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

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.20

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In exploring Advaita, we may have heard of the metaphor of the two birds,

Two birds, inseparable friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating. [1]

The two birds are the jiva (the one which eats) and paramatman (the one which looks on without eating). The jiva is bound, attached to karma and its fruits, whereas the paramatman is free from karma. Identified as the jiva, the ‘enjoyer’, we ‘taste’ the fruits of action (pleasure and pain). Identified with the paramatman, we do not experience the duality of pleasure and pain as there is no attachment to them.

The two birds highlight the contrasting ways of conducting action – with or without attachment. In the jiva, we act to attain certain fruits (desirable outcomes) of our actions. Whereas, in the paramatman, we act without any desire or discrimination between success and failure or pleasure and pain. The paramatman is the Advaitin witness, whilst the jiva is still caught up in the dualistic experience of self (subject) and ‘other’ (object).

What we may not know is that the ‘two birds’ metaphor originates from Rig Veda (1.164.20). Continue reading

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.46

This post marks the beginning of a series called ‘Advaita in the Vedas’, where different Vedic mantras are explored for their similarities with the Upanishads’ to highlight how they share the same truth of Advaita.

We start with Rig Veda 1.164.46. Its famous saying, “The wise speak of what is one in many ways”, perfectly encapsulates Advaita. In the mantra, it is explained that the various devas – including Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Agni – are some of the “many ways” spoken of. By understanding the devas as the different names for “what is one”, it cuts through any need to distinguish between them.

When we take the devas as being separate from one another, it may be confusing when we find instances in the Vedas where they overlap. For example, Agni being credited with Indra’s achievements of slaying Vritra and releasing the waters or attributed with Surya’s characteristic of being the light which shines down on all the worlds. The mantra reminds us that these three devas are not separate, but the diverse expressions of what is one which is at the heart of Advaita.

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