Vayu - The Master of the Life Energies (RV 4.48)

  1. Do thou manifest the sacrificial energies that are unmanifested, even as a revealer of felicity and doer of the work; O Vāyu, come in thy car of happy light to the drinking of the soma-wine.
  2. Put away from thee all denials of expression and with thy steeds of the yoking, with Indra for thy charioteer come, O Vāyu, in thy car of happy light to the drinking of the Soma-wine.
  3. The two that, dark, yet hold all substances, shall observe thee in their labour, they in whom are all forms. O Vāyu, come in thy car of happy light to the drinking of the Soma-wine.
  4. Yoked let the ninety and nine bear thee, they who are yoked by the mind. O Vāyu, come in thy car of Happy light to the drinking of the Soma-wine.
  5. Yoke, O Vāyu, thy hundred brilliant steeds that shall increase, or else with thy thousand let thy chariot arrive in the mass of its force.


The psychological conceptions of the Vedic rişhis have often a. marvelous profundity and nowhere more than when they deal with the phenomenon of the conscious activities of mind and life emerging out of the subconscient. It may be said, even, that this idea is the whole basis of the rich and subtle philosophy evolved in that early dawn of knowledge by these inspired Mystics. Nor has any other expressed it with a greater subtlety and felicity than the rişhi Vāmadeva, at once one of the most profound seers and one of the sweetest singers of the Vedic age. One of his hymns, the last of the fourth Mandala, is indeed the most important key we possess to the symbolism which hid behind the figures of the sacrifice those realities of psychological experience and perception deemed so sacred by the Aryan forefathers.

In that hymn Vāmadeva speaks of the ocean of the subconscient which underlies all our life and activities. Out of that ocean rises “the honeyed wave” of sensational existence with its undelivered burden of unrealised delight climbing full of the ghŗta and the Soma, the clarified mental consciousness and the illumined Ananda that descends from above, to the heaven of Immortality. The “secret Name” of the mental consciousness, the tongue with which the gods taste the world, the nexus of Immortality, is the Ananda which the Soma symbolises. For all this creation has been, as it were, ejected into the subconscient by the four-horned Bull, the divine Purusha whose horns are infinite Existence, Consciousness, Bliss and Truth. In images of an energetic incongruity reminding us of the sublime grotesques and strange figures that have survived from the old mystic and symbolic art of the prehistoric world, Vāmadeva describes the Purusha in the figure of a man-bull, whose four horns are the four divine principles, his three feet or three legs the three human principles, mentality, vital dynamism and material substance, his two heads the double consciousness of Soul and Nature, Purusha and Prakriti, his seven hands the seven natural activities corresponding to the seven principles. “Triply bound” – bound in the mind, bound in the life-energies, bound in the body- “the Bull roars aloud; great is the Divinity that has entered into mortals”.

For the ghrtam, the clear light of the mentality reflecting the Truth, has been hidden by the Paņis, the lords of the lower sense-activity, and shut up in the subconscient; in our thoughts, in our desires, in our physical consciousness the Light and the Ananda have been triply established, but they are concealed from us. It is in the cow, symbol of the Light from above, that the gods find the clarified streams of the ghŗtam. These streams, says the ŗişhi, rise from the heart of things, from the ocean of the sub- conscient, hrdyat samudrat, but they are confined in a hundred pens by the enemy, Vŗtra, so that they may be kept from the eye of discernment, from the knowledge that labours in us to enlighten that which is concealed and deliver that which is imprisoned. They move in the path on the borders of the subconscient, dense if impetuous in their movements, limited by the nervous action, in small formations of the life-energy Vāyu, vatapramiyaĥ. Purified progressively by the experiences of the conscious heart and mind, these energies of Nature become finally capable of the marriage with Agni, the divine Will-force, which breaks down their boundaries and is himself nourished by their now abundant waves. That is the crisis of the being by which the mortal nature prepares its conversion to immortality.

In the last verse of the hymn Vāmadeva describes the whole of existence as established above in the seat of the divine Purusha, below in the ocean of the subconscient and in the Life, antaĥ samudre hŗdi antar ayusi. The conscious mind is, then, the channel through which there is communication between the upper ocean and the lower, between superconscient and subconscient, the light divine and the original darkness of Nature.

