is his Aryahood, his arete, virtue, to use a Greek word derived from the same root Arata, with the rest of the phrase, might be translated, “Out and push forward in other fields”.

The idea is taken up again, in the subtle Vedic fashion of thought-connections by word-echoes, with the arih krstayah of the next verse. These are, I think, not the Aryan nations on earth, although that sense too is possible when the idea is that of a collective or national Yoga, but the powers that help man in his ascent, his spiritual kindred bound to him as comrades, allies, brothers, yoke-fellows (sakhayah, yujah, jamayah), for his aspiration is their aspiration and by his completeness they are fulfilled. As the Restrainers are satisfied and give way, so they too, satisfied, must affirm finally their task accomplished by the fullness of human bliss, when the soul shall rest in the peace of lndra that comes with the Light, the peace of a perfected mentality standing as upon heights of consummated consciousness and Beatitude.

Therefore is the divine Ananda poured out to be made swift and intense in the system and offered to Indra for the support of his intensities. For it is this profound joy manifest in the inner sensations that gives the ecstasy by which the man or the God grows strong. The divine Intelligence will be able to move forward in the journey yet incompleted and will return the gift by fresh powers of the Beatitude descending upon the friend of God.

For it was in this strength that the Divine Mind in man destroyed all that opposed, as coverers or besiegers, its hundred fold activities of will and of thought; in this strength is protected afterwards the rich and various possessions already won in past battles from the atris and dasyus, devourers and plunderers of our gains.

Although, continues. For it is this profound joy manifest in the inner sensations that gives the ecstasy by which the man or the God grows strong. The divine Intelligence will be able to move forward in the journey yet incompleted and will return the gift by fresh powers of the Beatitude descending upon the friend of God.

For it was in this strength that the Divine Mind in man destroyed all that opposed, as coverers or besiegers, its hundred fold activities of will and of thought; in this strength is protected afterwards the rich and various possessions already won in past battles from the atris and dasyus, devourers and plunderers of our gains.

Although, continues Madhuchchhandas, that Intelligence is already thus rich and variously stored we seek to increase yet more its force of abundance, removing the Restrainers as well as the Vŗtrās, so that we may have the full and assured possession of our riches.

For this Light is, in its entire greatness free from limitation, a continent of felicity; this Power is that which befriends the human soul and carries it safe through the battle, to the end of its march, to the summit of its aspiration.


Indra, thought forces (RV 1.171)

  1. To you I come with this obeisance, by the perfect word I seek right mentality from the swift in the passage. Take delight, O Maruts, in the things of knowledge, lay aside your wrath, unyoke your steeds.
  2. Lo, the hymn of your affirmation, O Maruts; it is fraught with my obeisance, it was framed by the heart, it was established by the mind, O ye gods. Approach these my words and embrace them with the mind; for of submission are you the increasers.
  3. Affirmed let the Maruts be benign to us, affirmed the lord of plenitude has become wholly creative of felicity. Upward may our desirable delights be uplifted, O Maruts, upward all our days by the will towards victory.
  4. I, mastered by this mighty one, trembling with the fear of Indra, O Maruts, put far away the offerings that for you had been made intense. Let your grace be upon us.
  5. Thou by whom the movements of the mind grow conscient and brilliant in our mornings through the bright power of the continuous Dawns, O Bull of the herd establish by the Maruts inspired knowledge in us—by them in their energy thou energetic, steadfast, a giver of might.
  6. Do thou, O Indra, protect the Powers in their increased might; put away thy wrath against the Maruts, by them in thy forcefulness upheld, who have right perceptions. May we find the strong impulsion that shall break swiftly through.



A Sequel to the colloquy of lndra and Agastya, this sūkta is Agastya’s hymn of propitiation to the Maruts whose sacrifice he had interrupted at the bidding of the mightier deity. Less directly, it is connected in thought with the 165th hymn of the (First) Mandala, the colloquy of Indra and the Maruts, in which the supremacy of the Lord of Heaven is declared and these lesser shining hosts are admitted as subordinate powers who impart to men their impulsion towards the high truths which belong to lndra. “Giving the energy of your breath to their thoughts of varied light, become in them impellers to the knowledge of my truths. Whensoever the doer becomes active for the work and, the intelligence of the thinker creates us in him, O Maruts, move surely towards that illumined seer”, – such is the closing word of the colloquy, the final injunction of Indra to the inferior deities.

