Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 4.26.1

If we have read the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, we may have come across the mention of a rishi named Vamadeva, who is said, upon realising Brahman, to have “become Manu and Surya”. They feature in 1.4.10,

In the beginning, Brahman was this. It knew only itself: “I am Brahman.” Through that it became all. Whichever of the devas woke up to it became that; whichever of the rishis, likewise; whichever of human beings, likewise. Seeing that, the rishi Vamadeva realised:  “I have become Manu and Surya too.” 

Why was Vamadeva’s statement considered significant enough to include and explain in the Upanishad? How does saying he has “become Manu and Surya” signify realisation of Brahman?

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Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Pt 25

Part 24

6 Moksha
6-1 Preparation
6-2 Jnana, Jnani, and Jnana-Phala
6-2-18 Glory of knowledge 3(43), 4 (1 to 3), 7(1 to 3), 9(1,2), 14(1,2
) 3(42) describes Self as the most subtle and beyond intellect. 3(43) says that armed with the knowledge of Self and by controlling the mind with reason, enemy-like desire can be killed which is otherwise very difficult to overcome. In 4(1 to 3), Sri Krishna says that He gave this knowledge to Sun and then it passed on to Manu to Iksvaku and other royal sages, Unfortunately, with the lapse of time, it was lost and through Arjuna He is reviving it. He glorifies this knowledge. It is ultimate and supreme. On gaining this knowledge, there is nothing left to be known because by this knowledge, a person is fully satisfied, is complete, and transcends the worldly life of pairs of opposites and duality. He is free from the cycle of birth and death. It is a secret knowledge. One among thousands strives to gain it, and only a handful of seekers are successful in getting and assimilating it.

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Advaita in the Vedas – meaning of samudra

We don’t have to dive deep into Advaita to come across the imagery of a drop of water and the ocean or many rivers flowing back to the sea. Whilst it is more prominent now, we find the same idea in classic literature,

Just as flowing rivers go down into the sea,
Leaving name and form behind,
The one who knows, freed from name and form,
Reaches the highest Supreme Self.
— Mundaka Upanishad [1]

The meaning is clear — the rivers are likened to name and form and the sea to the Supreme Self. When Advaita is realised, there is the vanishing of name and form, which is the rivers flowing back to the sea. This is very common imagery for illustrating the truth. What we may not know is that it also features in the Vedas. Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.39

One of the mantras which captures, not only the essence of Advaita, but also the Vedas themselves, is Rig Veda 1.164.39 —  

“To one who does not know the supreme syllable of the Rig Veda, in which, in heaven, all the devas have taken their seats, what use is the Rig Veda?” 

The mantra also appears in Shvetashvatara Upanishad [1]. The Rig Veda gets its name from the type of mantras it contains, known as a ‘ric‘, which literally means “praise”. These mantras focus on invoking and worshipping devas. “To one who does not know the supreme syllable of Rig Veda,” means not knowing what is being worshipped and invoked, the syllable pervading every word of every mantra. The devas take ‘their seats’ in this syllable because it is their source. Knowing this syllable is to know, not only the source of the devas, but also what the entire Rig Veda is in praise (ric) of. Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.115.1

The imagery of the Sun features throughout the teachings of Advaita. It appears multiple times in the Upanishads and is first found in the Vedas. But what is its significance and how does it relate to the ultimate reality of Brahman? 

The meaning Rig Veda gives us couldn’t be clearer, 

The Sun is the Self of the whole world both moving and non-moving and rises with its own effulgence in heaven, the earth and atmosphere. [1]

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Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.125.8

Rig Veda 10.125.8 is unique as it is one of the rare occasions in the Vedas where a mantra is spoken in first-person. Such mantras are categorised as directly relating to the Self, where the worshipper is identical with the deity being worshipped and the illusion of separation is seen through.

In Rig Veda 10.125.8, it is declared that,

I breathe forth like the wind, giving form to all created worlds. Beyond the heaven, beyond this earth, so vast am I in greatness.

