On the Vedic symbolism in the light of Sri Aurobindo
Ādityas and other gods
The faculties of Consciousness in the Veda are seen as projected from the Divine Mother, Aditi, Infinite Consciousness-Force. The supreme emanations of that Consciousness-Force are called Ādityas, the Sons of Aditi. There are seven of them—Varuṇa, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Dakṣa, Amśa and Sūrya.
There are different classes of gods mentioned in the Veda: Ādityas, Vasus, Viśve-devās, Māruta-gaṇa, Raudra-gaṇa, etc. Although they differ from each other they also share many features and powers in the process of manifesting the Divine, which makes it difficult for the mind not used to distinguish the subtle differences in the commonly shared features. Ordinary mind would only see the crowded common imagery assigned to all of them. The ability to distinguish the particularities in the commonly shared features Sri Aurobindo attributes to the higher mind. He writes (1998, pp. 497–498):
Yet as all these things form one in the realised godhead, as each element … contains the others in itself and none of them can exist separately from the rest, therefore each of the Four (Ādityas) also possesses by force of his own essential quality every general attribute of his brothers. For this reason if we do not read the Veda as carefully as it was written, we shall miss its distinctions and see only the indistinguishable common functions of these luminous Kings, — as indeed throughout the hymns the unity in difference of all the gods makes it difficult for the mind not accustomed to the subtleties of psychological truth to find in the Vedic divinities anything but a confused mass of common or interchangeable attributes. But the distinctions are there…. Each god contains in himself all the others, but remains still himself in his peculiar function.
Āditya-gaṇa is a class of deities, which distinctly differ from other types of gods such as Viśve-devās, for instance, who are the Universal Gods, operating already in the created Universe, whereas Ādityas are still representing the transcendental and supramental levels. In their original status they also differ from the Vasu class, though many times they are called upon to be identified with the status of Vasus, especially when they are to rise in the consciousness of man.
Vasu literally means a ‘luminous dweller within the substance’; Agni is often invoked by this name. And since Agni represents all the gods and godheads here and is their gate to the manifested consciousness of man, as it were, this word is also applied to all of them when used in this particular meaning of rising to the higher status from within. Thus Ādityas, Maruts, Aśvins, Indra, Uṣas, Rudra, Vāyu, Viṣṇu, Śiva and Kubera are invoked as Vasus then. In post-Vedic literature, the class of Vasu, vasu-gaṇa, consists of eight Vasus, the eighth one was born as Bhīṣma in the epic Mahābhārata.
There is also a clear distinction between the Ādityas and the Maruts, or the class of Rudras, though again they may be called upon to be identified with Rudras for a particular purpose, in the same way as Agni can take any of the features of other gods on himself. Rudras is a class of gods, especially when they are mentioned in plural, indicating the sons of Rudra (sometimes identified with or distinguished from the Maruts, who are 11 or 33 in number). In the Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas 11 Rudras are mentioned together with their female energies, Rudrāṇīs. The number of Ādityas also changes and grows up to 12, which seem to represent symbolically the 12 months of the Sun, Āditya.
The eighth son of Aditi
Sūrya or Savitṛ is the Creator, representing the Supramental Manifestation in all its glory of all the godheads, embodying all his brothers. He, by projecting himself into the darkness of the Inconscient, becomes Vivasvat of Mārtāṇḍa, Mortal Embryo, or Mortal Universe. It is this dark Sun, who is hidden by the Titans in the Subconscious cave of Darkness, which has to be recovered by the Sacrifice.
So Vivasvat is a Creator of the Universe, who thus carries within himself all the potentialities of his seven brothers from whom they are to rise to their high throne, from where they could see both the Supreme realms of Existence and the Lower Nature.1 It is only then they may arrive at a supreme perception of the Lord. We can find a similar approach to the concept of Puruṣottama of the Bhagavad Gītā, or of Īś of the Īśopaniṣad.
The four transcendental godheads
The four transcendental godheads, or the Guardians of Light, are:
- Varuṇa represents the Vastness of Infinite Being, sat.
- Mitra represents the luminosity and harmony of the Divine Consciousness, cit.
- Aryaman is the power of the Divine tapas.
- Bhaga is the Bliss of the Divine Fulfillment, ānanda.
