Nature of Varuņa, the King and the Releaser of Bonds
Viewed on the surface, Varuņa is an omniscient and omnipotent Lord or Creator, Master of the oceans and the sky, whose strength and speed cannot be matched by anyone else. He maintains all the laws in the Earth, mid-region and the heavens, punishing the transgressors. But a closer look reveals the esoteric meaning of the hymns just as with the other hymns of Rigveda. Varuņa is the Godhead who creates pathways for the Sun in our being which is full of darkness so that the Sun can pour his knowledge into all the dark corners of the being. The oceans, of which Varuņa is the master, symbolize the waters of the Truth and Varuņa pours these Waters on our three bodies, viz. physical, vital and mental, and removes all sin, evil and falsehood from our lives. The seer Shunahshepa explicitly requests Varuņa to release or loosen the three knots or bonds which represent the bonds of the three planes, namely physical, vital and mental. These knots restrict the flow of the universal psychic energies in our body. Varuņa is prayed to release these knots. These knots are the celebrated knots associated with the names Brahma, Vişhņu and Rudra in the tāntric literature of a later date.
A common descriptor used for Varuņa is uru, which means always ‘wide’ in the Rigveda. Varuņa is the lord of all infinities, master of all the oceans and ether. Varuņa‘s dwelling is in the vast, urukşhaya (1.2.9), Varuņa has wide vision uru chakşhasam (1.25.16). He is hymned as urushamsa in (1.24.11) and (2.28.3). shamsa in the Veda always stands for the perfect expression or speech. Recall that different formations are brought out by the power of speech or vāk in the Veda. uru shamsa means “”wide expression” the bringing out of our being (or sat) that which is latent in it and manifesting it in our action. Thus Varuņa grants us a broader vision, removes the narrowness of our outlook so that we can express our aspiration for the attainment of infinities.
Consequently, he is also hymned as swarāţ (2.28.1), the self-ruler and sāmrāţ the emperor (8.25.3, 8.42.1). samrāţ means one who has complete kingship or control over both subjective and objective existence. Among the people of the vedic age, the emperor is also a sage; he is both a thinker and a hero. He has a plenitude of both wisdom and will, thought and action. Varuņa is the king of all the dominions (8.42.1 and 8.42.2.). Hence Varuņa is pictured as self-knowing, self-mastering, moving freely with the laws because he is perfectly aware of the laws. Recall that satya is the Truth-Absolute in the Veda. ŗta is the Truth in manifestation everywhere and at any time. It is the Truth of Divine Being regulating the right activity of both body and mind. Varuņa is said to be touching with the Truth ŗtasparsha (1.2.8). Varuņa is also called ŗtavŗdha, increaser of Truth, because he along with Mitra increase the Truth in the human being, the yajamāna who performs the yajňa, the harmonious arrangement of actions. Varuņa is endowed with a vast will-power, brahantam kratum (1.2.8). He increases the will-power in man so that the human can perform all actions consistent with the Truth in manifestation (ŗta). He is hymned as ‘superbly laudable among the laudable’ (1.17.5). Laud or praise in the veda is not simply a casual utterance, but has the power to bring out the intentions expressed in speech.
We will give here the description of Varuņa given by seer Nabhaka of the family Kaņva. “Luminous Varuņa has embraced the nights; He holds the Dawns within him by his creative knowledge; Visioned, he is around every object.” (8.41.3) “He who supports the worlds of life, he who well knows the hidden names of the rays of the dawns, He cherishes much wisdom (8.41.5).” “In whom all wisdom centers as the nave is set within the wheel (8.41.6).” “He wraps these regions as a robe; He contemplates the hosts of Gods and all the works of mortals; In the home of Varuņa all the Gods follow his decree (8.41.7).” “He is the hidden ocean and he climbs passing beyond heaven; when he has placed the sacrificial word in these dawns, then with his luminous feet he tramples illusions and ascends to the Heavens (8.41.8).” [Sri Aurobindo, SV].
The three oceans
In the Rigveda, three different oceans are mentioned. The vedic mystics saw below them “an unfathomable night and surging obscurity, darkness hidden within darkness…”; Above them, they beheld “a remote ocean of light and sweetness, a highest either, the supreme step of Vişhņu to which their being should ascend”; between these two oceans they saw “a third sea of ever-developing conscious being, a sort of boundless wave…” (Sri Aurobindo). We have to navigate through this ocean to reach the superconscient blissful ocean above.
“Three delightful dawns increase according to the law of his workings. He of the all- seeing wisdom dwells in three white-shining earths; Three are the higher worlds of Varuņa whence he rules over the harmonies of seven and seven (8.41.9).”
The three dawns mentioned here are the illuminations of the three bodies in man, the physical, the vital and the mental. He harmonizes all the activities both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, in every individual human being.
Sin and Shortcomings
Varuņa prepares the great pathways in the human being so that the illumination of the Sun, Sūrya, can enter all the unlit regions of the human. The heart is the dwelling place of the inner self of man. Afflictions of the heart are indicative of the effects of the forces of ignorance on our inner being. The vedic seers did not compartmentalize the physical and psychological ailments as the moderns do. Only the Light brought in by the Sun can dislodge the forces of ignorance which cause the afflictions as declared in (1.25.7).