Vāyu is the Lord of Life. By the ancient Mystics life was considered to be a great force pervading all material existence and the condition of all its activities. It is this idea that was formulated later on in the conception of the Prāņa, the universal breath of life. All the vital and nervous activities of the human being fall within the definition of Prāņa, and belong to the domain of Vāyu. Yet this great deity has comparatively few hymns to his share in the Rigveda and even in those sūktās in which he is prominently invoked, does not usually figure alone but in company with others and as if dependent on them. He is especially coupled with Indra and it would almost seem as if for the functionings demanded from him by the vedic rişhis he needed the aid of the superior deity. When there is question of the divine- action of the Life-forces in man, Agni in the form of the vedic Horse, Ashwa, Dadhikravan, takes usually the place of Vāyu.

If we consider the fundamental ideas of the rişhis, this position of Vāyu becomes intelligible. The illumination of the lower being by the higher, the mortal by the divine, was their principal concept. Light and Force, go and ashva, the Cow and the Horse, were the object of the sacrifice. Force was the condition, Light the liberating agency; and Indra and Sūrya were the chief bringers of Light. Moreover the Force required was the divine Will taking possession of all the human energies and revealing itself in them; and of this Will, this force of conscious energy, taking possession of the nervous vitality and revealing itself in it, Agni more than Vāyu and especially Agni Dadhi- kravan was the symbol. For it is Agni who is master of Tapas, the divine Consciousness formulating itself in universal energy, of which the Prāņa is only a representative in the lower being. Therefore in Vāmadeva’s hymn, the fifty-eighth of the fourth Mandala, it is Indra and Sūrya and Agni who effect the great manifestation of the conscious divinity out of the subconscient. Vāta or Vāyu, the nervous activity, is only a first condition of the emergent Mind. And for man it is the meeting of Life with Mind and the support given by the former to the evolution of the latter which is the important aspect of Vāyu. Therefore we find Indra, Master of Mind, and Vāyu, Master of Life, coupled together and the latter always somewhat dependent on the former; the Maruts, the thought-forces, although in their origin they seem to be as much powers of Vāyu as of Indra, are more important to the Rishis than Vāyu himself and even in their dynamic aspect are more closely associated with Agni Rudra than with the natural chief of the legions of the Air.

The present hymn, the forty-eighth of the Mandala is the last of three in which Vāmadeva invokes Indra and Vāyu for the drinking of the Soma-wine. They are called in conjointly as the two lords of brilliant force, Savasaspati, as in another hymn, in a former Mandala (1.23.3), they are invoked as lords of thought, dhiyaspati. Indra is the master of mental force, Vāyu of nervous or vital force and their union is necessary for thought and for action. They are invited to come in one common chariot and drink together of the wine of the Ananda which brings with it the divinising energies. Vāyu, it is said, has the right of the first draught; for it is the supporting vital forces that must first become capable of the ecstasy of the divine action.

In the third hymn, in which the result of the sacrifice is defined, Vāyu is alone invoked, but even so his companionship with Indra is clearly indicated. He is to come in a chariot of happy brightness, like Usha in another hymn, to drink of the immortalizing wine. The chariot symbolises movement of energy and it is a glad movement of already illuminated vital energies that is invoked in the form of Vāyu. The divine utility of this brightly happy movement is indicated in the first three verses.

The god is to manifest – he is to bring into the light of the conscious activity sacrificial energies which are not yet manifested, are yet hidden in the darkness of the subconscient. In the ritualistic interpretation the phrase may be translated, “Eat of offerings that have not been eaten” or, in another sense of the verb vi, it may be rendered, “Arrive at sacrificial energies which have never been approached”; but all these renderings amount, symbolically, to the same psychological sense. Powers and activities that have not yet been called up out of the subconscient, have to be liberated from its secret cave by the combined action of Indra and Vāyu and devoted to the work.

For it is not towards an ordinary action of the nervous mentality that they are called. Vāyu is to manifest these energies as would “a revealer of the felicity, a doer of the Aryan work”, vipo na rayo aryaĥ. These words sufficiently indicate the nature of the energies that are to be evoked. It is possible, however, that the phrase may have a covert reference to Indra and thus indicate what is afterwards clearly expressed, the necessity that Vāyu’s action should be governed by the illumined and aspiring force of the more brilliant god. For it is Indra’s enlightenment that leads to the secret of beatitude being revealed and he is the first labourer in the Work. To Indra, Agni and Sūrya among the gods is especially applied the term arya, which describes with an untranslatable compactness those who rise to the noble aspiration and who do the great labour as an offering in order to arrive at the good and the bliss.