Sri Aurobindo calls the first four Ādityas the Guardians of Light, for they are guarding the Transcendental Light from one side and from another introducing it into the lower hemisphere. He writes in The Secret of the Veda (1998, p. 475), ‘Aditi is the infinite Light of which the divine world is a formation and the gods, children of the infinite Light, born of her in the Ritam, manifested in that active truth of her movement guard it against Chaos and Ignorance’. Sri Aurobindo (1998, p. 497) defines the characteristics of the first four Ādityas in this way:
The Divine is existence all-embracing, infinite and pure; Varuna brings to us the infinite oceanic space of the divine soul and its ethereal, elemental purity.
The Divine is boundless consciousness, perfect in knowledge, pure and therefore luminously right in its discernment of things, perfectly harmonious and happy in its concordance of their law and nature; Mitra brings us this light and harmony, this right distinction and relation and friendly concord, the happy laws of the liberated soul concordant with itself and the Truth in all its rich thought, shining actions and thousand-fold enjoyment.
The Divine is in its own being pure and perfect power and in us the eternal upward tendency in things to their source and truth; Aryaman brings to us this mighty strength and perfectly-guided happy inner upsurging.
The Divine is the pure, the faultless, the all-embracing, the untroubled ecstasy that enjoys its own infinite being and enjoys equally all that it creates within itself; Bhaga gives us sovereignly that ecstasy of the liberated soul, its free and unfallen possession of itself and the world.
This quaternary is practically the later essential trinity of Sachchidananda, — Existence, Consciousness, Bliss with self-awareness and self-force, Chit and Tapas, for double terms of Consciousness; but it is here translated into its cosmic terms and equivalents.
Sri Aurobindo described the triple status of the Supermind in various ways. First we will use his description in philosophical terms. It is important for us to identify the faculties of the next three Ādityas and their functions, which will be directly connected with the triple status of the Supermind.
- Many in One and One in Many.
In the chapter, ‘The Triple Status of the Supermind’, Sri Aurobindo (1972, pp. 145-146) writes about these three levels: ‘The first founds the inalienable unity of things, the second modifies that unity so as to support the manifestation of the Many in One and One in Many; the third further modifies it so as to support the evolution of a diversified individuality which, by the action of Ignorance, becomes in us at a lower level the illusion of the separate ego.’
This vision will be then projected into all the structure of the lower manifestation on all its levels. We may always find these three elements in the life of every creature: (a) the unifying oneness dominating over the individual elements, (b) the harmonizing diversity and its relation with oneness, and (c) the diversifying individual elements, deviating from the oneness as far as possible. These three will become the major grades in the hierarchy of the mental-vital-physical structure of consciousness, maintaining their approaches to the reality as a whole and to each other in particular.
Sri Aurobindo (1971, p. 26) also depicts the three layers of the Supermind in psychological terms, in relation to three activities of the intuitive mind—for Intuition is a flash of the Supramental light reaching out to the lower levels of consciousness. It is interesting to compare the two—the philosophical and the psychological descriptions. Here is the psychological one:
- Interpretative Supermind ... corresponding to Intuition. I call it interpretative, because what is a possibility on the mental plane becomes a potentiality on the supramental plane and the Interpretative puts all the potentialities before you. It shows the root cause of events that may become true on the physical plane. When Intuition is changed into its supramental value, it becomes Interpretative Supermind.
- Representative Supermind ... represents the actual movements of potentialities and shows what is in operation. When Inspiration is changed into its supramental value, then it becomes this Representative Supermind. Even this is not the highest. There you know certain potentialities in thought and action working and you can in many cases say what would happen or how a certain thing happened if it does.
- Imperative Supermind ... which corresponds to Revelation. That is always true. Nothing can stand against it. It is knowledge fulfilling itself by its own inherent power.
The three godheads of the Supermind
The three godheads of the Supermind are:
- Dakṣa represents the power of Thought, the All-discerning and All-distributing Power of Supramental Consciousness.
- Aṃśa represents the diversity in Oneness supported by that Unifying Power of Dakṣa.
- Sūrya or Savitṛ represents all the seven Ādityas and projects them into a lower Creation. His rays represent the diversity in the domains of Svar.