In the hymns of the Seer Shunahshepa there is repeated mention of the words sin, enah, disregard, hela, etc., which need special attention. Recall that Varuņa is the upholder of the Laws, vratāni, upholder of ŗtam which is the Truth of Divine being regulating the right activity in both mind and body. The Rig Vedic seers were very much aware of the human frailties. They saw around them persons steeped in selfishness and prayed that they may not be in the same boat. “May I not live, O Varuņa, to witness my wealthy, liberal dear friend’s destitution (3.28.10).”
There is no listing of the set of actions which constitute sins and otherwise, because such a mechanical classification is not possible. The attempts at codifying these highly plastic modes of life and conduct are found in the several ancient books of Hindus called as dharma shāstrās. The period of these books is several millennia after the age of Rigveda. Every religion like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. has its own books of conduct, often represented as the word of God. Among all these books, the special feature of the Hindu dharma shāstrās is that they alone recognize that these books have some eternal elements and some other elements which are appropriate to a particular time, place and society. The seers of each generation are expected to reframe the variable parts of the rules appropriate to that time and place.
We summarize the observations of Sri M.P. Pandit: “The movement against the law of being may be with full knowledge of what one is doing or in ignorance of the wrong nature of the movement. In each case Karma is forged and the results suffered. Yet where one acts contrary to the law of Truth consciously, the results are particularly detrimental to the growth of Soul within. A thick crust of darkness gathers round the soul and prevents its Light from coming through (to the other parts of our body). But in the action in ignorance, the reactions are mostly on the surface and do not go deep.
Both types of sin are held up before God Varuņa, the Lord of Purity, so that he may first loosen these impurities from the being of the seeker and then cut them asunder, as the following quotation from the Seer Atri indicates. ‘Our sin against Truth and our sin by ignorance, All these clear away like loosened things. (5.85.8)’
Note that premature death itself is a transgression of the Law. Sacred is the life consecrated to the God. If it is not robbed, but well-protected, it fulfils itself. For Varuņa, the master of infinities, the establishment of the forces of harmony in human bodies is not difficult as declared in (1.24.14).
In (1.25.3), the seer prays “O Varuņa, we bind your mind excellently with our praises like the charioteer the ready horse.” There are three ingredients in the attempt of the seer to bind Varuņa namely namas (homage), yajňa and havis (offerings). The first step is to have faith and express it by the homage or adoration. The next step is to try to perform all actions in a spirit of harmony. We may recall that yajňa is not merely a ritual. It is an orderly arrangement of all actions and their offerings to the cosmic powers to whom they rightly belong. The ritual of yajňa is one such orderly arrangement. The next is the offering to the Gods of the delight or rasa released from our actions. This is the threefold way. Then the bonds of sins will be loosened as will be explained below.
The three bonds
The force of ignorance or the falsehood in our being signified by the deity, nirriti, causes in us the triple cord or bond of obscure physical animality, inefficient life often dominated by the lower vital impulses and limited mind which revels in doubts. These are the three bonds or ropes which bind every one of us. The result is an inert poverty of being; it is the origin of the sheer inability of the mortal to come in touch with the universal Bliss or Delight which pervades this universe. It makes him march towards decay and death at every step. When the mighty Varuņa comes and cuts this threefold bondage we are freed to move towards Delight and Riches. “Uplifted, the real man arises to his true kingship in his undivided being. The upper cord which is limiting the mental movements flies upward releasing the wings of the soul into superconscient heights; the middle cord which is limiting the movements of our life forces parts both ways and all ways, the constrained life breaking out into a happy breadth of existence; the lower cord which binds to the matter and our animal origins collapses downward taking with it the alloy of our physical being to disappear and be dissolved in the stuff of the inconscient.” (Sri Aurobindo) Thus we have a threefold liberation of being hymned by the Seer Shunahshepah in the three mantrās , (1.24.13-1.24.15).
Relation to the Chakras in the tantra
As Sri Kapāli Sāstry states (CWKS, Vol. 6) “there is no doubt whatsoever that the triple bondage corresponds to the three knots famous in the tantra yoga under the names of Brahma, Vişhņu and Rudra. The triple bondage obstructs the entry and spread of the Truth-light in the threefold being of mind, life and body. Release from it is possible by the grace of God Varuņa.”
We will give here the relevant passages from, lalita sahasra nāma stotra, a standard text of tantra yoga giving all the main aspects of tantra in the form of one thousand names addressed to the Divine Mother. The three bonds are mentioned in the names 99 through 104: Residing in the mūlādhāra (99), Severing the knot called Brahma granthi (100), Appearing in the maņipura (101), Severing the knot called Vişhņu granthi (102), Residing in the centre of the ājnāchakra (103), Severing the knot called Rudra granthi (104).
We may recall that the subtle body has seven centers of psychic consciousness, arranged along the subtle counterpart of the physical spinal column. These centres are called as Lotuses or chakrās. The bottom one is the mūlādhāra where the Supreme Energy Kundalini resides. By cutting the knot here, the knot of brahma, the knot of matter, the energy Kundalini raises to the next chakra the maņipura. In the maņipura is the knot of Vişhņu signifying the bonds which prevent the life-forces from contacting the Supreme Delight. By cutting this knot, the energy goes to the sixth center (via the fourth and fifth), the ¡jna chakra. This chakra has the knot of Rudra cutting which the energy attains union with the superconscient ocean above.