Surya & Savitr

Nature of Sūrya and Savitŗ

We will first consider Sūrya and Savitŗ or Sāvitrī. Since their names appear together in many hymns, we consider them together with the name Sūrya Sāvitrī, translated as the Divine Sun; later we will point out the distinction between Sūrya and Sāvitrī in the Veda.

Sūrya Sāvitrī is the Godhead of the Supreme Truth and knowledge hymned as ekam sat, One Truth. He represents the truth of being, truth of knowledge, truth of process and act and movement and functioning. He is therefore the creator or rather the manifester of all things for creation is releasing srj or expressing what is present in the Truth-will; He is the father, fosterer and enlightener of our souls. Thus the luminous vision and luminous creation are the two functions of Sūrya Sāvitrī.

He is present both in the microcosm and the macrocosm. He is the light of the Truth rising in the human consciousness. We may recall that the devī uşha, Dawn, represents the onset of the first rays of Light in our night-ridden consciousness, the consciousness covered by the forces of darkness, ignorance and inconscience. So the Sūrya Sāvitrī comes after the Dawn, and follows and expands the path traced for him by her. Hence it is said that Sūrya pursues the Dawn as a lover follows after his beloved (1.115.2).

All the Gods follow in the march of Sūrya, i.e., all other Divine faculties or potentialities in man expand with the expansion of Truth and Light. This is the reason for the wide spread use of the mantra for Sūrya-Sāvitrī known as Gāyatri of Vishvāmitra (3.62.10).

The name Sūrya is rarely used when there is a question of creation. Sūrya is reserved for his passive aspects as the body of infinite Light and the revelation. In his active power he is addressed by various names like Sāvitrī, Tvaşhţŗ etc. Sāvitrī is used whenever the rişhi is concerned with the idea of creation i.e., the manifestation of the powers both in humans and cosmos; Savitŗ and Sūrya come from the same root. Sāvitrī again manifests himself especially in the formation of the Truth in man through the four great and active deities, Mitra, Varuņa, Bhaga and Aryamān, representing the Lords of pure wideness, luminous Harmony, divine enjoyment and exalted power respectively.

Sūrya and Savitŗ appellations are used sometimes as if identical and as if distinct at others. In the Veda, there is only one deity, ekam sat, one existence of which all other powers are aspects connected to one another by an intricate web. We cannot partition this web into several separate rigid parts so that each part is a separate deity.

Sūrya Sāvitri, Creator and Increaser (RV 5.81)

1.      Men illumined yoke their mind and they yoke their thoughts to him who is illumination and largeness and clear perceiving. Knowing all phenomena he orders, sole the Energies of the sacrifice. Vast is the affirmation in all things of Sāvitri, the divine Creator.

2.      All forms he takes unto himself, the Seer, and he creates from them good for the twofold existence and the fourfold. The Creator, the supreme Good, manifests Heaven wholly and his light pervades all as he follows the march of the Dawn.

3.      In the wake of his march the other gods also reach by his force to the greatness of the Divinity. He has mapped out the realms of earthly light by his mightiness,-the brilliant one, the divine Creator.

4.      And thou reachest, O Sāvitri, to the three luminous heavens; and thou art utterly expressed by the rays of the Sun; and thou encompassest the Night upon either side; and thou becomest by the law of thy law of thy actions the lord of Love, O God.

5.      And thou art powerful for every creation; and thou becomest the Increase, O God, by thy movings; and thou illuminest utterly all this world of becomings. Shyavashwa has attained to the affirmation of thee, O Sāvitri.


Indra with his shining hosts, the Maruts, Agni, the divine force, fulfiller of the Aryan sacrifice, are the most important deities of the Vedic system. Agni is the beginning and the end. This Will that is knowledge is the initiator of the upward effort of the mortal towards Immortality; to this divine consciousness that is one with divine power we arrive as the foundation of immortal existence. Indra, lord of Swar, the luminous intelligence into which we have to convert our obscure material mentality in order to become capable of the divine consciousness, is our chief helper. It is by the aid of Indra and the Maruts that the conversion is effected. The Maruts take our animal consciousness made up of the impulses of the nervous mentality, possess these impulses with their illuminations and drive them up the hill of being towards the world of Swar and the truths of Indra. Our mental evolution begins with these animal troops, these pasus; they become, as we progress in the ascension, the brilliant herds of the Sun, gavah, rays, the divine cows of the Veda. Such is the psychological sense of the Vedic symbol.

But who, then, is Sūrya, the Sun, from whom these rays proceed? He is the Master of Truth, Sūrya the Illuminator, Sāvitri the Creator, Pushan the Increaser. His rays in their own nature are supramental activities of revelation, inspiration, intuition, luminous discernment, and they constitute the action of that transcendent principle which the Vedanta calls Vijnana, the perfect knowledge, the Veda Ritam, the Truth. But these rays descend also into the human mentality and form at its summit the world of luminous intelligence, Swar, of which Indra is the lord.