Dakṣa is the Father of all the Ādityas born for manifesting the Divine in the material Universe. Even Aditi is born to him as his daughter, the cosmic universal Cow, supporting with her milk all the creation. It is in Dakṣa that the triple conception by the Lord within his Consciousness is taking place,2 which creates the triple status of the Supermind. Sri Aurobindo speaks of Dakṣa in this way (1998, pp. 473–474):
Aditi is originally the pure consciousness of infinite existence one and self-luminous; she is the Light that is Mother of all things. As the infinite she gives birth to Daksha, the discriminating and distributing Thought of the divine Mind, and is herself born to Daksha as the cosmic infinite, the mystic Cow whose udders feed all the worlds.
It is this divine daughter of Daksha who is the mother of the gods. In the cosmos Aditi is the undivided infinite unity of things, free from the duality, advaya, and has Diti the separative dualising consciousness for the obverse side of her cosmic creation, — her sister and a rival wife in the later myth.
Aṃśa literally means a ‘portion’, which implies two meanings simultaneously—oneness and separateness. It is in this aṃśa that the jīvātman is being shaped, projecting itself as the Psychic being into the lower hemisphere of the Sūrya Savitṛ, the Creator.
Sri Aurobindo speaks of the second status of the Supermind in this way (1972, p. 146):
In the second poise of the Supermind the Divine Consciousness stands back in the idea from the movement which it contains3, realising it by a sort of apprehending consciousness, following it, occupying and inhabiting its works, seeming to distribute itself in its forms.4 In each name and form it would realise itself as the stable Conscious-Self, the same in all; but also it would realise itself as a concentration of Conscious-Self following and supporting the individual play of movement and upholding its differentiation from other play of movement, — the same everywhere in soul-essence, but varying in soul-form. This concentration supporting the soul-form would be the individual Divine or Jivat-man as distinguished from the universal Divine or one all -constituting self.
The seven sons of Aditi
The seven sons of Aditi, the Divine Mother, are:
- Varuṇa, sat;
- Mitra, cit;
- Aryaman, tapas;
- Bhaga, ānanda;
- Dakṣa, Supramental Knowledge-Force;
- Aṃśa, Supramental Many in Oneness and Oneness in Many;
- Sūrya Savitṛ, Supramental Manifestation.
So we can see that the whole range of the powers and consciousness is already prepared in the Supermind as a Creator before the manifestation of Cosmos can take place physically. Sūrya is the Creator of this Universe and at the same time he is the Supreme Lord, who gathered all his power, consciousness and bliss to create himself anew, to become many, bahu syām iti.5
Figure 8.1. The triple worlds
So there are all the equivalents of the Seven Ādityas within the lower Creation, there is the presence of the All-embracing Infinity of Varuṇa, there is a creative and harmonizing Māyā of Mitra, there is a powerful presence of Aryaman, and the delight of Bhaga on all the levels of Creation. It is because of the Sacrifice of the Divine Mother, Aditi, that the higher states of Consciousness are projected into and present in the lower creation. It is these who manifest the world.
This duality is created by the Supramental Consciousness-Force which thus maintains the double process of the One—its diversity and its oneness. The Consciousness of the Supreme is thus including both, and exceeding them both. To rise to his Supreme perception one must maintain both states simultaneously, as the Īśopaniṣad says: vidyāṃ cāvidyāṃ ca yas tad vedobhayaṃ saha avidyayā mṛtyuṃ tīrtvā vidyayāmṛtam aśnute (The one who knows both simultaneously, Knowledge and Ignorance, indeed by Ignorance passes through Death (as the field of constant change in Time and Space) and by Knowledge enjoys Immortality (as the all-knowing state of Being)).
It is a description of the Supreme Consciousness partaking in both, and infinitely manifesting itself in time and beyond time, being essentially one.
The Lord experiences the state of his Immortality within the transitory situation, within the time and space continuum, being infinitely free from them. It is only when man can perceive both that he may rise to the highest consciousness of the Lord and see the two poises of Diti and Aditi. And that is what these godheads are doing through man’s consciousness, rising to their highest realization.
Sūrya Savitṛ: The Lord of Creation
The Rays of the Sun thus build up the luminous planes, called in the Vedas, Svar. It has three luminous realms, called trī rocanā, which thus project the higher three realms of the Cosmic Mind, called tisro dyāvaḥ, sustaining the three spaces of the Vital realms, called trī rajāṃsi, supported by the three foundations of the Physical, called tisro bhūmīḥ.6
Sri Aurobindo (1972, p. 142) translated trī rocanā as ‘three luminous worlds divine’: ‘three powers of Light uphold three luminous worlds divine’, trī aryamā manuṣo devatātā trī rocanā divyā dhārayanta. These three powers of Light as the triple status of the Supermind uphold the three luminous worlds of the Svar, trī rocanā, supporting then the three heavens trīn uta dyūn, and the three spaces of the mid-worlds, trīṇi rajāṃsi.