These verses fix clearly enough the psychological function of the Maruts. They are not properly gods of thought, rather gods of energy; still, it is in the mind that their energies become effective. To the uninstructed Aryan worshipper, the Maruts were powers of wind, storm and rain; it is the images of the tempest that are most commonly applied to them and they are spoken of as the Rudras, the fierce, impetuous ones, – a name that they share with the god of Force, Agni. Although Indra is described sometimes as the eldest of the Maruts, – indrajyestho marudganah, – yet they would seem at first to belong rather to the domain of Vāyu, the Wind-God, who in the Vedic system is the Master of Life, inspirer of that Breath or dynamic energy, called the Prana, which is represented in man by the vital and nervous activities. But this is only a part of their physiognomy. Brilliance, no less than impetuosity, is their characteristic. Everything about them is lustrous, themselves, their shining weapons, their golden ornaments, their resplendent cars. Not only do they send down the rain, the waters, the abundance of heaven, and break down the things best established to make way for new movements and new formations, – functions which, for the rest, they share with other gods, Indra, Mitra, Varuna, -but, like them, they also are friends of Truth, creators of Light. It is so that the Rishi, Gotama Rahugana, prays to them, “O ye who have the flashing strength of the Truth, manifest that by your might; pierce with your lightning the Rakshasa. Conceal the concealing darkness, repel every devourer, create the Light for which we long” (1.86.9,10). And in another hymn, Agastya says to them, “They carry with them the sweetness (of the Ananda) as their eternal offspring and play out their play, brilliant in the activities of knowledge” (1.166.2). The Maruts, therefore, are energies of the mentality, energies which make for knowledge. Theirs is not the settled truth, the diffused light, but the movement, the search, the lightning-flash, and, when Truth is found, the many-sided play of its separate illuminations.

We have seen that Agastya in his colloquy with Indra speaks more than once of the Maruts. They are Indra’s brothers, and therefore the god should not strike at Agastya in his struggle towards perfection. They are his instruments for that perfection, and as such Indra should use them. And in the closing formula of submission and reconciliation, he prays to the god to parley again with the Maruts and to agree with them so that the sacrifice may proceed in the order and movement of the divine Truth towards which it is directed. The crisis, then, that left so powerful an impression on the mind of the seer, was in the nature of a violent struggle in which the higher divine Power confronted Agastya and the Maruts and opposed their impetuous advance. There has been wrath and strife between the divine Intelligence that governs the world and the vehement aspiring powers of Agastya’s mind. Both would have the human being reach his goal; but not as the inferior divine powers choose must that march be directed, -rather as it has been firmly willed and settled above by the secret Intelligence that always possesses for the manifested intelligence that still seeks. Therefore the mind of the human being has been turned into a battlefield for greater Powers and is still quivering with the awe and alarm of that experience.

The submission to Indra has been made; Agastya now appeals to the Maruts to accept the terms of the reconciliation, so that the full harmony of his inner being may be restored. He approaches them with the submission he has rendered to the greater god and extends it to their brilliant legions. The perfection of the mental state and its powers which he desires, their clearness, rectitude, truth-observing energy, is not possible with- out the swift coursing of the Thought-Forces in their movement towards the higher knowledge. But that movement, mistakenly directed, not rightly illumined, has been checked by the formidable opposition of Indra and has departed for a time out of Agastya’s mentality. Thus repelled, the Maruts have left him for other sacrificers; elsewhere shine their resplendent chariots, in other fields thunder the hooves of their wind-footed steeds. The Seer prays to them to put aside their wrath, to take pleasure once more in the pursuit of knowledge and in its activities; not passing him by any more, let them unyoke their steeds, descend and take their place on the seat of the sacrifice, assume their share of the offerings.

For he would confirm again in himself these splendid energies, and it is a hymn of affirmation that he offers them, the stoma of the Vedic sages. In the system of the Mystics, which has partially survived in the schools of Indian Yoga, the Word is a power, the Word creates. For all creation is expression, everything exists already in the secret abode of the Infinite, guha hitam, and has only to be brought out here in apparent form by the active consciousness. Certain schools of Vedic thought even suppose the worlds to have been created by the goddess Word and sound as first etheric vibration to have preceded formation. In the Veda itself there are passages which treat the poetic measures of the sacred mantras, – anustuph, tristuph, jagati, gayatri, – as symbolic of the rhythms in which the universal movement of things is cast.