For this Vijnana is a divine and not a human faculty. Man’s mind is not constituted of the self-luminous truth, like the divine mind; it is a sense-mentality, Manas, which can receive and understand Truth, but is not one with it. The light of knowledge has to present itself in this human understanding tempered so as to suit its forms to the capacities and limitations of the physical consciousness. And it has to lead up progressively to its own true nature, to manifest successive evolutionary stages for our mental development. Therefore the rays of Sūrya, as they labour to form our mental existence, create three successive worlds of mentality one superimposed on the other, – the sensational, aesthetic and emotional mind, the pure intellect and the divine intelligence. The fullness and perfection of these triple worlds of mind exists only in the pure mental plane of being, where they shine above the three heavens, tisro divah, as their three luminosities, trini rocanani. But their light descends upon the physical consciousness and effects the corresponding formations in its realms, the Vedic parthivani rajamsi, earthly realms of light. They also are triple, tisrah prthivih, the three earths. And of all these worlds Sūrya Sāvitri is the creator.

We have in this figure of various psychological levels, each considered as a world in itself, a key to the conceptions of the Vedic rişhis. The human individual is an organised unit of existence which reflects the constitution of the universe. It repeats in itself the same arrangement of states and play of forces. Man, subjectively, contains in himself all the worlds in which, objectively, he is contained. Preferring ordinarily a concrete to an abstract language, the rişhis speak of the physical consciousness as the physical world, earth, Bhu, Prithivi. They describe the pure mental consciousness as heaven, Dyau, of which Swar, the luminous mind, is the summit. To the intermediate dynamic, vital or nervous consciousness they give the name either of Antariksha, the intermediate vision, or of Bhuvar, – multiple dynamic worlds formative of the Earth.

For in the idea of the rişhis a world is primarily a formation of consciousness and only secondarily a physical formation of things. A world is a loka, a way in which conscious being images itself. And it is the causal Truth, represented in the person of Sūrya Sāvitri, that is the creator of all its forms. For it is the causal Idea in the infinite being, – the idea, not abstract, but real and dynamic, – that originates the law, the energies, the formations of things and the working out of their potentialities in determined forms by determined processes. Because the causal Idea is a real force of existence, it is called satyam, the True in being; because it is the determining truth of all activity and formation, it is called rtam, the True in movement; because it is broad and infinite in its self-view, in its scope and in its operation, it is called brhat, the Large or Vast.

Sāvitri by the Truth is the Creator, but not in the sense of a fabrication or mechanical forming of things. The root of the word means an impulsion, a loosing forth or sending out, – the sense also of the ordinary word for creation, srsti, – and so a production. The action of the causal Idea does not fabricate, but brings out by Tapas, by the pressure of consciousness on its own being, that which is concealed in it, latent in potentiality and in truth already existent in the Beyond.

Now the forces and processes of the physical world repeat, as in a symbol, the truths of the supraphysical action which produced it. And since it is by the same forces and the same processes, one in the physical worlds and the supraphysical, that our inner life and its development are governed, the rişhis adopted the phenomena of physical Nature as just symbols for those functionings of the inner life which it was their difficult task to indicate in the concrete language of a sacred poetry that must at the same time serve for the external worship of the Gods as powers of the visible universe. The solar energy is the physical form of Sūrya, Lord of Light and Truth; it is through the Truth that we arrive at Immortality, final aim of the Vedic discipline. It is therefore under the images of the Sun and its rays, of Dawn and day and night and the life of man between the two poles of light and darkness that the Aryan seers represent the progressive illumination of the human soul. It is so that Shyavashwa of the house of Atri hymns Sāvitri, Creator, Increaser, Revealer.

Sūrya enlightens the mind and the thoughts with the illuminations of the Truth. He is vipra, the illumined. It is he who delivers the individual human mind from the circumscribed consciousness of self and environment and enlarges the limited movement which is imposed on it by its preoccupation with its own individuality. Therefore he is brhat, the Large. But his illumination is not a vague light, nor does his largeness come by a confused and dissolved view of self and object; it holds in itself a clear discernment of things in their totality, their parts and their relations. Therefore he is vipascit, the clear in perception. Men, as soon as they begin to receive something of this solar illumination, strive to yoke their whole mentality and its thought-contents to the conscious existence of the divine Sūrya within them. That is to say, they apply, as it were, all their obscure mental state and all their erring thoughts to this Light manifested in them so that it may turn the obscurity of the mind into clearness and convert the errors of thought into those truths which they distortedly represent. This yoking (yunjate) becomes their Yoga. “They yoke the mind, and they yoke their thoughts, the enlightened, of (i.e. to, or so that they may be part of or belong to) the Enlightened, the Large, the Clear-perceptioned.”

Then the Lord of Truth orders all the human energies offered up to him in the terms of the Truth; for he becomes in man a sole and sovereign Power governing all knowledge and action. Not interfered with by conflicting agencies, he governs perfectly; for he knows all manifestations, comprehends their Causes, contains their law and process, compels their right result. There are seven of these sacrificial energies (Hotras) in the human being, one corresponding to each of the seven constituents of his psychological existence, – body, life, mind, supermind, bliss, will and essential being. Their irregular action or wrong relation, caused and maintained by the obscuration of knowledge in Mind, is the source of all stumbling and unhappiness, of all evil act and evil state. Sūrya, Lord of Knowledge, puts each of them to its right place in the Sacrifice. “Knower of phenomena sole he arranges the sacrificial energies.”