So the three luminous realms are projected into the three heavens of our mentality and the three spaces of our vitality; and all of them are supported by Mitra and Varuṇa. It is as if they penetrate through it from the beyond, influencing them with their presence, consciousness, and power.
The Ṛg Veda (2. 27.8) also mentions the three earths, bhūmīs:
tisro bhūmīr dhārayan trīn uta dyūn trīṇi vratā vidathe antar eṣām
ṛtenādityā mahi vo mahitvaṃ tad aryaman varuṇa mitra cāru
(They [Ādityas] support the three earths, and the three heavens. Three are the laws within the sacrificial gathering (inside the antarikṣa). By the Truth the sons of Infinity have their greatness here great, and that is Beautiful, O Aryaman, Varuṇa and Mitra.)
The triple worlds
There are three earths, three levels in the vital and three levels in the mind: tisro bhūmīḥ, trīṇi rajāṃsi and tisro dyāvaḥ, projected, as it were, from three worlds of Svar, trī rocanā, as the Rays of the Sun of the Supramental Consciousness-Force.
The Mental Mind is what Sri Aurobindo calls in Savitri the Self of Mind, the Cosmic or Universal Mind. The Vital Mind is the Universal Life’s Mind and the Physical Mind is the one which manifests the physicality of the Universe. Human mind is also built on the material ground, dependent on the physical brain, dealing with the physical reality of the Cosmos.
And these are the three heavens mentioned in the Ṛg Veda (1.35.6) as tisro dyāvaḥ of Savitṛ; two are his own realms and one is in the realm of Yama—tisro dyāvaḥ savitur dvā upastāṃ ekā yamasya bhuvane virāṣāṭ. So it is the Mind of the physical universe, which is in the world of Yama, and the Universal Vital Mind and the Universal Mental Mind are in the realms of Savitṛ, which Sri Aurobindo calls in his system of Knowledge: Higher Mind and Illumined Mind.
If we were to compare Sri Aurobindo’s terms with the Vedic terminology we would see a picture as in Figure 8.2.
Figure 8.2. A comparison of Sri Aurobindo’s and Vedic terminologies
We have already mentioned tisro dyāvaḥ, the three realms of the Universal Mind—Mental, Vital and Physical, which in Sri Aurobindo’s terminology are identified as Illumined Mind, Higher Mind and Mind—but we did not speak about the three rocanas yet, the three luminous realms of Svar. The particularity of Svar is that it begins in the Supermind and extends itself into the Overmind and then to the Intuitive Mind. It is here that the major difficulty of understanding of Svar lies. Sri Aurobindo speaks of Svar differently in different contexts—sometimes he identifies it with the Supermind and sometimes he underlines the difference between the two. It is the world of the Rays of the Sun, which in its first stage, before going out, is still a part of the Sun and is Sun itself. It is only later that the Rays disperse into the groupings of flashes in the Overmental realms and finally become separate in the Intuitive Mind.
Sri Aurobindo describes this phenomenon in a letter speaking of the levels of the Overmind (1970, p. 261):
There are different planes of the overmind. One is mental, directly creative of all the formations that manifest below in the mental world—that is the mental overmind. Above is the overmind intuition. Still above are the planes of overmind that are more and more connected with the supermind and have a partly supramental character. Highest in the overmind ranges is the supramental overmind or overmind gnosis.
Commenting on the hymn to Mitra and Varuṇa, Sri Aurobindo speaks about the three rocanas as ‘the three luminous worlds in which the triple mental, the triple vital, the triple physical find the light of their truth and the divine law of their powers’ (1998, p. 538).
There is another fundamental difficulty in the understanding of Svar, for, according to the Veda, it was created last, after Heaven and Earth and Antarikṣa came into existence. It is as if it requires a feedback, or a field of application. If the lower creation were not there, Svar would not come into being. It is because of Agni being born in the lower creation, calling for the light from above, that Svar finally manifests.
gīrṇam bhuvanaṃ tamasāpagūḍham/ āviḥ svar abhavaj jāte agnau / (RV, 10.88.2) ([First] Being was swallowed by the Darkness and hidden within it. Then, when Agni was born, Svar became manifest.)