In the second verse the necessity of Indra’s guidance is affirmed expressly. Vāyu is to come putting away all denials that may be opposed to the manifestation of the unmanifested, niryuvano asastih. The word asastih means literally “not-expressings” and describes the detention by obscuring powers like Vŗtra of the light and power that are waiting to be revealed, ready to be called out into expression through the influence of the gods and by the instrumentality of the Word. The Word is the power that expresses, sastram, gih, vacas. But it has to be protected and given its right effect by the divine Powers. Vāyu is to do this office; he has to expel all powers of denial, of obscuration, of non-manifestation. To do this work he must arrive “with his steeds of her yoking and Indra for charioteer”, niyutvan Indra sarathih. The steeds of Indra, of Vāyu, of Sūrya have each their appropriate name. Indra’s horses are hari or babhru, red gold or tawny yellow; Sūrya’s harit, indicating a more deep, full and intense luminousness; Vāyu’s are niyut, steeds of the yoking, for they represent those dynamic movements which yoke the energy to its action. But although they are the horses of Vāyu, they have to be driven by Indra, the movements of the Master of nervous and vital energy guided by the Master of mind.

The third verse would seem at first to bring in an unconnected idea; it speaks of a dark Heaven and Earth with all their forms obeying or following in their labour the movements of Vāyu in his lndra-driven car. They are not mentioned by name but described as the two black or dark holders of substance or holders of wealth, vasudhiti; but the latter word sufficiently indicates earth and by implication of the dual form Heaven also, its companion. We must note that it is not Heaven the father and Earth the mother that are indicated, but the two sisters, rodasi, feminine forms of heaven and earth, who symbolise the general energies of the mental and physical consciousness. It is their dark states – the obscured consciousness between its two limits of the mental and the physical, – which by the happy movement of the nervous dynamism begin to labour in accordance with the movement or under the control of Vāyu and to yield up their hidden forms; for all forms are concealed in them and they must be compelled to reveal them. Thus we discover that this verse completes the sense of the two that precede. For always when the Veda is properly understood, its verses are seen to unroll the thought with a profound logical coherence and pregnant succession.

The two remaining Riks indicate the result produced by this action of Heaven and Earth and by their yielding up of hidden forms and unmanifested energies on the movement of Vāyu as his car gallops towards the Ananda. First of all his horses are to attain their normally complete general number. “Let the ninety-nine be yoked and bear thee, those that are yoked by the mind”. The constantly recurring numbers ninety-nine, a hundred and a thousand have a symbolic significance in the Veda which it is very difficult to disengage with any precision. The secret is perhaps to be found in the multiplication of the mystic number seven by itself and its double repetition with a unit added before and at the end, making altogether 1+49+49+1=100. Seven is the number of essential principles in manifested Nature, the seven forms of divine consciousness at play in the world. Each, formulated severally, contains the other six in itself; thus the full number is forty-nine, and to this is added the unit above out of which all develops, giving us altogether a scale of fifty and forming the complete gamut of active consciousness. But there is also its duplication by an ascending and descending series, the descent of the gods, the ascent of man. This gives us ninety-nine, the number variously applied in the Veda to horses, cities, rivers, in each case with a separate but kindred symbolism. If we add an obscure unit below into which all descends to the luminous unit above towards which all ascends we have the full scale of one hundred.

It is therefore a complex energy of consciousness which is to be the result of Vāyu’s movement; it is the emergence of the fullest movement of the mental activity now only latent and potential in man, – the ninety and nine steeds that are yoked by the mind. And in the next verse the culminating unit is added. We have a hundred horses, and because the action is now that of complete luminous mentality, these steeds, though they still carry Vāyu and Indra, are no longer merely niyut, but hari, the colour of Indra’s brilliant bays. “Yoke, O Vāyu, a hundred of the brilliant ones, that are to be increased.”

But why to be increased? Because a hundred represents the general fullness of the variously combined movements, but not their utter complexity. Each of the hundred can be multiplied by ten; all can be increased in their own kind: for that is the nature of the increase indicated by the word posyanam. Therefore, says the rişhi, either come with the general fullness of the hundred to be afterwards nourished into their full complexity of a hundred tens or, if thou wilt, come at once with thy thousand and let thy movement arrive in the utter mass of its entire potential energy. It is the completely varied all-ensphering, all-energizing mental illumination with its full perfection of being, power, bliss, knowledge, mentality, vital force, physical activity that he desires. For, this attained, the subconscient is compelled to yield up all its hidden possibilities at the will of the perfected mind for the rich and abundant movement of the perfected life.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.