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Advaita in the Vedas – Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri mantra is one of the most famous, chanted by millions of people every day and heralded for many reasons. But what makes it so significant? Two explanations are its Vedic origins and the meaning of the mantra itself — 

That greatest Savitri is the light of the shining one we meditate on which illuminates our intellect.

The mantra, which is ‘tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat’, first appears in Rig Veda (3.62.10). When it is chanted, it is preceded by Om and the mahavyahriti: bhur bhuvah svah. They symbolise the three regions earth, atmosphere and heaven while Om is their source, beyond them. Similarly, the Chandogya Upanishad says about Gayatri as the personification of the mantra,

Gayatri is all this, whatever exists. Speech is the Gayatri: speech sings (gai) and protects (trai) all this that exists. [1]

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Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.129.4

Alongside Purusha Sukta (10.90), the Nasadiya Sukta (10.129) is one of the most famous Suktas of the Vedas. Known as the Creation Hymn, its fourth mantra says,

In the beginning, there was the disturbance of desire, from which sprung the first seed, which was born of the mind. Sages, searching in their hearts, realised the wisdom of the connection between existence and non-existence.

The creation the Nasadiya Sukta discusses is often believed to be the origin of the universe. However, 10.129.4 does not refer to any ordinary creation but, rather, the illusion of duality. This is attributed to desire in the mind – the first ‘seed’ of ignorance which gives the impression that we are separate. Before this disturbance, there was nothing to realise and no one to know because there was no appearance which was taken to be real as separate from the Self or Brahman. Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.90.2

Alongside Rig Veda 1.164.46, 10.90.2, part of the famous Purusha Sukta, is one of the most succinct declarations of Advaita in the Vedas. It goes further than 1.164.46, as it gives a name to ‘what is one’ – Purusha (the Self). It says,

It is the Self who is all this – whatever has been and whatever is to be.

We could easily mistake this for a mantra from the Upanishads or another Advaita text, as it is perfectly in-line with their teachings. For this reason, it is unsurprising that it later appears in the Upanishads, in Shvetashvatara 3.15. Continue reading

What is a jivanmukta’s experience? (Part 3)

In BGB 18.48, Sankara concludes that in jivanmukti, when avidya is no more, logically there can be no action.

“The One Existence, the sole Reality, is by avidya, imagined variously, as so many things undergoing production, destruction and the like changes, like an actor on the stage . . . [Action] is ascribed to the Self through avidya, and it has therefore been said that no ignorant man (avidvan) can renounce action entirely even for a moment (iii. 5). On the other hand, he who knows the Self is able to renounce action entirely, inasmuch as avidya has been expelled by vidya or wisdom ; for, there can be no residue left of what is ascribed by avidya. Indeed, no residue is left of the second moon created by the false vision of the timira-affected eye, even after the removal of timira” – A.M.Sastry

“it is only the one entity called Existence that is imagined variously through ignorance to be possessed of the states of origination, destruction, etc. like an actor (on a stage) . . . An unenlightened person is incapable of totally renouncing actions even for a moment (cf. 3.5). The enlightened person, on the other hand, can indeed totally renounce actions when ignorance has been dispelled through Illumination; for it is illogical that there can (then) remain any trace of what has been superimposed through ignorance. Indeed, no trace remains of the two moons, etc. superimposed by the vision affected by (the disease called) timira when the disease is cured” – Gambhirananda

“Reality is one only, which like an actor, plays numberless roles, assuming attributes like appearance and disappearance due to nescience . . . Through nescience it [action] is superimposed on the Self. The ignorant man cannot wholly give it up. But the wise man, once nescience is dispelled through knowledge can indeed do so; for there is no residue for an ignorantly precipitated superimposition. The double moon, seen with the diseased eye, is not seen once the disease is cured” – A.G.Krishna Warrier