The Hymn of Creation (RV, 10.190) also speaks of Svar as being created last:
ṛtaṃ ca satyaṃ cābhīddhāt tapaso ‘dhi ajāyata /
tato rātrī ajāyata tataḥ samudro arṇavaḥ
(The Law and the Truth were born from the kindled Power of Tapas.
From that the Night was born, from the Night—the Ocean of Inconscient Waters.)
sūryācandramasau dhātā yathāpūrvam akalpayat /
divaṃ ca pṛthivīṃ ca antarikṣam atho svaḥ
(The Sun and Moon, the Establisher fashioned as before. Heaven and Earth and Space in-between, and then—Svar!)
The explanation for this phenomenon we can find in the understanding of the fact that there is a fundamental difference between the Illumined Mind and the higher realms of the Intuitive Mind and the Overmind. Sri Aurobindo writes about it in a letter (1970, p. 264):
Intuition is above Illumined Mind which is simply higher Mind raised to a great luminosity and more open to modified forms of intuition and inspiration.… The Intuition is the first plane in which there is a real opening to the full possibility of realisation—it is through it that one goes farther—first to overmind and then to supermind.
He also defines the difference between the Illumined Mind and Intuitive Mind in Savitri, in the Canto, ‘The Self of Mind’, where Intuitive Mind can be reached only through the higher action of Intuition itself, coming down from above to the Illumined Mind. It is through the overflooding directness of the Overmind via Intuition that the Illumined Mind can come into contact with the Supramental consciousness, says Sri Aurobindo in one of his letters (1970, p. 365):
[T]he thousand-petalled lotus—sahasradala—above commands the higher thinking mind, houses the still higher illumined mind and at the highest opens to the intuition through which or else by an overflooding directness the overmind can have with the rest communication or an immediate contact.
The trī rajāṃsi, the three realms of the Vital are the levels of (a) the Higher Universal Life, (b) the Universal Life, as such, with an entrance (antarikṣa) to the Infinite Darkness, and (c) the Universal Life as it is known to us projected into the creation of material Universe.
Figure 8.3. The two lower triple realms
So, the Mental Vital corresponds to the plane which Sri Aurobindo describes in the Second Book of the Traveller of the Worlds, in the Ninth Canto, ‘The Paradise of the Life-Gods’. It is the Life Force which is on the other shore of material Creation, beyond the darkness, as it were. To reach that shore Aswapati must cross the regions of the Eternal Night, which are described in the previous two Cantos, seventh and eighth, ‘The Descent into Night’ and ‘The World of Falsehood, The Mother of Evil and the Sons of Darkness’.
It is only after crossing those regions of Infinite Darkness and Evil that he moves to the realms of the Mental Vital and then to the Mind levels in the following Cantos, first to ‘The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind’, which corresponds to the Cosmic Physical Mind, depicted in the Veda as Heaven of Yama, ruling over men, yamasya bhuvane virāṣāṭ (RV, 1.35.6), which is our human mind in its highest potential; and then to the ‘Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Mind’, to the Cosmic Higher Mind’s regions.
Thus the realms of Life are the place where all the troubles begin, where the dark forces enter into our system of mental-physical existence. It is here in the Vital, antarikṣa, that the bridge is to be made by the Sacrifice to the higher domains of consciousness, seeking their direct and effective influence. It is here that the whole battle is going on between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, in the field of our Life.
The tisro bhūmīḥ are the three realms of the Universal Physical, determined by:
- the Mind, which makes it self-conscious in manifesting and maintaining its form,
- the Life, which makes it dynamic in its own movement;
- the proper Physical, as a faculty housing all other forces and levels of consciousness, taking their part in the material manifestation of the Divine.
Without the physical being fully prepared there cannot be any direct Supramental influence in the material Nature, for it is, as it is clear now, dragging down the vital and the mind inherent in it, not allowing them to realize freely their full potential. And there is a reason for it, for all of them are here only to manifest the Divine in matter, and not for any other reason. Sri Aurobindo says in his letter to a sādhak (1970, pp. 1228–1229):
There can be no conquest of the other planes by the supermind but only an influence, so long as the physical is not ready.… And how is it possible to perfect the mind and vital unless the physical is prepared—for there is such a thing as the mental and vital physical and mind and vital cannot be said to be perfectly prepared until these are ready.