By expression then we create and men are even said to create the gods in themselves by the mantra. Again, that which we have created in our consciousness by the Word, we can fix there by the Word to become part of ourselves and effective not only in our inner life but upon the outer physical world. By expression we form, by affirmation we establish. As a power of expression the word is termed gih or vacas; as a power of affirmation, stoma.

In either aspect it is named manma or mantra, expression of thought in mind, and brahman, expression of the heart or the soul, – for this seems to have been the earlier sense of the wordbrahman, afterwards applied to the Supreme Soul or Universal Being.     The process of formation of the mantra is described in the second verse along with the conditions of its effectivity. Agastya presents the stoma, hymn at once of affirmation and of submission, to the Maruts. Fashioned by the heart, it receives its just place in the mentality through confirmation by the mind. The mantra, though it expresses thought in mind, is not in its essential part a creation of the intellect. To be the sacred and effective word, it must have come as an inspiration, from the supramental plane, termed in Veda, rtam, the Truth, and have been received into the superficial consciousness either through the heart or by the luminous intelligence, manisa. The heart in Vedic psychology is not restricted to the seat of the emotions; it includes all that large tract of spontaneous mentality, nearest to the subconscient in us, out of which rise the sensations, emotions, instincts, impulses and all those intuitions and inspirations that travel through these agencies before, they arrive at form in the intelligence. This is the “heart” of Veda and Vedanta, hrdaya, hrd, or brahman. There in the present state of mankind the Purusha is supposed to be seated centrally. Nearer to the vastness of the subconscient, it is there that, in ordinary mankind, – man not yet exalted to a higher plane where the contact with the Infinite is luminous, intimate and direct, – the inspirations of the Universal Soul can most easily enter in and most swiftly take possession of the individual soul. It is therefore by the power of the heart that the mantra takes form. But it has to be received and held in the thought of the intelligence as well as in the perceptions of the heart; for not till the intelligence has accepted and even brooded upon it, can that truth of thought which the truth of the Word expresses be firmly possessed or normally effective. Fashioned by the heart, it is confirmed by the mind.

But another approval is also needed. The individual mind has accepted; the effective powers of the Cosmos must also accept. The words of the hymn retained by the mind form a basis for the new mental posture from which the future thought- energies have to proceed. The Maruts must approach them and take their stand upon them, the mind of these universal Powers approve and unite itself with the formations in the mind of the individual. So only can our inner or our outer action have its supreme effectivity.

Nor have the Maruts any reason to refuse their assent or to persist in the prolongation of discord. Divine powers who themselves obey a higher law than the personal impulse, it should be their function, as it is their essential nature, to assist the mortal in his surrender to the Immortal and increase obedience to the Truth, the Vast towards which his human faculties aspire.

Indra, affirmed and accepted, is no longer in his contact with the mortal a cause of suffering; the divine touch is now utterly creative of peace and felicity. The Maruts too, affirmed and accepted, must put aside their violence. Assuming their gentler forms, benignant in their action, not leading the soul through strife and disturbance, they too must become purely beneficent as well as puissant agencies.

This complete harmony established, Agastya’s Yoga will proceed triumphantly on the new and straight path prescribed to it. It is always the elevation to a higher plane that is the end, – higher than the ordinary life of divided and egoistic sensation, emotion, thought and action. And it is to be pursued always with the same, puissant will towards victory over all that resists and hampers. But it must be an integral exaltation. All the joys that the human being seeks with his desire, all the active energies of his waking consciousness, – his days, as it is expressed in the brief symbolic language of the Veda, – must be uplifted to that higher plane. By vanani are meant the receptive sensations seeking in all objectivities the Ananda whose quest is their reason for existence. These, too, are not excluded. Nothing has to be rejected, all has to be raised to the pure levels of the divine consciousness.