Man thus arrives at a vast and all-embracing affirmation in himself of this divine Creator. It is implied in this passage and indicated more clearly in the next. verse that the result is a right and happy creation – for all our existence is a constant creation .-of the universe of man’s whole being. “Vast is the comprehensive affirmation of the god Sāvitri.”

Sūrya is the seer, the revealer. Ms Truth takes into its illumination all forms of things, all the phenomenal objects and experiences which constitute our world, all the figures of the universal Consciousness within and without us. It reveals the truth in them, their sense, their purpose, their justification and right use. Ordering rightly the energies of the sacrifice it creates or produces good as the law of our whole existence. For all things have their justifiable cause of being, their good use and their right enjoyment. When this truth in them is found and utilized, all things produce good for the soul, increase its welfare, enlarge its felicity. And this divine revolution is effected both in the lower physical existence and in the more complete inner life which uses the physical for its manifestation. “The Seer takes to himself all forms, he brings out (creates or manifests) good for the twofold (two-footed), for the fourfold (four-footed).”

The process of this new creation is described in the rest of the hymn. Sūrya, as the creator, as the supreme good, manifests in our human consciousness its concealed heavenly summit on the levels of the pure mind, and we are able to look up above from the earth of our physical existence and are delivered from the obscurities of the night of Ignorance. He follows, sunlike, the march of the Dawn, illuminating all the regions of our being on which falls its light; for there is always needed the precursory mental illumination before the Truth itself, the supramental principle, can take possession of this lower existence. “The creator, the supremely desirable, manifests all heaven and shines pervadingly following (after or according to) the movement forward of the Dawn.”

All the other gods follow in this march of Sūrya and they attain to his vastness by the force of his illumination. That is to say, all the other divine faculties or potentialities in man expand with the expansion of the Truth and Light in him; in the strength of the ideal supermind they attain to the same infinite amplitude of right becoming, right action and right knowledge. The Truth in its largeness moulds all into the terms of the infinite and universal Life, replaces with it the limited individual existence, maps out in the terms of their real being the realms of the physical consciousness which, as Sāvitri, it has created. This also is in us a creation, although in reality it only manifests what already exists but was concealed by the darkness of our ignorance, – just as the realms of the physical earth are concealed from our eyes by the darkness, but reveal themselves as the sun in his march follows the Dawn and measures them out one by one to the vision. “Following whose march the other gods too reach the vastness of the divinity by his strength, he who maps out entirely – that brilliant one – the earthly realms of light, the god Sāvitri, by his greatness.”

But it is not only the full capacity of our physical or earthly consciousness that this divine Truth illuminates and forms for a perfect action. It pervades the three luminous realms of the pure mind (trini rocana); it puts us in contact with all the divine possibilities of the sensations and emotions, of the intellect, of the intuitive reason and liberating the superior faculties from their limitation and constant reference to the material world fulfils our entire mental being. Its activities receive their completest manifestation; they are gathered up into the life of the complete Truth by the rays of the sun, that is to say, by the full splendour of the divine Super mind manifested in us. “And thou goest, O Sāvitri, to the three luminousnesses, and thou art perfectly expressed by the rays of the Sun (or, art gathered together by means of the rays).”

Then it is that the higher kingdom of the Immortality, Sachchidananda revealed, shines out perfectly in this world. The higher and lower are reconciled in the light of the supramental revelation. The Ignorance, the Night, is illumined upon both sides of our complete being, not only as in our present state upon one. This higher kingdom stands confessed in the principle of Beatitude which is for us the principle of Love and Light, represented by the god Mitra. The Lord of Truth, when he reveals himself in the full godhead, becomes the Lord of Bliss. The law of his being, the principle regulating his activities is seen to be Love; for in the right arrangement of knowledge and action everything here comes to be translated into terms of good, felicity, bliss. “And thou encompassest Night upon both sides, and thou becomest, O God, Mitra by the laws of thy action.”

The Truth of the divine existence becomes eventually the sole Lord of all creation in ourselves; and by his constant visitations or by his continual progressions the Creator becomes the Increaser, Sāvitri becomes Pushan. He aggrandizes us by a constantly progressive creation until he has illumined the whole world of our becoming. We grow into the complete, the universal, the infinite. So has Shyavashwa, of the sons of Atri, succeeded in affirming Sāvitri in his own being as the illuminative Truth, the creative, the progressive, the increaser of man – he who brings him out of egoistic limitation into universality, out of the finite into the infinite. “And thou hast power alone for creation; and thou becomest the Increaser, O God, by the goings; and thou illuminest entirely all this world (literally, becoming). Shyavashwa has attained to the affirmation of thee, O Sāvitri.”

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