Body as a Supramental creation
The triple conception by the Creator, depicted in the Veda, within his own Consciousness creates the Supermind. The very physical consciousness is a result of this conception and a part of its realization.
The physical and mental consciousness are seen in the Veda as two luminous firmaments, rodasī, supporting the growing Soul in this Creation.
The body itself is seen as the outcome of a Supramental Creation, which at first glance is not easy to understand, but which explains why in the post-Vedic spiritual traditions, together with the disappearance of the concepts of Svar and the Supermind, the body also lost its proper meaning and got reduced to be seen as an imprisonment and even as a problem in finding our true self rather than a solution in manifesting the Divine in matter.
Sri Aurobindo writes in a letter, ‘The supramental is necessary for the transformation of terrestrial life and being, not for reaching the Self. One must realise the Self first, only afterwards can one realise the supermind’ (1970, p. 105).
In the Vedas, the Heaven and Earth, our mental and physical consciousness, was considered to be pure and conscious of the Divine. The body was seen as a fortress and refuge for the soul of man against the forces of Darkness. It was referred to as ‘well-made’, a dwelling place for the Spirit. The treatment of the physical body underwent a fundamental change in the later Māyāvāda-oriented spiritual traditions; it was seen as an obstacle and hindrance on the path to the spiritual realization, rather than the supporter of, or the field of, realization. It fell off into the domain of a lower consciousness and was blamed for keeping the soul here, bound to suffering against its will to be free.
The seven Suns of the Supermind
Sri Aurobindo reconsidered the usual yogic practices, oriented towards Liberation alone—which came in the post-Vedic period when the transformation of earthly life and physical body was considered impossible—and turned towards the Vedic view of transformative practice: invoking the higher powers by the means of aspiration in the heart and surrendering to them for the transformation. He introduces the ancient Vedic methods of a Descent of a Higher Consciousness and Power into our mental, vital and even subtle physical and physical bodies for transformation.
It is as if he is looking from above at the physical body, seeing it from the Supramental point of view. He writes about the seven centres in the body as the manifestation of the Seven Suns of the Supermind in this way (2001, p. 1342):
- The Sun of Supramental Truth, Knowledge-Power, originating the supramental creation.
Descent into the sahasradala.
- The Sun of Supramental Light and Will-Power, transmitting the Knowledge-Power as dynamic vision and command to create, found and organize the supramental creation.
Descent into ājñā cakra, between the eyes.
- The Sun of Supramental Word, embodying the Knowledge-Power, empowered to express and arrange the supramental creation.
Descent into the throat centre.
- The Sun of Supramental Love, Beauty, and Bliss, releasing the Soul of the Knowledge-Power to vivify and harmonise the supramental creation.
Descent into the heart-lotus.
- The Sun of Supramental Force dynamised as a power and source of life to support the supramental creation.
Descent into the navel centre.
- The Sun of Life-Radiances (Power-Rays) distributing the dynamis and pouring it into concrete formations.
Descent into the penultimate centre.
- The Sun of Supramental Substance-Energy and Form-Energy empowered to embody the supramental life and stabilize the creation.
Descent into the mūlādhāra.
The concept of Sacrifice
Heaven and Earth, the mental and physical consciousness, are housing souls here, as the eternal aṃśas of the Divine, to perform the Sacrifice; that is, to invoke and bring down the higher forces of Consciousness. Heaven and Earth, meanwhile are supporting and nourishing them, protecting them from abhva, the Inconscient, which they have descended to convert and to save.
Agni, the Divine Will, the spiritual Father of all the evolving souls of men, is thus a growing Lord in the Darkness, taking all of it onto Himself and changing it into the Divine nature.
Heaven and Earth, our Father and Mother, Mental and Physical Consciousness, were seen as projected from the Supermind into the darkness of the Inconscient as the Golden Embryo, the hiraṇya garbha. Then they got separated into two halves. The upper one became Heaven and the lower Earth. The Space in-between became antarikṣa, introducing into our system through its opening the powers of the beyond, of the superconscient and subconscient realms, from the Abyss of abhva, to meet and to fight in this space. It is a window to the Infinite Light and the Infinite Darkness. It is a place of Sacrifice.