Formerly Agastya had prepared the sacrifice for the Maruts under other conditions. He had put their full potentiality of force into all in him that he sought to place in the hands of the Thought-Powers; but because of the defect in his sacrifice he had been met midway by the Mighty One as by an enemy and only after fear and strong suffering had his eyes been opened and his soul surrendered. Still vibrating with the emotions of that experience, he has been compelled to renounce the activities which he had so puissantly prepared. Now he offers the sacrifice again to the Maruts, but couples with that brilliant Name the more puissant godhead of Indra. Let the Maruts then bear no wrath for the interrupted sacrifice but accept this new and more justly guided action.

Agastya turns, in the two closing verses, from the Maruts to Indra. The Maruts represent the progressive illumination of human mentality, until from the first obscure movements of mind which only just emerge out of the darkness of the subconscient, they are transformed into an image of the luminous consciousness of which Indra is the Purusha, the representative Being. Obscure, they become conscient; twilit, half-lit or turned into misleading reflections, they surmount these deficiencies and put on the divine brilliance. This great evolution is effected in Time gradually, in the mornings of the human spirit, by the unbroken succession of the Dawns. For Dawn in the Veda is the goddess symbolic of new openings of divine illumination on man’s physical consciousness. She alternates with her sister Night; but that darkness itself is a mother of light and always Dawn comes to reveal what the black-browed Mother has prepared. Here, however, the seer seems to speak of continuous dawns, not broken by these intervals of apparent rest and obscurity. By the brilliant force of that continuity of successive illuminations the mentality of man ascends swiftly into fullest light. But always the force which has governed and made possible the transformation, is the puissance of Indra. It is that supreme Intelligence which through the Dawns, through the Maruts, has been pouring itself into the human being. Indra is the Bull of the radiant herd, the Master of the thought-energies, the Lord of the luminous dawns.

Now also let Indra use the Maruts as his instruments for the illumination. By them let him establish the supramental knowledge of the seer. By their energy his energy will be supported in the human nature and he will give that nature his divine firmness, his divine force, so that it may not stumble under the shock or fail to contain the vaster play of puissant activities too great for our ordinary capacity.

The Maruts, thus reinforced in strength, will always need the guidance and protection of the superior Power. They are the Purushas of the separate thought-energies, Indra the one Purusha of all thought-energy. In him they find their fullness and their harmony. Let there then be no longer strife and disagreement between this whole and these parts. The Maruts, accepting Indra, will receive from him the right perception of the things that have to be known. They will not be misled by the brilliance of a partial light or carried too far by the absorption of a limited energy. They will be able to sustain the action of lndra as he puts forth his force against all that may yet stand between the soul and its consummation.

So in the harmony of these divine Powers and their aspirations may humanity find that impulsion which shall be strong enough to break through the myriad oppositions of this world and, in the individual with his composite personality or in the race, pass rapidly on towards the goal so constantly glimpsed but so distant even to him who seems to himself almost to have attained.


Mind – its nature and function in Indian thought

Before explaining the characteristics of the deity of the Divine Mind, we will have a brief discussion of the concept of human mind in Indian thought. Even though there are numerous systems of Indian spiritual thought, and metaphysics, all of them, more or less, share the same concept. “The (human) mind is not an instrument of knowledge, it is incapable of finding knowledge, but it must be moved by knowledge. Knowledge belongs to a much higher domain than that of the human mind, far above the domain of pure ideas. The mind has to be silent and attentive to receive knowledge from above and manifest it. For it is an instrument of formation, of organization and action and it is in these functions that in attains its full value and real usefulness.” [Mother, CW, Vol. 12, pp. 3]