And in this space the soul of man is growing, supported by our physical and mental consciousness. Sri Aurobindo (1998, pp. 383– 384), speaking about the Vedic symbolism of the Sacrifice, says:
Thus the soul is a battlefield full of helpers and hurters, friends and enemies. All this lives, teems, is personal, is conscious, is active. We create for ourselves by the sacrifice and by the word shining seers, heroes to fight for us, children of our works. …
The soul of man is a world full of beings, a kingdom in which armies clash to help or hinder a supreme conquest, a house where the gods are our guests and which the demons strive to possess; the fullness of its energies and wideness of its being make a seat of sacrifice spread, arranged and purified for a celestial session.
Such are some of the principal images of the Veda and a very brief and insufficient outline of the teaching of the Forefathers. So understood the Rig Veda ceases to be an obscure, confused and barbarous hymnal; it becomes the high-aspiring Song of Humanity; its chants are episodes of the lyrical epic of the soul in its immortal ascension.
This at least; what more there may be in the Veda of ancient science, lost knowledge, old psycho-physical tradition remains yet to be discovered.
Sacrifice as a way to transformation
Agni is a summoner, hotṛ, and a messenger, dūta, to the Gods from above and from within the depth of his own Consciousness-Force, introducing them and their transcendental presence here in the earthly consciousness of man.
It is by the Sacrifice performed by men in himself that these transcendental Godheads, Ādityas, are rising to their highest Throne, from which they can see both the Infinite and the Finite Creation.
Agni invokes and brings them here from the luminous realms of Svar, rocanād, into the earthly mind, life and body of men. Thus we see in the Ṛg Veda (1.14.9):
ākīṃ sūryasya rocanād viśvān devān uṣarbudhaḥ /
vipro hoteha vakṣati
(May the Invoker, the Ecstatic Priest, (Agni) bring here to us the Gods, who awake with the Dawn, from the luminous world of the Sun, rocanād.)
Indra and Agni: The two poles of the Sacrifice
As Agni is building it from within, from the depth of the Inconscient, Indra is coming from above, from the beyond of our mentality, striking it with his Lightning, illumining all the enemies hiding there and destroying them. Sri Aurobindo writes in the Secret of the Veda:
Indra, the Puissant next, who is the power of pure Existence self-manifested as the Divine Mind. As Agni is one pole of Force instinct with knowledge that sends its current upward from earth to heaven, so Indra is the other pole of Light instinct with force which descends from heaven to earth. He comes down into our world as the Hero with the 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 illuminations, makes the Sun of Truth mount high in the heaven of our mentality (1998, p. 30).
The illumination which Indra brings is the light of the Sun.
Surya... is the master of that supreme Truth,—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 outbringing, expression by the Truth and Will—and the father, fosterer, enlightener of our souls. The illuminations we seek are the herds of this Sun who comes to us in the track of the divine Dawn and releases and reveals in us night-hidden world after world up to the highest Beatitude. (1998, p. 380)
The aim of the Sacrifice
The union of the three levels of the physical consciousness with the three spaces of the vital and three heavens of the mental consciousness is the aim of the Vedic Sacrifice.
For thus it effectuates the ascent to Svar’s three luminous realms, trī rocanā, introducing the Supramental consciousness into the lower hemisphere.
The union of Agni, Vāyu and Sūrya, was considered to be the aim of the Vedic Sacrifice, where Agni was seen as the essence of Earth, pṛthivī; Vāyu as the essence of the Space in-between, antarikṣa; and Sūrya the essence of Heaven, dyaus. So if these three fires are united into one Fire, then the aim of the Sacrifice is realized. For it recreates the Oneness of the triple status of the Supermind here in the lower hemisphere by completing it on all the levels of Consciousness.
Planes of consciousness in Savitri
There is a wonderful description in Savitri of all the levels starting from the Higher Mind and ending with the Supermind (1997, pp. 659–662):
A few have dared the last supreme ascent
And break through borders of blinding light above,
And feel a breath around of mightier air,
Receive a vaster being’s messages
And bathe in its immense intuitive Ray.
On summit Mind are radiant altitudes
Exposed to the lustre of Infinity,
Outskirts and dependencies of the house of Truth,
Upraised estates of Mind and measureless
There man can visit but there he cannot live.
A cosmic Thought spreads out its vastitudes;
Its smallest parts are here philosophies
Challenging with their detailed immensity,
Each figuring an omniscient scheme of things.
But higher still can climb the ascending light;
There are vasts of vision and eternal suns,
Oceans of an immortal luminousness,
Flame-hills assaulting heaven with their peaks,
There dwelling all becomes a blaze of sight;
A burning head of vision leads the mind,
Thought trails behind it its long comet tail;
The heart glows, an illuminate and seer,
And sense is kindled into identity.
A highest flight climbs to a deepest view:
In a wide opening of its native sky
Intuition’s lightnings range in a bright pack
Hunting all hidden truths out of their lairs,
Its fiery edge of seeing absolute
Cleaves into locked unknown retreats of self,
Rummages the sky-recesses of the brain,
Lights up the occult chambers of the heart;
Its spear-point ictus of discovery
Pressed on the cover of name, the screen of form,
Strips bare the secret soul of all that is.
Thought there has revelation’s sun-bright eyes;
The Word, a mighty and inspiring Voice,
Enters Truth’s inmost cabin of privacy
And tears away the veil from God and life.
Then stretches the boundless finite’s last expanse,
The cosmic empire of the Overmind,
Time’s buffer state bordering Eternity,
Too vast for the experience of man’s soul:
All here gathers beneath one golden sky:
The Powers that build the cosmos station take
In its house of infinite possibility;
Each god from there builds his own nature’s world;
Ideas are phalanxed like a group of suns,
Each marshalling his company of rays.
Thought crowds in masses seized by one regard;
All Time is one body, Space a single look:
There is the Godhead’s universal gaze
And there the boundaries of immortal Mind:
The line that parts and joins the hemispheres
Closes in on the labour of the Gods
Fencing eternity from the toil of Time.
In her glorious kingdom of eternal light
All-ruler, ruled by none, the Truth supreme,
Omnipotent, omniscient and alone,
In a golden country keeps her measureless house;
In its corridor she hears the tread that comes
Out of the Unmanifest never to return
Till the Unknown is known and seen by men.
Above the stretch and blaze of cosmic Sight,
Above the silence of the wordless Thought,
Formless creator of immortal forms,
Nameless, investitured with the name divine,
Transcending Time’s hours, transcending Timelessness,
The Mighty Mother sits in lucent calm
And holds the eternal Child upon her knees
Attending the day when he shall speak to Fate.7
There is the image of our future’s hope;
There is the sun for which all darkness waits,
There is the imperishable harmony;
The world’s contradictions climb to her and are one:
There is the Truth of which the world’s truths are shreds,
The Light of which the world’s ignorance is the shade
Till Truth draws back the shade that it has cast,
The Love our hearts call down to heal all strife,
The Bliss for which the world’s derelict sorrows yearn:
Thence comes the glory sometimes seen on earth,
The visits of Godhead to the human soul,
The Beauty and the dream on Nature’s face.
There the perfection born from eternity
Calls to it the perfection born in Time,
The truth of God surprising human life,
The image of God overtaking finite shapes.
There in a world of everlasting Light,
In the realms of the immortal Supermind
Truth who hides here her head in mystery,
Her riddle deemed by reason impossible
In the stark structure of material form,
Unenigmaed lives, unmasked her face and there
Is Nature and the common law of things.
There in a body made of spirit stuff,
The hearth-stone of the everliving Fire,
Action translates the movements of the soul,
Thought steps infallible and absolute
A sacrifice of rapture to the One.
A cosmic vision, a spiritual sense
Feels all the Infinite lodged in finite form
And seen through a quivering ecstasy of light
Discovers the bright face of the Bodiless,
In the truth of a moment, in the moment’s soul
Can sip the honey-wine of Eternity.
A Spirit who is no one and innumerable,
The one mystic infinite Person of his world
Multiplies his myriad personality,
On all his bodies seals his divinity’s stamp
And sits in each immortal and unique.8
Aurobindo, Sri (1970). Letters on yoga. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.
Aurobindo, Sri (1971). The hour of God and other writings. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.
Aurobindo, Sri (1972). The life divine. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.
Aurobindo, Sri (1997). Savitri—A legend and a symbol. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department.
Aurobindo, Sri (1998). The secret of the Veda. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department
Aurobindo, Sri (2001). The record of yoga. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department.