The three key functions of mind are organization, formation, and action. Let us focus on its first task, the organization. The mind with the power of reasoning takes any topic, divides it into different aspects, and contrasts them, looks for consistency among them, rearranges them, etc. The key idea behind all major discoveries in science, metaphysics, philosophy, comes from levels of intuition and higher mind which are all very much above the human mind. But there is nothing definitive about the details of the metaphysical systems or philosophies. They are all “turbaned with doubt.” As Sri Aurobindo says, “What men call knowledge is the reasoned acceptance of false appearance. Wisdom looks behind the veil and sees.” “Either do not give the name of knowledge to your beliefs only and of error, ignorance or charlatanism to the beliefs of others; or do not rail at the dogmas of the sects and their intolerance.” [Sri Aurobindo; Thoughts and Aphorisms, 1982 edition, p. 4]. One person receives a key idea and develops an entire system based on this idea. He and his followers think that all persons who do not believe are ideological, stupid, etc. Then another creative person comes and he begins with an idea which completely contradicts the earlier idea and builds another “complete” system. This sort of situation happens fairly often in all branches of modern thought, metaphysics, philosophy, science and mathematics. Let us take an example from mathematics which is the subject often perceived to be based on pure reason. One of the key ideas behind the geometry of Euclid is that no more than one straight line can be drawn going through two given points. The truth behind the idea is often considered self-evident, especially because of the widespread use of the results of Euclidean geometry in everyday life. Hence, Euclid’s geometry reigned supreme for about eighteen centuries until the great mathematician Riemann developed another geometry which begins with the negation of the key idea of Euclid, i.e., Riemann assumed that there exist pairs of points through which numerous lines could be drawn. This is the Riemann Geometry which has numerous applications of its own. Hence systems of thought based on mutually contradictory first principles can be developed and no one can say that one is more “truthful” than the other. But in a particular situation or application one system may be better than the other. The distinction between the absolute truth and the relative truth is needed in different circumstances. They used the word satyam for the absolute truth; the Seers perceived that at any point of space and time and circumstance, one particular type of action is better than another and they called this action as “rtam”, often translated as the “Right.” rtam embodies the truth of action valid at different places and time.

Investigation is only one of the functions of the mind. Its other two functions are formation and action. There are several widespread misconceptions about the role of reason in action. It is said that every rational person evaluates the given situation objectively and comes to a course of action needed on that occasion based on reason. In Indian thought, such a view is considered as simplistic. Each one of us is made up of different personalities, as it were. One part may want one to be a respectable member of the community, another may want to enjoy the pleasures, still another may want to involve in creative endeavors. In most of us there is no peace between these warring factions. When a situation for action arises, the appropriate action is decided upon whichever personality in us is dominating at that time. Once the decision for action is done, reason is called upon to come up with justifications for this action. Later we convince ourselves that the course of action was “best” under the circumstances. “Our blind or erring government of life, a loose republic of wants and needs, …bowed to the uncertain sovereign mind.” (Savitri, Bk. 7, Ch. 5) A similar misconception is there about the so-called “objective evaluation of situation” which precedes action. The close connection between mental formations and action is well recognized in Indian thought. We commonly label the daydreams, imagination, the thought formations in our subconscious mind which suddenly bubbles up, nightmares, dreams, etc. as mental formations and think of them as irrelevant to the “real world” dealing with action. But the Indian psychologists claim that these mental formations which are never formally expressed which may often be not recognized, dictate the course of action. For instance, consider a person having some health problems. There are two dominant views regarding health and disease. According to the first view, propounded by the ancient Indian science of ayurveda (the science of longevity), every human being is designed to enjoy adequate health, provided s/he has a minimal knowledge of the functioning of the overall personality made up of several layers and s/he takes sufficient care. There is a condition of perfect health which anyone can enter and attain. It is not that every person of this age did not suffer headache or fever. The idea is that the overall system is robust and it will come back to the normal (good) state of health, provided there are no adverse movements in the way of life of the individual. The second view, proposed by the modern Western doctors, is that a human being is a very fragile machine which is invaded by millions and billions of harmful entities like virus and bacteria. They attack by each family of virus or bacteria needs a different chemical preparation to cure it. The disease is caused by external agents and hence external agents like drugs are needed to cure it. The way of life of the person does not come into the picture at all. These ideas are never stated in such clear-cut terms, but one or the other dominates us. The Indian psychologists say that the people who have a strong belief in the idea of perfect health also have access to helpful psychic forces which can counteract and withstand any jolts to the health caused by external agents like bacteria whose presence is not denied. According to these scientists, the disease is not caused by the virus; rather the protective armour provided by your mental formation of “perfect health” has had chinks in it so that the bacterial attacks caused by fever. Restoring the faith in the condition of perfect health is the first step in the curative property.

The power of mental formations is recognized by the Western authors who publish their books in the alternative press, i.e., the press not controlled by the academics of the current medical establishment. Even the powers of mental formation have been recognized and used successfully in several instances. For instance, the use of “mental visualization” in training for athletic events are well known. A swimmer, instead of practicing in a swimming pool, may sit in a chair and mentally visualize in great detail every step of the swimming activity and this visualization is often more effective than the actual physical activity.

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